Email Newsletters 101: Making the Most of Email

by Emily Glimco

Email newsletters are a simple yet important marketing tool for any library. Whether your library has experience with email newsletter or you’re just getting started, here are some basic tips to help you make the most of your library’s email newsletters.

Keep it Brief

As much as you may want to include a full two weeks of programming in your email newsletter, an email is not the place to do it. Our attention span is lower than ever, as this article suggests, which means to make the most of an email newsletter, you have to keep it skim-able.


One good rule to follow is to make the most important information the most obvious, such as the program title and the call to action (“Click here to learn more” ). Any other descriptions should be minimal but exciting.

Another thing to keep in mind is the number of features you have in your email newsletters. Prioritize your library’s upcoming programs (I know this can be tough!) and highlight the things you really want your community to know about.

Include Links

Looking at your newsletter’s open rate is important, but the best way to determine the effectiveness of your newsletter is to track what people are clicking. Think of it like this: if you send an email newsletter and 60% of your subscribers see your email, but you don’t provide them any links to find out more information about the programs you’re promoting, how can you really tell what interests your subscribers? All you can be sure of is that your email newsletter was opened, which doesn’t say much.

Any time you promote a library program or service in an email newsletter, there should be a link included so that people can register for the program or find out more details. By including links, you’ll be able to track the results and learn what your subscribers want to see. Additionally, including links to more information is a great way to cut down the amount of text you use, which will help keep your email newsletters short.

P.S.: Don’t get too hung up “low” numbers; industry standard email rates for nonprofits’ email newsletters is around a 25% open rate and a 3% click rate. You’ll be able to tell when your library’s newsletter numbers are low or high when you track opens and clicks consistently.

Split Test Your Newsletters

Split testing is are a great way to evaluate the effectiveness of your newsletters and determine what you can do to get your community engaged with your emails. If you want to boost your open rate, for example, give the A newsletter your standard subject line and try a new subject line with email B. By evaluating the percentage difference of the number of opens, you can see what works best.

No matter what you choose to test in your email newsletters, make sure you keep it simple; make sure you are only testing one aspect of your newsletter at a time. Then, run the test a number of times before you decide to make a permanent change.

Test on Mobile Devices


Are your email newsletters made with mobile devices in mind? According to a recent US Consumer Device Preference Report, 66% of emails were read on a mobile device.

While there are still a large number of people reading emails on their desktop computers, mobile users can’t be ignored. Some of your newsletter’s appearance will depend on the capabilities of your email newsletter provider (some have better responsive design templates than others; as you can see on the right, this Constant Contact email looks OK on a smartphone, but not perfect), but if you notice something simple to fix, like a too-small font size, go ahead and fix it before you hit the “schedule” button.

Email marketing is constantly evolving, so the conversation is far from over. Nonetheless, these basic tips should help give your library’s email newsletter the boost it needs to reach patrons effectively.

Emily Glimco is Marketing and Communications Associate at Northbrook Public Library.


About Brian Smith

Brian is Applications & Web Developer at Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS).
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