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Overview

Over the last few days I’ve posted about how social services and tools, like blogs, Twitter, and Facebook accounts have been used in the Seattle Public Library and the Bloomington Public Library. Each of these libraries had areas where they succeeded in using these tools, and they had areas where they could make small changes to better utilize the accounts they already have. In general, the SPL really stood out because there was a real sense of community and personality on their social media pages, and they seemed to really try and use these tools to enhance the library experience for their patrons, even though the icons for the tools were sometimes difficult to locate. The BPL’s social networking sites were more subdued in comparison, with their Facebook page and Twitter account acting more like a bulletin board for events and features, rather than a communal place for the exchange of thoughts and opinions.

While the SPL is currently doing a fantastic job of providing new and unique content on their social media accounts, there is always a need for content evaluation of these services in order to stay current and maintaining user interest. The Librarian in Black, run by Sarah Houghton, is an excellent resource for keeping up with current library and social tool trends. She also provides some interesting tips about how libraries can use social networking to become an essential part of a community, not just a distant abstract concept bound by bricks and mortar. This is essential because one of the goals of libraries using social tools is to make people see them as filled with caring real people who would be happy to provide information, not as the outdated stereotypical perception of librarians and libraries that still somehow linger even today.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in BPL, Facebook, SPL, Twitter

 

The BPL Twitter Feed

The Bloomington Public Libraries Twitter feed is similar in many ways to their Facebook page; they both are used in an almost perfunctory manner to convey information about library services. This is not to say that the services and programs offered at the BPL are not inspired, because the BPL sponsors many events that sound incredibly entertaining, but only using Twitter in this manner is rather limited. By just announcing events and new services, their twitter feed is almost unnecessary because most of the same information is available on their Facebook page, and their twitter feed often is just used to announce new posts on their Facebook page. It almost seems like they have a twitter feed because libraries are now expected to use social tools like Facebook and twitter, instead of having this tool because it can be a valuable way to get community feedback and connect with patrons. When looked at this way, the BPL’s twitter feed doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the libraries’ webpage, even though it’s easy to find; it’s just a feature that is tacked on there because it is expected. Although I might be a bit harsh in my assessment of the BPL twitter feed, because it does provide valuable information about the library and the services they offer, Twitter could be used in so many more ways. This is especially apparent after seeing how the Seattle Public Library has gone beyond the ordinary and used their account to create an interactive online community.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in BPL, Twitter

 

The BPL Facebook Page

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Facebook - by Marko Pakoeningrat

Today, Facebook is practically everywhere. It is a social tool that both individuals and organizations use to connect with the world around them. Libraries can tap into this social networking tool to provide an enhanced experience for their patrons as well as fellow librarians. However, there are some concerns that libraries on Facebook will make students uncomfortable because their personal space is being intruded upon, and it would be a bit creepy if an institution followed their Facebook friends a little too closely. This point is mentioned in The Other Librarian, a wonderful blog by Ryan Deschamps. In his post about Facebook in Libraries, he also argues that if Libraries actually want to improve the popularity of their Facebook pages, they need to create innovative apps that their patrons will actually want to use. Unfortunately for the libraries, he also mentions how he doesn’t see this happening anytime soon. But if the Facebook pages of libraries are still not on the cutting edge of innovation, at least they can endeavor to provide a wide variety of services through their accounts, services much like the ones I mention in my previous post about the SPL Twitter feed. Looking back at the SPL, they did a fantastic job of not only promoting library resources, they managed to build a sense of community on their page without seeming overly personal or creepy, which is a hard line to balance on. The Bloomington Public Library does not manage this balance act nearly as well.

