#WebbReads Wednesday and Friday Updates

For several years now, I’ve sent out two weekly newsletters – one to students and one to teachers. When I first started at Webb, the library was in a separate building from both of the divisions that it served, so it was hard to keep students, faculty, and staff updated on what was happening unless they specifically sought out the library. We have since gotten new libraries within the buildings of the divisions we serve, but my newsletters have become a tradition. They’re an easy form of advocacy and a weekly reminder to the school that we are here and have something to offer them. Here’s what I’ve learned from seven years of newsletters.

Pick a newsletter creation software. There are tons of choices here, some free. My favorite is Smore, which does require a subscription but is super easy to use. It is all drag and drop, and they make it easy to keep the same format each week. Currently, I’m using a tool that is built in to our learning management system. The biggest advantages of this is that everyone gets the newsletter in 2 places – their email and in the LMS – and, they can’t unsubscribe from me (yes I’ve had teachers unsubscribe and I will forever hold a petty grudge for that). Canva has newsletter templates, and you can get a free educator account to access their pro content. However, the newsletters I’ve seen come out of Canva get sent out as a link to the news rather than including it in the email, and I know my students, and many faculty, will never click on the link to read. I don’t know if Canva offers a different option, but I wanted to put that out there. MailChimp, Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe Spark are also options.

Choose whatever day works for you. Student news goes out on Wednesday because #WebbReads Wednesday is cute. Teachers get a Friday update because I often have time on Friday and I can choose whether it is a look back on the previous week or a look ahead to the next. I also know that a lot of the campus wide communications happen earlier in the week, so I have slightly less competition. If there’s no school on a specific Friday, I don’t worry about a newsletter. Pick whatever works for you and your community.

Don’t bury the lede. The first few times I sent out a newsletter, I sent it out monthly. However, after a full month, there would be a million things that I wanted to include, and a newsletter just doesn’t have space for that. Just like in journalism, you need to think about what will appear above the fold – what shows up in the email preview, and what will people see if they never scroll down? I decided to focus on one big story weekly, rather than try to focus on multiple things monthly.

Things to include. I have one main story that changes every week, and I keep a running list of ideas in my notes app for times that I feel stuck. For teachers: new databases, educator-specific databases, non-book resources (Breakout boxes anyone?), book award news (not just YMA but Mathical awards, etc.), library events (book fair, author visits), test-prep resources, resources for cultural heritage month lessons, items from AASL’s Best Digital Tools, graphs/stats about library usage. For students: new books, new book displays, books on a theme, state book award books, test prep resources, library events, contests, reading challenge updates, Sora magazines. Every newsletter I send out has our recent Instagram posts and the librarians’ currently reading titles, while teachers get links to the library calendar and students get links to the reading challenge and Sora.

Keep going – I promise someone is reading it. I won’t lie – occasionally I feel like I’m screaming into the void when I send out newsletters. Sure, I can check the official stats of how many people opened the email and clicked on a link, and my stats are pretty good, but it’s the other small ways I see my newsletters’ impact that make me happier. A math teacher will ask to borrow the book that I was reading last week, or an English teacher will tell me they didn’t know there was a Stonewall Book Award and ask to check out previous winners. A new teacher didn’t know we had Breakout boxes and now wants help setting one up for a class. I even have teachers reply to the newsletter saying they’ve been meaning to get with me to schedule research classes all week and the newsletter reminded them. I’ve had students ask for help signing up for the test prep resources I shared a week later. Last week I reminded students about our state book award process and 3 of those titles got checked out by the end of the week.

Some weeks, the newsletter is as quick as I can make it, while other weeks it’s a labor of love, but either way it is reminding my school community that the we are here for them. And don’t forget to include your admin to your email list – let them see all the ways you and your library are awesome! What ways do you communicate with your school community? Do you have any advice to add? Share in the comments!

3 thoughts on “#WebbReads Wednesday and Friday Updates

  1. This is so encouraging. My school is trying to streamline how many emails go out each day, so I’m now relegated to putting a small entry into an employee newsletter and a student newsletter and it just doesn’t feel the same as my old “du Pont Digest”… I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go back to my old way at some point (the pendulum swings, right?!) and use some of your great suggestions!

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