The PDF Years
It wasn’t that long ago that CALL decided to upgrade the CALL Bulletin from a print publication distributed by mail to an online PDF that could be sent out in seconds using the CALL listserv. Going online saved CALL thousands in printing costs, but still required CALL to hire an outside graphic designer to help with the newsletter’s layout.
The PDF looked professional, but for modern newsletters, the PDF format can be limiting. Readers cannot link to individual articles, the organization cannot showcase videos, and individual articles are harder to find with search engines.
The Big Plan
Through its website, CALL members have seen some of the great features of WordPress – it’s easy to use and can handle just about any kind of web project. Several members had wondered if it would be possible for the CALL Bulletin to also be published in WordPress. But as flexible as WordPress is, did it have the tools the Bulletin needed?
In summer 2014, CALL Bulletin editor Lyo Louis-Jacques asked to meet with the CALL Public Relations Committee to see about migrating to WordPress. At the kick-off meeting, PR Committee member and WordPress expert Emily Barney demonstrated how WordPress could be configured for online publications. Emily had been working on designing WordPress sites for student organizations and journals at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and showed how CALL could use similar designs for the Bulletin.
At the meeting, the CALL Bulletin Committee developed the requirements needed for an online version of the Bulletin, such as:
- Easy to use: publication needs to involve as little coding as possible
- Print to PDF: CALL members like to print out copies, CALL needs a way to place the Bulletin in archives, and some members would like a paged version to cite. It was very important, therefore, that the online version of the Bulletin would be in addition to, not a replacement for, the PDF version.
- Mobile: Members should be able to read articles on mobile devices
- Social media: articles should be easy to share
- Professional: it should look like a professional publication
- Indexing and tagging and categories: articles should be easy to find and organize over time
- Searchable: it should be easy for other librarians and the public to find Bulletin articles through search engines
Over the next few weeks, Emily worked with the Committee to design a WordPress site that featured everything the Committee requested.
In October 2014, CALL re-launched the Bulletin as a WordPress site that met all of the Committee’s needs. Individual articles now have links, CALL can post any media it would like in the Bulletin, and the newsletter is optimized for search engines. And, the Committee made sure to maintain a PDF version for those members would would like to print out copies. While the technology is not free (CALL pays for the website host, for example), it is more affordable than a graphic designer.
The new website is very flexible – readers can use any device to read the Bulletin. It is also easy to use. The backend for adding articles works much like Microsoft Word. Most importantly, by publishing the newsletter with a dynamic website instead of a static file, the newsletter is more visible to CALL’s members, other law librarians, and the general public.
It is now easy for CALL and librarians with social media accounts to share articles. Newsletter contributors have their own profiles that showcase the articles they have contributed to as well as information about their committee memberships and links to their professional and social media profiles. Articles are organized by category, so members can now instantly find the current and past articles most interesting to them.
CALL has also taken advantage of several advanced WordPress tools. Editorial workflow tools allow the Bulletin’s editors to fully review each article before it is made public. Search engine optimization tools help promote visibility to new audiences. Statistical analytics tools can identify popular articles and trends.
But What Did You Think?
From what you’ve told us so far, CALL members are happy with the new format. You’ve told us that the Bulletin was easier to read, that the new Bulletin was “Very professional looking!” and that “The new blog format looks AMAZING!” (also “FANTASTIC!”). Our stats show the Bulletin is attracting visitors from all over the country. The site now averages about 535 views a month.
Keep the feedback coming (positive and negative – we’re always looking to improve). And keep on the lookout for new features and content.