TECHNICAL

May 12, 2022

Viviana Whalen

Vivi is a librarian, skilled researcher, and technical writer.

Why Copywriters Should Think Like a Librarian

Information science is the study of how people physically and digitally search for, access and interact with information. Information science professionals often go by another name: librarians. Long gone are the days of little old ladies shushing patrons and stamping books. Now, librarians and information science professionals are on the forefront of information accessibility, organization and retrieval. 

It may not seem like it, but librarians and copywriters are more alike than you think. It wasn’t until I began my Masters of Science in Information that I started to spot the similarities. When you understand how librarians think about information, you may find yourself using the same thought processes in your copywriting. 

Be sure to make a cup of tea and put on your favorite cardigan before we dive into the intertwined worlds of librarians and copywriters. 

Information Science and Marketing

Information science extends far past the walls of a library. Data scientists, archivists, web developers and museum curators are all information science professionals. It is a study that encompasses all kinds of fields and occupations.

Marketing and information science are constantly moving in a circle. Consider this:

  1. A website is made.
  2. Content is written using keywords and SEO optimization.
  3. Content is organized on different pages to provide structure.
  4. Website is promoted on social media.
  5. Website is accessible through online searching.

Would you say this process has more to do with marketing or information science? The truth is, it’s both. In order to create written content, you have to understand the way people will access that content. Copywriters and marketers will use Google standards to inform that process while librarians will use Dublin Core and MARC records. 

Thinking Like a Librarian

Approaching copywriting like a librarian may be more beneficial than you think. As previously described, librarians are concerned with the organization, accessibility and retrieval of information. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these really mean and how it relates to copywriters. 

The Organization of Information

If you have ever searched a library’s catalog, you may have noticed a few things. Just like most search tools, you can filter results to narrow down your search. In an online catalog, you may be able to narrow books down by age level, audience, format, author and more. Of course, your content won’t be organized this way.

But, in the same way that librarians have to consider how they will organize books, you need to consider how you will organize your content. Should you create categories for your blog posts so users can go straight to what they are interested in? If you’re writing web copy, how do you organize pull down menus and content so that they make sense? 

The way that you organize your content is just as important as the content itself. Whether creating an outline, categorizing posts or building web copy, organizing your content in a way that makes sense will encourage users to more actively engage with it. 

Retrieving Information

The retrieval of information is all about how people find content. Librarians provide retrievability by using keywords when they catalog materials. These allow library patrons to find content, on their own, that they may enjoy. 

Just like librarians, copywriters have to anticipate the way people will search for information. Every time a copywriter uses a keyword in their content, they are anticipating what someone may search to find that content. This increases retrievability and makes it more likely for someone to read your content. 

Information Accessibility

If you use Search Engine Optimization, you know all about writing for accessibility. Well, maybe I should say you know all about writing for Google. When you create content that is Google-friendly, it becomes more accessible. 

How information is accessed is something that both copywriters and librarians are constantly thinking about. Librarians have to consider all the ways in which patrons may want to access information: physical books, ebooks, audiobooks and more. Similar to librarians, content writers have to consider all of the different platforms in which someone may want to access content: Youtube, blogs and social media are only a few.

So, what else influences the accessibility of your content?

It’s a librarian's job to ensure that when you walk into a library, you’ll find something that both piques your interest and is easy to read. This is perhaps one of the most important factors of accessibility when it comes to copywriting. 

If you’re writing content about bridge construction, but the only people who can understand it are civil engineers, your content becomes less accessible. The key is writing intelligently without sacrificing understandability – this is how your content can be both accessible and interesting to experts in the field as well as internet surfers who stumble across your content. 

Use Your Inner Librarian

The next time you feel like you missed the mark when writing content, don your reading glasses and quirky sweater, and ask yourself: Is it organized? Is it retrievable? Is it accessible? When you think like a librarian, your perspective as a copywriter will change and your writing will improve. 

Want to learn more about how to improve your writing? Head to the Hire a Writer blog, where the best copywriter-librarian hybrids share their ideas.

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