Yesterday I sent out 200 emails asking patrons for their opinion on our electronic newsletter. I created a database in Access and  used the mailmerge function of Word/Outlook to make this a little easier, but it was still a several hour job. Of the 200, 7 came back as undeliverable and one is delayed in delivery, so I’m considering that one gone too. That’s 4% undelivered.

As of this morning I had 4 responses to my email. I am unreasonably pleased that I got any, especially this soon 🙂

In case anyone is curious, this is the email my patrons got. The mail merge let me address them personally, and of course I signed my name, as opposed to an anonymous “Library” signature:

Change is good!

We’re thinking of changing our library newsletter, and we’re reaching out to a few subscribers to ask them what they think.

This isn’t a long, formal survey – just drop us a note with your impressions.

  • Do you read the newletter, or delete it without opening it?
  • What would you like to see more of?
  • What don’t you care so much about?
  • What do you think of the look of the newsletter?
  • What works? What doesn’t?

Give us your opinion on the layout, the design, the colors, the header, the content – anything you want to say is fine.

Be kind or be brutal, but be honest! You’re our focus group and we need your help. You can just answer the questions up top or elaborate

If you could send your feedback by October 15 we’d really appreciate it, but we’d like to hear from you even after that date.

Thanks very much for your help.

It’s now been four months since we began our electronic newsletter promotion – asking folks when they register or re-register if they want our electronic newsletter.

In four months we’ve gone from around 60 subscribers to over 500, so in terms of raw numbers, I’m happy. As I’ve said before, however, I can’t budge the percentage of newsletters opened from it’s 30% mark. I’m happy that this means we’ve grown from 20 viewers a month to 150, but we can do better.

We put the newsletter together quickly when we subscribed to nextReads a year or so ago. It’s time for a change, and I think the best way to make that change successful is to reach out to our users.

Here’s the plan: in early October, we’ll send a personalized email to about a third of our subscribers (yes, about 200 of them!) asking for their opinions about our newsletter’s look and content. Not a real survey, nothing structured, I just want impressions. Then our PR person, our head of reference, one of our staff with a great visual eye, and I will sit down and brainstorm, with the help of those impressions, what story we’re trying to tell with this newsletter. We’ll select new images for the header and rethink the formatting. After we’ve come up with two or three prototypes, I’ll go back to our subscribers and see if there’s any consensus on what users like best. Then we’ll revamp and see what happens!

This will be interesting for a number of reasons: I’m interested in seeing what percentage response a personal email asking for opinions will receive. I didn’t do very well recently when I asked our downloadable audiobooks users about their impressions, but I have in the past, so I’m not giving up hope. I’m interested in what people have to say, most of all. And I’ll be interested in seeing if a revamp based on user opinions actually improves readership rates.

I’ll be sending my email in early October, and giving people until mid-October to respond. More then….

This is a first: this is a rant. I had pretty much vowed not to use this forum to rant, and it will be a rant on topic, but it’s still a rant.

I’m a member of another group which includes a subgroup for people involved in marketing for nonprofits. The site lists everyone’s avatars, so I clicked one at random. Got a lady who specializes in helping nonprofits market themselves.

I clicked on her blog. A couple of posts down, she’s just loving a service called Bookswim – it’s Netflix for books, with plans that will set your patron taxpayers back between $220 and $360 per person per year to get a fraction (just books, none of the other great stuff we all offer) of what they’re already paying taxes for. Add a moderate Netflix subscription to this, and our taxpayers could be paying $450 or more in usage fees just because they don’t use their library.

(Okay, maybe they subscribe to Netflix and Bookswim and use their public library, but I doubt it.

Let me be clear: I’m not mad at my fellow group member. I guess Bookswim seems like a good deal, although as someone intimately involved with libraries, it doesn’t to me.

I’m just…discouraged. And jealous. How the hell does Bookswim manage to reach the people I can’t reach? The people who, in this day and age and economic times, shouldn’t be paying for the same service twice?

Grrrr.

Numbers are in for July downloadable audiobook usage…holding steady in the mid 130s, which is what we bumped up to after our late Spring advertising campaign and classes.

Time to delve into this a little further. We have two downloadable subscriptions, one of which registers patrons like a regular library. We had 47 registrations for that service from April 1 – July 31. Of those 47, 19 (or 40%) were staffmembers, test accounts for the classes we offered, or are people who are actively using the service.

I’m going to contact the other 60% by email and ask them why they haven’t used the service much or at all since they signed up. I did this a couple of years ago and found that most people dropped off when they realized you couldn’t use the service with an iPod. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed much, although Overdrive is finally taking baby steps toward the iPod crowd. Unfortunately, with iPod marketshare estimated around 70% (that low? see here) what we really need are giant leaps.

Keep an eye on this space for results.

We began our campaign to increase registration and circulation in our two downloadable audiobook collections (ListenNJ and netLibrary) in the middle of May. So far we have publicized the service on our electronic bulletin board above the circ desk, and offered classes on the two services.

The classes didn’t attract many attendees.  We did, however, increase our registration numbers, which had never been more than 12 in a month, to 36 in May and 26 in June.

I was hoping that would translate into greater circ in June, but it really didn’t – we did hit a high of 144 circs for the two services combined, but that’s still just eight higher than last month, and about 20 higher than our average for the rest of this year.

For the next couple of months we’ll concentrate on revamping the service’s web page and reaching out to those already registered, to see if some one-to-one contact can improve circulation.

Our library began a marketing campaign to raise awareness – and circulation – of downloadable audiobooks. We have two services: a standard netLibrary subscription, and an Overdrive subscription as part of the ListenNJ program.

We set up a series of classes for each service, promoted the classes in our e-mail newsletter, on the electronic bulletin board we have hanging over the circulation desk, and by handing out cards to anyone who came to the check out an item. May saw a tremendous boost in downloadable audiobook registrations – from an average of 6 per month to 36 in May for the two services combined. What we didn’t see was a corresponding boost in the circulation of downloadables. I’m hoping we’ll start seeing a bounce there next month.