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Category Archives: SPL

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is to make people see them as filled with caring real people who would be happy to provide information, not as the outdated stereotypical perception of librarians and libraries that still somehow linger even today.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

 

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

 

Social Services: The Seattle Public Library Blog

The Seattle Public Library

The Seattle Public Library - Picture by Brendan Dolan-Gavitt

Public libraries have started venturing out into the world of social services in order to connect with their patrons in a new and more personal way. In part, this is a reaction to the people who still seem to view the library as an anti-technology zone, a place that is forever stuck in the past. They see the library as an ancient book repository where the perpetually frowning librarian, with her mandatory bun and glasses, is lurking at the reference desk, ready to shush anyone who gets a little too boisterous. In order to remove this false perception of what a modern library truly is, and to promote their ever expanding selection of services, librarians are joining social media sites to tell the world what’s really going on in the library. This new interest in social services and tools has resulted in libraries creating blogs, Twitter feeds, podcasts, Facebook accounts, and even special widgets. Sometimes these attempts fail, but often they can be a great supplement to the classic library website. The Seattle Public library is an institution that appeared to leap at the chance to join the world of social media, and have an active Facebook account,Twitter feed, several blogs, and even make their own podcasts. Yet how useful are these tools for the patrons, and are they easy to use while still providing relevant content?

The first tool that I found while exploring the homepage for the Seattle Public Library, which was quite aesthetically pleasing, was their blog Shelf Talk. Not only was it remarkably easy to locate the blog, a host of other related services were also neatly clustered in the same location, not buried under a maze of other pages. Almost immediately after I found the first link to their blog, I found another link off to the side, and this one gave the option of going to the adult blog or a separate teen blog. Upon clicking either one of these options, the user is taken to an age customized blog that covers a remarkably wide variety of topics. This can range from book reviews, to notifications of library events, and even the occasional discussion about local events. I was definitely impressed by this idea of making separate blogs for different age groups, because it provides information tailored to specific users who can then avoid wading through posts that are not relevant to their age or interests.

Not only were these twin blogs easy to locate, they were designed it in a way where it’s easy to search for particular topics within the blog with relative ease. Even if a patron is unfamiliar with blogs, the SPL provides several ways in which this site can be navigated. They added a search bar so that a user can search for posts that contain certain keywords, and they also provide a drop down menu where the user can select a general topic to search under. They also ties in nicely with some of the libraries other services, such as the recommend a book feature. With this, a patron can type in five books that they enjoyed and a librarian will send the user an e-mail with book recommendations based off of their selected novels. This is similar to the book recommendations that are posted on the blog, but it is far more personalized. Because of all these wonderful features, I would undoubtedly subscribe to this blog if I lived in the area, actually, I liked it so much that I might subscribe anyway.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in SPL