Author Archives: kallierees

Friends Don’t Block Friends (2)

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According to the social media policy for Montgomery County Memorial Library System (MCMLS), “Library social media offerings are intended to create a welcoming and inviting online space where library users will find useful and entertaining information.”  Sounds  great!  But then why does MCMLS restrict access to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, and Pinterest from all MCMLS computers, including staff computers.  Not very “welcoming or inviting,” if you ask me.   And, how are users supposed to find this “useful and entertaining information” if they can’t access these sites?  Oh, I know, they have to have their own computers and access the sites from home – too bad for those of you who don’t have that option.  Or, they could have a smartphone, but will need 4G to access within the library because the sites are still blocked through the WiFi.  But wait –the library will unblock access for anyone over 18 who asks, but only on the MCMLS computers, not on personal devices. 

Huh.  This blocked access to social media says many things to me, none of which are good.  I understand blocking pornography sites, especially from minors.  I don’t put any of the aforementioned social media sites anywhere near the realm of pornography sites in terms of content.  

Social media sites need to be removed from the filters for many reasons including:

  1. Because anyone over 18 can have the restrictions removed, this policy sends the message that MCMLS does not welcome teens in the library.  What? That’s not true.  How can you say that? MCMLS welcomes teens – hosts YA book clubs, gaming nights, social and advisory groups.  MCMLS loves teens.  Well, all that may be true; however, by not allowing access to social media sites that teens use MCMLS is sending the message that teens can’t be trusted with these sites or are not valued enough as patrons to provide free computer access to them.                                                                                                    In 2006, legislation was introduced to Congress seeking to prohibit minors from accessing chat rooms and popular social networking websites such as Facebook or MySpace.  “The Deleting Online Predators Act (H.R. 5319) would require schools and libraries to block access to a broad selection of web content including commercial websites that ‘allow users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves’ or ‘offer communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.’” (ALA Like CIPA, the legislation would affect e-rate funding for schools’ and libraries’ internet access.  The House of Representatives passed the bill, but it did not pass the Senate.   Because this bill did not pass, MCMLS does not lose any funding by providing access to these sites.
  2. Social media sites are valuable sources of information.  Isn’t that the role of the library – to provide access to information?  Isn’t that the stated mission of MCMLS’ social media use: to provide spaces for patrons to find useful and entertaining information?  Blocking access to these sites is a form of censorship which is clearly in violation of ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, “III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.
  3. It is a bit counter-intuitive for MCMLS to say, “Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter” but just don’t do it at the library.  We want you to be our friend, but we don’t trust you to use these sites responsibly, at least not on our computers.  
  4. It is the library’s responsibility  to provide access to information to ALL patrons, not just the ones with home computers, 4G, or who are over 18.

If MCMLS wants people to friend them on Facebook, then they have to treat people like friends.  Friends welcome friends… friends trust friends… friends include friends.  Friends don’t block friends.

Some observations about social media and libraries…

Thinking and learning about social media for libraries over the past few months I have had many realizations and drawn some conclusions.  Some of them may seem obvious, but for this post I’d like to share some of them in no particular order.