While the link to navigate to their Facebook account is quite easy to locate, the posts on their wall are limited in nature. As I scrolled through the last few weeks of posts, almost all of them were focused on reporting library features or services. There is nothing particularly wrong with this, but it lacks the personal touch that the SPL was able to create with their account, and it also makes it seem a bit bland. If I was a patron of this library I wouldn’t feel a need to subscribe to their posts because although the information is sometimes interesting, it is never essential. Thought it does provide useful information, like the impending arrival of the new website that is scheduled to go up in the middle of April, the posts seem to be mostly one directional, without the back and forth comments that the SPL Facebook page created. If the Bloomington Library would like to change their tactics for their Facebook account, I would recommend they take a look at the SPL and how they ask questions of their followers and then respond to their comments to show their interest. Because of this back and forth commentary, the SPL has built a rapport with the members of the surrounding community, which will serve them during the following years. This is a lesson that the BPL could certainly take notice of if they want to create an interactive online community, not just a static bulletin board where they post information about upcoming events.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in BPL, Facebook

 

The Bloomington Public Library

My first impression of the Bloomington Public Library website was of bright colors and a veritable sea of links. After taking a moment to orient myself, the organizing principal behind the color choices became clear, and it was actually a successful attention-grabbing way to color code categories of links. The four major divisions which were represented by different colors were Find, Use, See & Do, and Participate. An example of how this works is that subjects like the library catalog are grouped under the Find category, while volunteer opportunities are located under the Participate category. Right at the top of the page, there are icons which will take the user to the BPL’s Facebook page or their Twitter account, an excellent location because sometimes, like with the SPL, these icons can become lost or buried on the homepage. Soon after this, I found a link that stated the BLP had just created a new webpage, which turned out to be similar in some ways to the old one, but there were some definite improvements as well.

On the new site, instead of scattering the links for social services in different locations, there is a section of the site that is titled social media. This sector has links to the BPL Facebook page, their Twitter accounts, and their YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the site must still be under construction or is linked improperly, because all off the links to their social media pages are broken. When the site is finished, I think this additional feature for their social media accounts will be a great way to publicize their existence and how they can be used to supplement regular in-person library services.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in BPL

 

SPL Podcasts

Recording a podcast - By David Martin

By creating a podcast, an individual or organization can distribute an inexpensively made audio recording of an event or a person. Libraries can use podcasts to record readings by popular authors, discussions of library events, or create virtual tours of the library. John Lang in his blog The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian, believes that podcasts are not only becoming common tools for the public, they are being used to provide specialty content for library users as well as instructional recordings for library staff who need immediate training in a particular area. He also argues that not all libraries need to have podcasts because that might not fit in with the needs of their particular clientele, but that all libraries need to know what podcasts are and how they might be used.

With this information in mind, I went to the SPL website once again in order to see if they utilized podcasts in addition to their other social services tools. After a quick scan of the site, I was able to find a link to their podcast archives in their prominently displayed quick links area. Much like how their blog is divided into information for adults and for teens, so are the SPL’s podcasts. Within this teen section there are clips from young adult authors doing interviews or reading excerpts from their latest books, but there are also a surprising amount of podcasts that are recorded by teens for teens. These cover a wide range of subjects, from issues regarding violence in video games, to what teens want the separate teen section of the library to look like. The designers of this site also made sure to create links to other related sections of the SPL site that teens might find useful, which includes resources for homework help and news stories for teens. Overall I was very impressed with how much the SPL was catering to their teen patrons, and that they not only created a strong focus on teen issues, they let actual teens record some of the podcast they upload to their site.

In comparison, I think the adult podcast section seems a little more subdued. It still has a variety of interesting podcasts that range from author readings to doctors talking about recent medical advances, but it lacks the personal touch that the teen area possesses. Another consideration for this section is that since the adult area caters to adults of all ages, some of which will not be very familiar with what podcasts are and how they work, I think the SPL could include a brief instructional section to preface the archives. It is fairy self-explanatory process to download a podcast, but there are still some individuals who will be hesitant to use this feature until they know what it is and what is required to use it. The SPL provide an introduction and quick list of instructions for their other downloadable content, like the e-books and their video archive, so it shouldn’t take too much time to create a similar one for the adult podcasts.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Podcasts, SPL

