Tag Archives: Assignments; student entries

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.


Back in the day…before joining Facebook

My original plan was to generate my own study using the five high schools and five colleges I have had some connection to over the years, much like Michalis Gerolimos’ article: Academic Libraries on Facebook: An Analysis of Users’ Comments.

Of my five high schools, none have a library specific FB account, and four of the five are pitiful with their pages: average posts 3-11 a year, and half of those are self-serving advertisements targeted at students. Few were liked, and only staff posted comments.

However, one really stood out as jumping into the deep end of Facebook: CVA. It is a private high school in northwestern Maine supporting winter ski and snowboarding athletes. Many of the alum have gone on to national and international acclaim: Bode Miller, Seth Wescott, Kirsten Clark, and Emily Cook.

In the old days (1982 through 2011), they had morning meetings (entire school); they still do. It always ended with Haggie giving an eclectic Maine ‘word of the day’. Now, he creates YouTube videos to share through FB. They used to pay a service to mine for alum (professional and athletically) in newspapers, journals, media across the world. Now, with social media it is shared with them and they pass it on – all with the click of a button.

Students travel the planet for training and competition, during the season formerly only bringing video equipment to analyze techniques to improve. Now, all trips post photo albums on FB. Teachers used to be left behind (and paid only 1/3 of a coach!). Now, they are spotlighted on Vimeo for both in the classroom and personal acclaim that reflects well on the school. They used to mail out newsletters (with donation envelopes) four times a year, then via email. Now, they use PayPal and FB to make financial support requests. They cross-connect with local, state and national media and push them out via FB links. The students upload to Flickr and share new albums of what is important to them: events, silly fun, prom, graduations, etc. 

Since CVA dove into FB in May 2012, they have gained 872 likes with 42 friends talking about them and another 38 were here. Between May and December 2012, they posted 101 status updates, earning 392 likes, 35 comments and 15 shares (mostly from family of students). All of this with one person coordinating for a school of 65 students and about 30 staff. Not too bad of an investment of time…the marketing/public relations is priceless.

Authors and Libraries on Tumblr

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Tumblr,as I’m sure many of its users do. As stated on the Tumblr community guidelines page, Tumblr “celebrates creativity. We want you to express yourself freely and use Tumblr to reflect who you are, and what you love, think, witness, and believe.”  The website was created in February 2007 and currently hosts an estimated 93.1 million blogs, including the blogs of celebrities such as Lady Gaga and President Barack Obama.

I have recently returned to using Tumblr after a year hiatus. The site can become overwhelming.  Your Dashboard shows every post that has been posted by you and the users that you follow since you last visited the site in an endless scroll.  This means that if you follow 20 people who post often and don’t visit the site for several hours, you likely have hundreds of new posts to view.  It doesn’t help that a lot of posts can be childish jokes or just a picture of that one actor in that one movie, and OMG isn’t he hot?

But the other side of Tumblr can actually be a great place for authors to connect with their fanbase.  For instance, I follow John Green, author of young adult novels and a youtube star, on Tumblr.  John Green is a master at using social media to connect with his fanbase.  On Tumblr, he answers fan questions, reblogs fantastic fanart based on his books, and post random things that he finds funny with added commentary written by him.  All of these actions serve to help his fans feel like they are important and that he appreciate them.

I feel that this is a model that more authors, especially young adult and children’s authors, should follow.  While most authors have their own website, it is more welcoming to young fans to be able to get to know their favorite authors via a social forum they already use, such as Tumblr, which is much more interactive than the usual author website.

Libraries can also reach out to the younger generation this way, by posting book recommendations and trivia.  It would also be a good forum for the library to get ideas on what programs and events people want to see at their local library.  It would be good to see the slower world of books and libraries get caught up in the faster pop-culture world of Tumblr.



(Here’s a link in which John green talks about how Tumblr connected him to fans on 2 different continents to collaborate on making a poster based on of his books a reality: http://youtu.be/tHp3c9ziIq0)