  1. When a library’s social media plan is good it is very good.  When it is bad, it is very bad.  Harris County Public Library is the library I studied for my social media evaluation and they really do social media right.  First, they have a very visually appealing, Drupal run website that allows for multi-directional communication.  A variety of blogs figure prominently on the page as well as links to their other primary social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest.  These sites offer a large variety of content in a manner that is both humorous and informative and very appealing to any book lover.  Montgomery County Memorial Library System is the library I am using to create my social media plan.  Their use of social media seems to be inspired by the idea that everyone is doing social media, so we should be too, but we don’t really have a plan for how we’re going to accomplish this.  The result is social media for social media sake.  The key ingredient – engaging the user – is missing and therefore so is the social aspect.  As a result, their social media is not very effective.
  2. Less is More.  When creating a social media plan it is better to focus on one, two or a few tools really well; rather than try to do too much and none of it very well.  In my opinion the most important tools for libraries to focus on are in this order: 1. Website; 2. Facebook; 3. Pinterest; 4. Twitter.  I’m a bit surprised myself that I put Pinterest before Twitter but my reasoning is 1.) that much of what is accomplished through Twitter can be accomplished through the website and Facebook and 2.) Pinterest offers a different, highly visual platform that allows the library to post content – collections of images; craft ideas; book covers of new arrivals – in a way that may appeal to a whole new audience or an old audience in a new way.   After reading Caroline McNabb’s post today, I would have to add Goodreads to this list as well.  Goodreads fits so perfectly with the library’s social media goal of building community and literacy as well as being an excellent readers’ advisory tool.
  3. Twitter – the way I’ve seen most libraries use Twitter is as a reminder system.  Tweets about upcoming events, programs, and services seem to be the norm.  This is fine, but to keep followers engaged, I would suggest mixing up the content with more items about things followers care about, for example: info about authors, books being made into movies, book reviews, interesting facts, or even local community happenings.  Twitter can’t be just about marketing services and events; it should also consist of some, “hey, we thought this was interesting and we thought you might think so too” information.  The libraries should also follow a variety of Tweeters so if they see something interesting they can retweet it to their followers.  Again, it’s about engaging the user and building a relationship; once again, the social in social media.
  4. There is not just one audience for one organization.  Libraries have patrons that represent a wide variety of ages, ethnicities, religions, uses of the library, etc.  Trying to target everyone through one platform may not be the best idea.  Sometimes it may be necessary to branch off and have a separate Facebook page for teens (or if teens are more into Instagram or Tumblr using that platform).   If there is a large Korean or Hispanic population, it may be better to create a page in those languages as well.  Specialized pages convey the message that the library appreciates and respects all their patrons and can meet their needs.
  5. I am surprised by the fact that many libraries that engage in social media do not have a clearly stated and visible social media policy.  I mentioned to Linda Stevens at HCPL that I was surprised they did not have a visible social media policy and she said they were working on one.  I’m happy to report that as of 3/18/2013 it is available on the HCPL website  http://www.hcpl.net/about/social-media-policy.  I think it is a pretty good example so I’ve shared it.  A social media policy for both library staff and patrons is essential to clearly state the guidelines for acceptable use of social media.
  6. Since beginning this class, I see articles and information about social media everywhere – in magazines, the newspaper, Yahoo news feeds.  Social media is probably one of the fastest growing enterprises we have witnessed in our lifetimes.  It’s hard to believe Facebook isn’t even 10 years old and Pinterest is barely three.   The sites may change, but the phenomenon is here to stay.   Rather than blocking access to sites, schools and libraries should be teaching students how to navigate these tools, not only as responsible digital citizens, but as a means to learning through access to experts and shared educational endeavors.  When school librarians John Schu and Colby Sharp use social media tools to connect their classrooms and also to authors like Jennifer Holm (Babymouse), it is an excellent lesson in the power of these tools to create engaged learning.

These are just a few thoughts I had that I wanted to share.  Thanks for reading.

Why Public Facebook Pages Make Good Friends…

I’m really not a big fan of Facebook.   I joined in 2008 shortly after moving from New Jersey to Texas as a way to stay in contact with my New Jersey friends.  Looking back over my timeline only took a couple of seconds because I so rarely post and didn’t post anything in 2011.  If you have ever seen those articles about the Types of Facebook Users, I am The Shy Retirer – “You know those people who loiter on the fringes of a party or conversation and contribute so little that they might as well not even be there? This type of Facebook user is even more of a non-entity, with weeks or months elapsing between blips of activity” (http://www.splicetoday.com/digital/the-31-types-of-facebook-users).   This is so funny to me because in real life I am the farthest thing from the Shy Retirer.  I am the person who mingles with everyone, telling funny stories, in the conversational loop, bringing others into the loop and generally having a blast.  But on Facebook I am a Shy Retirer, which is really just a nice way of saying a stalker/lurker.

So I asked myself, “Why do I find it so easy to socialize in person, but impossible on Facebook?”  I don’t really have an answer.  I think the answer lies somewhere between being afraid of being boring and seeming narcissistic.  And then there is the fact that I don’t really feel like I’m friends with some of these people anymore and don’t think they’ll care too much about what I have to say.  And finally there is the fear that something I write might offend someone so it’s easier to just keep my mouth shut. However, when I read my friends posts I don’t particularly think of them as either boring or narcissistic.  Their posts are usually a good blend of interesting and amusing, sometimes mundane, sometimes bragging, but all in reasonable limits.  Other people think everyone on Facebook is their friend who cares and they don’t seem to worry about offending.  So what’s wrong with me?

And, I’ll admit I sometimes feel isolated and depressed when on Facebook.  Everyone else seems to have more fun and interesting lives and things to say.  This description from Stephen Marche’s 2012 Atlantic Monthly article, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely,” sums it up well: “Non-personalized use of Facebook – scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your activities via your wall, or what Burke1 calls “passive consumption” or “broadcasting” – correlates to feelings of disconnectedness.  It’s a lonely business, wandering the labyrinths of our friends’ and pseudo-friends’ projected identities, trying to figure out what part of ourselves we ought to project, who will listen, and what they will hear” (p.65).   I do believe Facebook contributes to feelings of loneliness, inferiority, and disconnectedness.  I have felt these feelings while on Facebook and I am an outgoing, confident, well-liked person with a pretty terrific life.

