Just the Right Amount of Personality

I think we all agree that social media is an incredible tool that libraries can use to great benefit.  The opportunities and limitless–who wouldn’t want an easy way to connect with patrons, disseminate information, share content, market programs, and conduct community outreach for FREE?!   Talk about using your powers for good, sheesh.  Not to mention the added benefit of the built-in younger demographic for whom social media is a part of every day life–this is the next generation of potential library lovers–reel ’em in!  Their parents are trolling Facebook too–market those children’s programs, people!

Facebook done well, can help patrons view the library as the living breathing entity it truly is.  Tipping patrons off to a great read or an upcoming event is a beautiful thing, and conveying a sense of personality in the process can really cement that library-patron connection.  I think a measured combination of enthusiasm, information dissemination, and a welcoming tone are ideal.  Be interested and interesting.  Build a community, fire people up, inspire and inform them, get them in the door.

I love it when a library’s Facebook page conveys a sense of personality.  But here’s the tricky part–how much is too much?  Who among the staff can be entrusted as the gatekeeper, to set the tone?  Do we need guidelines to follow, or just a sane, professional person?  As we learned from Julie’s nod to the Applebee’s debacle, item #1 is to ensure the person has a solid grasp of Web 2.0.  That can be a challenge, especially in smaller libraries where there may not be a qualified staffer with the proper training.  The other scenario that can come up is internal barriers.  Some libraries have an extensive bureaucratic system which things filter through that might make timely posting difficult or impossible. This is a major kink that’s got to be fixed–we can’t be relevant if we’re bound up in red tape.

Here’s a couple of examples of libraries that I think are getting it right on FB:

Altadena Library District-Youth Services

Santa Monica Public Library


6 thoughts on “Just the Right Amount of Personality

  1. Lauren Peters

    Nettie, I am looking forward to learning how to set up a tight Facebook page for a library or public organization.
    Yes, bureaucracy is a bear. Our little library is a busy place but we can not broadcast its happenings on social media because that is only done at the county level. The county doesn’t have time to worry about our little library so nothing is promoted except by those who happen to come in and see the signs. It is frustrating but I am working on a work-around for this……

    1. Nettie Post author

      Hi Lauren,
      Thanks for your reply. I’d love to hear how you end up sorting it out! Many libraries seem stymied by the county level issue. It’s been a problem for years in many regards, but hopefully the growing importance of social media will force them to make direct clearances for libraries.

  2. Nomi

    Guidelines are crucial! And are incredibly difficult to create so that the majority of people are reasonably happy. The balancing act between exposure, teaching people to/letting people make decisions about what is appropriate for them, monitoring appropriateness, etc. is killer. I did research last semester about web-use guidelines/rules in libraries and I was kind of shocked by how many libraries just seem to have not posted anything on their websites, etc. This semester I’m looking forward to seeing how libraries govern their social media presence given that that falls under what they expect from their staff rather than restrictions that they place on patrons.

  3. Michelle Chimento

    The sites that you used as good examples of good Facebook sites were beautiful. I also agree that guidelines are the only method to provide a coherent message. Just like parents need to show a united front for children, so does any authority that works with children.

    Speaking in communication, I suspect that children allow a freer tone than I suppose communicating with Adults would.

    The library where I work is a branch of the California State Library. Therefore, red tape doesn’t even begin to describe our difficulty in controlling our communication. Our patrons are all adults and I am certain that we could comfortably communicate. However, Sacramento (the home of California State Library) controls our website, promotion and communication with our patrons.
    The option of someone to blog for our Library can only be accomplished under the radar of Sacramento. The jury is still deliberating whether the Library directory will choose to be a renegade.

    1. Christy Confetti Higgins

      Hi Michelle – WOW – thanks for sharing how things work with the California State Library system. I’m in a corporate environment so things are much different but I certainly hear and follow how other types of libraries handle policies etc.

      It’s a challenge.


  4. Christy Confetti Higgins

    Hi Nettie – Thank you for sharing the aspect of personality and professionalism when it comes to social media. I agree with you and appreciate you bringing it up.

    Social media is about people and as humans, we are more engaged with the information is not only good but engaging and interesting (personality!) :).

    Thank you for sharing!



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