A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

PL Online Contributor Guidelines

Thank you for your interest in writing for publiclibrariesonline.org. As a Public Libraries reader, you probably already know that PL is intended to inform public librarians, public library workers, trustees, and others involved in the world of public libraries, about news and library information that may be instructive to their work. We are hoping to extend our coverage of the library world via our regular contributors on publiclibrariesonline.org. Here are some guidelines and more information about writing for the web publication.

What to Write About

Here are some topics areas that we’d like to see covered on publiclibrariesonline.org:

  • News at every level (federal, state, local and sometimes abroad) as long as there is some link to the work of the public library
  • Instructive stories of libraries at work
  • Customer Service/Marketing tips and ideas
  • Relationships between libraries and patrons
  • Programmatic or practical innovations
  • Advances in technology
  • Economic, political, and social trends that affect the work of public libraries and librarians
  • Trends in funding
  • Trends in revenue generation
  • Volunteerism
  • Libraries working toward social change
  • Genre discussions and recommendations

As you know, there are many more subjects that can relate to the public library world. The list above is not all-encompassing. Your piece can also draw from a news story (or study, report, video, etc.), but be sure to add context and analysis to help our audience understand the information in relationship to their work. Each contribution of this type should link clearly back to the original source article(s).

A Note About Personal Opinion Pieces:

As stated above, we prefer a news or educational focus in our posts; however from time to time we will publish a personal opinion piece. If you decide you want to write a personal opinion here are some tips:

  • Be timely. Your op-ed should discuss a topic that relates to current events, trends, or opinions of others.
  • Show the readers why they should care.
  • Provide a solution to the problem. An op-ed that simply rants and does not recommend solutions (or at least steps towards a solution) is less likely to be published than an op-ed that finds alternatives and solutions. This is where you get to discuss the improvements and other steps you think involved parties can take to reach what you believe to be the best outcome.


Consult the Random House Webster’s College Dictionary for spelling and usage. Consult the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr., 2010) for capitalization, abbreviations, etc. Write in a clear, simple style. Use the active voice whenever possible. Avoid overly long sentences. Break up long sections of text with subheadings. All nouns, verbs, pronouns and modifiers in the subhead should be capitalized.

Images enhancing the content of the manuscript are welcomed. If you are taking photographs, please set your digital camera to a web resolution. All submissions are edited for clarity and space. Contributions may be rejected by PLA for any reason. Keep your submission to between 400-600 words. Use an inverted pyramid style of writing. Start with the main conclusion or outcomes and get progressively more detailed towards the end of the piece like so:

News Organizational Chart

  1. Conclusion or most important information
  2. Supporting information
  3. Background and technical details

Since Web users and email readers typically scan text, using the inverted pyramid form of writing is a good way to get the most important information in front of your readers first. Position your main points (who, what, when, where, why and the how) at the beginning of the article, and then go into more detail towards the end of your piece.


You have chosen a date on which to turn in your posts. After you turn your post in, we will copy-edit it, return it to you for approval, and then post it after your approval. Please let us know your topic a few days in advance by e-mailing us at publiclibrariesonline@gmail.com with the subject line “PL Online Blog Topic”, so that we can ensure you are not writing on the same topic as another contributor.

Please include the items below with each contribution:

  1. A suggested title. Please “think short.” If it goes beyond the one line above, it’s probably too long.
  2. Link to source article. This is required for contributions drawn from a news story only.
  3. Suggested Slugline. This is the one- or two-sentence lead-in/teaser to the post. It could either be a sentence or two from the post itself or a general summary that would pique readers’ interest. It cannot be more than 200 characters.
  4. Note to editor (as needed). Please indicate any special instructions. For example: “embargoed until 9 a.m. on Monday, January 23.”

When you are ready to submit your post, please send it to publiclibrariesonline@gmail.com with the subject line “PL Online Blog Submission” and the title of the post (i.e. PL Online Blog Submission – Future of the Library).

Image Submission Guidelines

If you want to send a picture along with your post, great! However it must meet the following guidelines. If you do not send a picture, we will find one to fit your post, since we have access to a wide variety of images.

PLOnline Image Guidelines:

  • Choose an image that’s relevant to your subject.
  • Be sure to tell us if you want the image inserted into the post or if it is for the headline area. If you would like it inserted into the post, please indicate where you would like it to go.
  • Optimize your image for web-viewing (high-resolution) and send to us as a jpeg file attachment.
  • Send your image to us as an attachment to an email and not embedded in a word document. We cannot use images that are embedded in a word document.
  • Provide a caption.
  • If you did not create the image yourself or take the photograph, then you must have permission to use it. You can get permission by requesting it from the image owner, or you can find sources that provide images with copyrights attached to them that allow you to republish them. Please send the permission information along with the photo so that we can provide proper credit.

After Your Submission is Posted

Be sure to share the link to your post with your friends and colleagues. On top of sharing your own work, please help share the work of other bloggers by posting blog posts that you find interesting on your social media networks on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. The best way to keep on top of PL Online news is to “Like” us on Facebook or to follow us on Twitter.

We plan to rotate contributions pretty often, so your post may only be on the site’s main page for a few days. Afterwards it will be in the site’s archives.

Establishing Your Personal Profile on PLOnline

Each of your posts will be linked to a bio on our site that you will need to set up. You will receive a login to edit your bio at http://publiclibrariesonline.org/wp-admin/. Your bio can include information about yourself, your current job, what you’re currently reading, or other information that you would like to include. Your contact information will automatically be included in your bio.

If you would like a photo to go with your bio, you will need to have a Twitter account or a Gravatar account in order for the photos to link to our blog. If you want to use your Twitter photo, then you will have to login to your profile and add your Twitter username. If you use Gravatar, once you upload your photo in Gravatar it will automatically connect to your PL Online bio as long as the e-mail you gave us is connected to your Gravatar account.

Please Note:

Public Libraries will copy-edit and content-edit each contribution to publiclibrariesonline.org in order to maintain the tone, accuracy, and editorial alignment of the site. PL reserves the right to reject a submission for any reason. If you have any questions about this, please contact us at publiclibrariesonline@gmail.com.

Updated: 4/13/2015