However, I had a major revelation while conducting my social media evaluation on the Harris County Public Library (HCPL) – when I look at the HCPL Facebook page I feel happy, included, welcome, inspired, informed, and part of a community.  How strange?  Why would I feel more comfort and enjoyment with an institution than with my own friends?  Well, it is in the public Facebook page’s best interest to be welcoming, informative, humorous and engaging.  And HCPL’s page is all of those things.  The public Facebook page is like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men – it wants us to like it, it needs us to like it.  Through Facebook, HCPL tells me things I want to know, asks for my thoughts, connects with me through our shared love of books and libraries, and always invites me to the party.  Who wouldn’t “Like” a friend like that?

  1.  Moira Burke ran a longitudinal study of 1,200 Facebook users to examine the effects of Facebook over time.

Marche, S. (2012, May).  Is Facebook making us lonely?.  The Atlantic Monthly, 309(4), 60-69

Twitter – Super Bowl, Librarians, Oreos – Oh My!

For this week’s post I was originally going to write only about Twitter.  But then last night, for the first time, I watched my Twitter feed while watching a major, live television event – The Super Bowl – and found it to be a very enlightening lesson in the power of social media.

So first an introduction to Twitter.  Twitter is a microblogging social network.   Basically, it is communicating in short form, or to be more specific, 140 characters or less.  Twitter is accessible via its website – www.twitter.com – and also via mobile apps and SMS (Short Message Service).   Users can follow other users which means they are subscribing to receive their tweets.  Once you follow another user their tweets will show up in your feed as they are added.  Hashtags (pound sign #) used in front of a keyword or phrase will allow topics or conversations to be easily searched or followed, i.e. #libraryjobs, #edchat (education chat), #nerdybookclub.  The @ sign used before a user’s name will allow a message to be directed to another user or flag that user that their name was used in a tweet, i.e. @andersoncooper. 

In April 2009, Ashton Kutcher became the first user of Twitter to have more than 1,000,000 followers.  Do you remember hearing about that milestone?  I do.  Now the leading Tweeter is Justin Bieber with 33,952,441 followers as of this posting.  According to twittercounter.com the top 10 twitter users with the most followers are: 1.) Justin Bieber, 2.) Lady Gaga, 3.) Katy Perry, 4.) Rihanna, 5.) Barack Obama, 6.) Britney Spears, 7.) Taylor Swift, 8.) YouTube, 9.) Shakira, and 10.) Kim Kardashian.   I do think the celebrity aspect of Twitter is what made some people, including myself, initially dismiss Twitter as just a narcissistic venue for babble and self-promotion; however now with over 200 million active users from all walks of life, I see it as a valuable forum for getting and sharing information and learning about new products (like books) and ideas (ways to teach information literacy).  It also has great value as a tool for promotion, customer outreach, and conversation which is why I think it is a great choice of social media for libraries. 

So last night while watching the Super Bowl I decided to access my Twitter feed to see what people were talking about – the commercials, the game, whatever.  I follow mostly random librarians and educators with a few celebrities, mostly comedians (Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, Jimmy Fallon), authors (Raina Telgemeier, Sherman Alexie), and business gurus (Daniel Pink, Seth Godin) for good measure.  Anyway, I turned to my feed to see what people were talking about. 

So the chat starts off with comments about the game, but overall the tweets were about the commercials (Steve Martin – “I didn’t realize there would be commercials”; Judd Apatow – “In London they show no commercials.  How will I know what to buy?”) with librarians particularly interested in the Oreo commercial 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufu5sqJh24Q

(Teri Lesesne – “Librarians divided over Oreo commercial.  Stereotype? Or Super?” and Abby Johnson – “Okay, a commercial about destroying a library is not funny!!!!”)  

Some of the tweets were amusing, some were mundane, but they were entertaining nonetheless because as Sarah Beth Durst tweeted, “I do love watching TV and Twitter at the same time.  It’s like having a Superbowl party with friends except I don’t have to share snacks.”  And then… the lights went out.  Now there’s really something to tweet about.  But here’s where I saw the true power of Twitter.  First of all to begin with most of the chat was about the commercials not the game so right there advertisers are getting more bang for their buck.  But then Oreo did something that I thought was truly inspired – they created an immediate instant ad in response to the Super Bowl blackout and tweeted it. 

The tweet read:  Power out? No problem.  https://twitter.com/Oreo/status/298246571718483968/photo/1

Now, I only follow 47 people and Oreo isn’t one of them (although it is THE BEST COOKIE EVER), yet I received this tweet and twitpic and it made a very positive impression on me. 

So, I’ve already got Oreos on my mind because of their televised commercial and all the twitter chat surrounding it that targeted an industry I’m interested in.  With their commercial, Oreo also utilized social media by urging viewers to vote for Cookie or Cream on Instagram.  Then this spur of the moment tweet shows up – it’s timely, it’s clever, and it’s really cool that they could turn it around so fast.  This tells me that the people behind Oreos are quick thinking, organized, creative, hip, smart and want to engage me. This experience just drove home the power of social media when done right.