Have you contributed content to your library’s website?

Have you contributed content to your library’s website?

by Katherine Kimball Adelberg, Senior Assistant, INALJ Michigan


Katherine Kimball AdelbergIf you haven’t yet, it’s only a matter of time. Think of all the pieces of content on your library’s website: event listings, ebook download instructions, lists of services, how to get a library card, research guides, blog posts…that’s a lot of writing, and you’ll eventually be asked to contribute. Before you start, here are some questions to think about.

What is the purpose of this website (and your piece of it)?

The primary purpose of most websites is to communicate with customers. However, each of the individual pages with a site has a different purpose, each requiring a different writing style. A page that includes information about the library budget requires a different writing style than an event listing. In the first example, the purpose is transparency, and requires more description than a brief, one-sentence teaser designed to encourage attendance at an upcoming event.

Who is your audience?

Put another way, who will actually read the content you’re writing? In the library budget example, it might be university administrators or legislators. If you’re writing a blog post about early literacy activities, it might be parents of young children. If you’re working on a research guide, it might be college or graduate students. What is the reading level of your audience? How much do they already know about the library?

What do they really need to know?

Research indicates that only 16% of people read content on the web word for word (and it’s possible that they’re all librarians). Journalism’s inverted pyramid provides a good model for ensuring the critical information is front and center. What does this mean for you as you craft an introduction to your research guide?

  • Cut it back
  • Start with the most important point
  • Organize it in a visual way

Most websites are the product of a committee, and balancing the need to trim down online content with librarians’ desire to provide as much information as possible is no easy task.

The next time you’re asked to provide content for your library’s website, remember:

  • The purpose of your content
  • Who you’re writing for
  • Include only what they really need to know

For an in-depth exploration of this topic, check out the lovely Nicely Said: Writing for the Web With Style and Purpose by Nicole Fenton and Katie Kiefer Lee.