 

The SPL Twitter Feed

Twitter is no longer just a way to relay small amounts of personal information; it is now a surprisingly useful tool for libraries to answer quick questions and to build a stronger presence within their communities.  Andy Burkhardt, a librarian at Chaplain College and the creator of the Information Tyrannosaur blog, explains that the Twitter feeds of libraries can be surprisingly useful and sophisticated tools. In his post, How libraries Can Leveraging Twitter, he points out the seven ways that Chaplain college has used twitter to improve their library, and how others might following these steps  to improve their own institutions Twitter accounts. These seven steps involve reporting library happenings, promoting library resources/services, building community, engaging users, monitoring library related tweets, soliciting feedback, and creating greater awareness of the library. By including all of these concepts within their feed, libraries can create a much richer experience for their followers, instead of just halfheartedly re-posting the tweets of others or blandly listing library features.

Twitter - Image by Shawn Campbell

When I went through the SPL Twitter feed, they managed to follow most of Burkhardt’s recommended steps. They publicized library services like their free tax clinic, they asked questions of their users regarding what kind of books they wanted, they reported events that were going to be held, and their feed held comments from library users who discussed features they liked, which is a good indication of community involvement. If the SPL was going to try and follow all of the recommended steps, it would be incredibly useful if their Twitter was utilized more frequently as a reference tool. When I looked at the last several days of Tweets, I didn’t find any instances of reference questions being asked, even though the SPL clearly encourages users to ask questions. Perhaps this was just a slow couple of days for Twitter users with reference questions, or maybe this is just a feature that hasn’t gained a lot of popularity yet. One way that the SPL could increase the use of this feature, is to publicize it on their homepage. Of course, much like with their Facebook page, the preexisting link to their Twitter account is hidden at the very bottom of the page. This not only makes it difficult to realize the SPL as a Twitter account, it also does nothing to advertise all the features that are available through twittering with the library. Overall, I would say the SPL does a great job with their twitter account, but they could work on how visible or accessible it is to their patrons.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in SPL, Twitter

 

The SPL Facebook Page

In my last entry, I talked about how simple it was to find the Seattle Public Library blog, and how it had two easy to spot links right on the homepage. Because of this, I thought that all of the SPL’s social networking tools would be just as easy to locate. Well, I was a bit hasty with my assumption. Earlier in the day I had searched through my own Facebook account to find the Seattle Public Library’s page, and to my delight it not only existed, it was also quite popular and regularly updated. Yet, when I tried to find a link to their account through their homepage, it was rather difficult to spot. During my first attempt, I gave the homepage a quick skim, but then decided to just use the link to Facebook that they post on their blog. However, when I decided to go back and look over the entire front page again, I was able to locate a Facebook icon in the very bottom corner of the site. I can understand why they don’t want to put their Facebook icon right in the middle of the page, where it could detract from other possibly more useful features like the catalog and the ask a librarian feature, but it definitely could be put in a more prominent place if most patrons are even going to realize the SPL has a Facebook page.

Besides the difficulty in locating their Facebook account, their actual page is quite popular, with over 14,000 likes and 8,000 visitors. The SPL also does a great job of interacting with their followers instead of just stating opinions or re-posting stories. They will often pose questions to the public, like asking them what their favorite young adult books are, and then reply to the extensive conversations that ensue. While looking through all the posts on their page, there was an outpouring of affection for the SPL, and there was even another library science student from SJSU who said they were studying this page for her class because it was such a success. After such a glowing recommendation, it’s hard to find fault with the SPL’s Facebook page, especially when a host of other users keep posting their appreciation of the SPL’s services. Because of the overwhelming positive vibe and the variety of information they post, I would certainly friend them if I ever move to the Seattle area. The only slight issue I have with the site is one of personal preference; this is due to their decision to switch to Facebook timeline, which might be a little more difficult to use for those who are new or reluctant Facebook users.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Facebook, SPL