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Library Columns: Topics and Tips

A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.

Present Your Library to New Users with a Newspaper Column


A Library Column Is a Valuable PR Tool

During my years as a Library Director, I wrote hundreds of library columns for the local newspaper. It proved an extremely useful way to get the library's message out to the public and to shape their view of the library. Don't let your library's column become just a weekly posting of new books. There is so much more that you need to inform the community about the library's role and to lure them into becoming regular library users.

Here are topics that you can turn into library columns, some sample columns, links to other examples and much more about library columns. I'll keep adding more topics and tips over time, so check back for the updates. These same ideas apply to a library blog as well.

Do You Write a Regular Library Column for a Newspaper or Magazine?

Feature Your Collection in the Library Columns

But only occasionally

It's tempting to grab a stack of books, write some mini-reviews and the newspaper column is done for the week. Yes, it's good to show off the new books coming in or to feature a special section of the collection. This can be a good way to raise awareness that the library has a good local history collection or a genealogy section or other special materials. These may draw in new library users.

Write about the Human Side of Library Services


The Library Is More Than Just Books

Don't make every week's column about books. Remember that you need to build up the library as more than just books. Most people in the community have only a vague concept of the challenges a library faces or how it operates. Do they need to know these things? If you want to count on community support when the going gets tough, then invite them behind-the-scenes via your library column. If there are budget cuts or book censorship issues, then the library and library staff are more likely to have the general support of the community if you've touched them with your weekly column.

10 Topics for Library Columns

Ten Topics for Library Columns

  1. Write about an upcoming library event. Besides the who, what, when, where, include details of how the event was planned, and if it's part of a series. Tell what other programs the library would like to have (book club?) and if the library needs volunteers to help with these.
  2. Thank the Friends of the Library for any special projects or things they buy for the library. Get as many names as possible into the column. Tell how people can join the Friends group.
  3. Feature a library service such as the homework help center or inter-library loans. Write it so that someone who has never been in a library can understand what it is and how they might use it.
  4. Write about a topic that might be a bit touchy. Don't wait for a complaint. Explain what the library plans to do and why. We had to remove two stately trees from the library's courtyard. Anticipating a public outcry over the cutting down of the two trees, I wrote a column about it and made it a touching farewell to two good friends that had outgrown their space. It smoothed over the issue and the column provided staff with the words to answer any questions that came up from people missing the trees.
  5. Write a column about how much a typical family could save by using the public library. For an example of what you might include, see the links below.

  6. Explain how a child can get their first library card. Tell what the benefits are of introducing a child to books and the library at an early age. This is a good place to get in a sweet story about a toddler with an armful of books or parents reading bedtime stories to a child.
  7. Compose a column about overdue books and how it hurts the library (and the community) to have the books gone. Talk about other people needing the books and about the impact on the budget. Explain the library's fines and alternate methods for clearing the patron's record if they can work off the fine or pay it in installments.

    See the link below for more on this.

  8. Use a column to explain the volunteer opportunities at the library. Tell the skills needed and how they can help the library. Include a contact person and number to call. Tell about the savings to the library budget that volunteers make.

    See the link below for ideas.

  9. Write a column about the library's earliest history. Tell who donated the land, how it was funded and staffed. What was different about the library in those days? Compare it to the current library funding/staffing/services.
  10. Write about a donor. Even if a donation is anonymous, you can write about how it will be used. If you don't get many donations, write about a large donation to another library and it may give your community ideas leading to future donations.
Library Director, Virginia Allain, with the new decorations for the children's section.

Library Director, Virginia Allain, with the new decorations for the children's section.

Write a Column Describing Something the Library Wishes to Have

I wrote a column about the library wanting to redecorate the children's area but we lacked funding to transform the shabby area. In the column, I described the look we wanted with a castle and dragon. Some time later, a person with experience painting theatre scenery contacted me. She offered to construct a castle and dragon entrance to the children's area. The Friends of the Library came up with the funds for the materials and paint.

The finished project became the subject for a later column. Make sure to write about any successes the library has.

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Sprinkle in some columns with heart-warming stories of patrons using the library.

Some Samples of Library Columns

Stuck for a Topic? Look in These Books - The Librarian's Book of Quotes & Chase's Calendar of Events

Choose a quotation from the first book and build a column around it.

Most libraries have Chase's Calendar of Events in their reference section. Check for upcoming holidays and work the column around that.

Look online for This Day in History for a quick idea for a library column.

Tips for Writing Library Columns and Other Press Releases

Suggest Some Other Topics for a Library Newspaper Column

Steve Dizmon from Nashville, TN on February 10, 2011:

I stumbled across your library lens by accident and I did enjoy it. Since it is about libraries, should I be very quite about it?

Alisha Vargas from Reno, Nevada on August 11, 2010:

What a great idea! I know I forget about the library too often and really miss out on a lot things they do, but a column would certainly get my attention.

Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on August 11, 2010:

I wish our local library (which I love!) would write a column in our newspaper. I don't go there regularly enough and often am surprised by changes I didn't know about. And I'm sure it would encourage people to use the library more too!

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