Email Marketing Fundamentals for Public Libraries

Emails have permeated people’s lives more than ever before. There were 3.9 billion daily email users in 2020. This number is expected to climb to 4.4 billion by 2024. (Statista, 2020) Checking email is no longer an activity that we need to set time aside for; instead, it’s common to access emails on the go with mobile phones.  Of all email messages opened, 46 percent are opened from a mobile device. (, 2018) As a result, email marketing is an incredible way to reach users. Plus, when patrons subscribe to your public library’s email communications, it’s a clear indication that they have a genuine interest in your content, which reinforces that they are eager to hear from you and receive info about your public library. Finally, email marketing is a cost-effective way to communicate with different audiences. There is no need to print collateral and mail it or post it in physical spaces. Below are some email marketing tips to keep in mind.


Exceed Your Patrons’ Needs and Expectations 

One of the best aspects of having email subscriptions is the potential for personalizing communications for your audiences. As individuals subscribe, you can start collecting information on their preferences and interests so that the emails you share better resonate with their needs and expectations. Public libraries that use BiblioEmail to send out their marketing communications use the preferences and interests that are set by their BiblioWeb taxonomies. For example, taxonomies can be set by the audience (babies, kids, teens, adults), formats (books, audiobooks, archival collections), genres (fantasy, horror, romance), topics (business, cooking, science), and much more.



Above are some detailed examples of taxonomies from BiblioWeb that are being used as preferences and interests in BiblioEmail.


Maximize the Chances of Growing Your Email List

You can make the most out of your patron interactions by giving them the opportunity to subscribe to your public library’s email marketing every chance you have. As soon as someone signs up for a library card, why not ask them if they want to sign up to receive emails from your library? Let them know of the many benefits of signing up for emails, such as receiving library service updates, reading club information, the latest events and programs, reading lists based on their preferences, staff recommendations, community news, and educational content. The possibilities are endless!

As a consumer, I sign up for email lists that will add value to my life. The key word here is ‘value.’ When you tell patrons about the benefits of subscribing to your library’s email list, make sure to put yourself in their shoes and communicate the values they’ll gain with their perspective in mind. What do you think will interest them? What kind of information will be helpful for them to know?

Other instances where you can give patrons the opportunity to sign up for your email communications are:

• Verbally, when they pick up holds
• During a virtual or in-person event
• On your website footer
• Promote email sign-ups in your one-on-one email signatures
• Promote email sign-ups on social media



Interested in learning more about BiblioWeb and BiblioEmail?

Yes! Get in Touch



First Impressions Go a Long Way

The very first email that a new email subscriber should be sent is a ‘Welcome’ email. I always find it odd when I subscribe to a new blog or newsletter, and I don’t receive a ‘Welcome’ email. A ‘Welcome’ email sets the tone for the first impression that your recipients will have of your library’s emails. Think of it as being equivalent to walking into a room and saying, “hello” before having a conversation with someone.


Chicago Public Library sends out a very welcoming “Thanks for subscribing” email to everyone that signs up for their email newsletter.


A ‘Welcome’ email can be simple and include a ‘Thank You for Subscribing’ message. It’s best not to have too much content in your first email (to prevent overwhelming new subscribers), but if you’d like to include more information, here are some ideas that will add value without being over the top:

• If they haven’t already done so, invite recipients to set their content preferences and interests so that you can personalize future emails
• Share the benefits of following your social media sites and ask that they follow you
• Ask recipients to whitelist your email address to prevent your emails from landing in the spam folder


Follow Spam and Privacy Regulations

When signing patrons up to receive your emails, always be considerate of privacy and spamming regulations. These laws vary depending on the country you’re from, but as a general rule, you must have an unsubscribe link and your contact information (including a mailing address) in all of your emails. Some countries have additional laws and regulations that cover data protection and security.


Your email footer should always include an ‘unsubscribe or update your preferences’ link to comply with privacy and spamming regulations.


The American Federal Trade Commission’s laws that protect consumers in the United States is known as the CAN-SPAM Act. Public libraries in Canada must follow Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) regulations. Similarly, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) outlines email sender’s responsibilities under Australian law, and the New Zealand Spam Law protects recipients from ‘unsolicited commercial electronic messages.’ Europe protects audiences with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Each of the links shared above will guide how you can comply with the laws, ways you should get permission to send emails, direction on how you should identify yourself, advice on what the unsubscribe options and text should include, and much more. If you’re ever unsure of some of the laws, you can contact each of the organizations for more information. Keep in mind that the information in this blog is provided as a resource and is not legal advice. Always check in with your legal counsel to confirm which laws apply to your public library.


Emails Are an Incredible Communication Tool

Between social media, your website, your mobile app, and emails, there are many communication channels to use! Emails have been around for a long time, but nothing about them is “old” if your public library uses the right approach. There are multiple benefits to implementing an email communications strategy to inform and nurture your relationship with patrons. By promoting your email subscription, personalizing your content, making a lasting first impression, and adhering to privacy laws, you’ll be well on your way to growing your email audience!



Get more details on how BiblioWeb and BiblioEmail can enhance your public library’s website and marketing emails.

Request a Demo



Sign up to receive the latest in public library topics delivered straight to your inbox!