Check Out Public Libraries Online!

Applauding PL MagazineJust a quick post – Public Libraries Magazine is now online!

Looks like you can click the Magazine link to get each issue’s online version, complete with links to articles. There are also some Web Exclusives articles and a PL blog (as well as lots of other stuff). Nice.

Best of all (for me, anyway) – the Internet Spotlight column I write with Michael Porter is finally online! Yippie! Here’s a link to our newest article, Dealing with Comments on Your Website. make sure to read it and leave comments (after you register at the magazine’s website).

Good job, Public Libraries Magazine and PLA!

Follow the Meat Department on Twitter!

Follow the Meat Dept on Twitter!

Would you follow your local grocery store in your favorite social network? The Topeka Hy-Vee is on Twitter and Facebook – and they WANT you to follow them!

Two observations here:

  1. Social networking IS slowly becoming “normal” – I’m seeing similar “follow me on Twitter and Facebook” signs all over the place, at stores, restaurants, hearing it on the radio, etc.
  2. If a grocery store can keep multiple social networking sites fresh (the Topeka Hy-Vee Twitter and Facebook Pages are updated daily) … I’m guessing you can, too.

And a question. Hy-Vee put a sign in the middle of their meat department advertising their social networking sites. Where are your signs? How are you inviting users into your digital spaces?

[David gets busy making signs…]

Have We Emerged Yet?

budAndy at the Agnostic, Maybe blog (you are reading Andy’s blog, right? Good stuff there) recently posted Deconstructing Library 2.0 – and asked some good questions (I left a couple of comments).

Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librarian responded with a whole blog post (yay! Jenny posted! Jenny posted!). I almost responded in her comments, but needed some more time to process my thoughts. I’m not sure they’re processed yet. But I’ll throw this out – maybe y’all can help, and add to the discussion!

I’ll start us off with some observations from Jenny’s post. She quotes Andrew Burkhardt at the Information Tyrannosaur blog (yet another interesting blog to read) who said “The time has come for libraries to be social on the web. Social is the new normal. It has become mainstream and people expect it. Library 2.0 is not dead, it has just become boring and commonplace. And to quote Clay Shirky, “tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

Then Jenny goes on to say this: “The hard part, though, is that Library 2.0 doesn’t really replace anything … the opportunities these new tools afford us are in addition to everything we’re already doing, which causes problems, because we don’t get additional resources to implement them … That means being out in your community physically and digitally …”

My question is – are we there yet? I don’t think so. Remember my recent Facebook post? I pointed out that successful library Facebook Pages have staff members actively pushing out content and participating with their users in Facebook. There were some shining examples, and there were some, for all practical purposes, dead pages, too. Maybe those libraries ran into Jenny’s reality of Facebook being “… in addition to everything we’re already doing, which causes problems, because we don’t get additional resources” … so they dropped they thing they didn’t find to be important.

Or maybe, for those libraries, the technology has not yet “become boring and [more likely] commonplace.”

Here’s what I’m noticing when I speak at a library staff day event. I’m usually brought in to speak about “emerging trends and transformations” (translation – web 2.0 tools, services, and underlying philosophies). At these libraries, there’s usually a small cluster of staff that “get it” and are glad I’m there. There’s also usually a couple of staff that think that I’m somehow ignoring the digital divide, forgetting about people who need reading glasses, or even making library services tough for old and poor people.

Then there’s everyone else. For the most part, this larger group hasn’t really adapted to emerging tools, services, or philosophies (but are very willing to learn and to experiment). This is where the new stuff isn’t yet commonplace. For example, maybe some of them have personal Facebook profiles, and use them to reconnect with high school buddies, or maybe their daughter who lives out of state. But when I introduce them to using an organizational Facebook Page to connect with their community – to “be the library” to those people, in that digital space … well, that’s a whole different enchilada.

It’s the very same reaction that some staff might have if they were told to get out of the building, attend a local community focus group … and represent the library while there. It’s different like that … in the same way.

So, my tally on the good stuff mentioned in those posts:

  • “The time has come for libraries to be social on the web” – Yes, definitely.
  • “Social … has become mainstream and people expect it.” Yes and no. A growing segment of our community DOES expect it – but maybe not our traditional “regulars” who visit our physical spaces.
  • “Library 2.0 doesn’t really replace anything … the opportunities … are in addition to everything we’re already doing” – Yes, definitely.

Emerging = growing pains. For many of us, I think that’s where we are right now. We are emerging in many ways, and will continue to do so. But that emerging thing brings a lot of growing pains with it – new things to learn, new priorities, new philosophies to adapt to our organizations, new jobs being created to meet new needs.

Yay! and Ouch! at the same time. What do you think?

Humanizing your Facebook Pages

A “Book and Digital Media Studies” student (wow – what a cool-sounding program!) emailed me last week, asking about my favorite university library Facebook Pages. Well … to be honest, I can’t say I frequent university library Facebook Pages much.

But I followed up a bit, and did a search in Facebook for university library then narrowed the search to Pages, and found over 500 university libraries with Facebook Pages.

As I browsed through the list, I started noticing that some Pages had low friend counts in the 0-30 range, and many were in the 70-200 range. And there were a handful that had thousands of friends:

Why do these Pages have more friends? Glancing through them, it looks like they are doing one thing – they are humanizing their Facebook Pages. What do I mean by that?

They’re “doing stuff.” Stuff like this:

  • Posting regular status updates
  • Interacting with visitors in the comments of status updates – some status updates have 20-30 comments, as well as “Likes”
  • Pointing to stuff that’s happening in the library (ie., lectures)
  • Regularly add photos and videos – sometimes hundreds of them.
  • They use Facebook’s Events feature to list events.

How about libraries with a low fan count? Here’s one example – the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Main Library, with 7 fans. What are they doing? Nothing. They have 1 status update, from August 2009. Their most recent activity was adding the library’s website url, mailing address, and phone number.

So, to answer the question “Do students friend university library Facebook Pages?” (I hear that one a lot) the answer would be yes – IF those pages are being humanized. Looks like the pages with high fan counts have constant activity streams. Pretty much every day or so, something is happening on those Pages – there are regular status update posts, photos or videos are being added, and event reminders are being posted.

Basically, activity attracts Facebook users. Think of your Facebook Page like a party. Anyone ever attended a dead party? If there’s nothing going on, the party goers quickly find an excuse to leave, because the party is boring, right? In the same way, if your Facebook Page has no updates … your party is boring, and you are inviting your students to go do something else.

This is easily fixable if you do one simple thing. Post an update every day, and make it interesting. Examples from the Fan-heavy pages above include helping students out – pointing to a book/resource that has the “answers” for an assignment, just sharing an interesting tidbit of university or library news, sharing quotes, etc. Pretty normal stuff – just shared with Facebook users.

But if you’re not human, if nothing’s going on … no one will show up to your party.

Bunny by Alyssa Miller

Showing Patrons the Door

First, a funny story. When I lived in Nashville, I frequented a cool used record store. During one trip, I was trying to decide whether or not to buy a couple of old jazz cassette tapes (hey – I was on a tight budget).

The tiny shelf these cassette tapes were on was packed WAY too tightly, so when I tried to pull one cassette out to examine it, 2-3 others would fall out at the same time. And make lots of noise as they hit the floor (it was tile, of course). This happened a couple of times … in a row … and was pretty embarrassing!

So – to ease my embarrassment at not being able to figure out how to successfully pull a cassette tape off the shelf, a “helpful” shop security guard came over to me. He stood behind me, stared at me for a second, and said (and I quote) – “you’ve got 10 minutes, then you’d better be out of my store.” Then he walked away.

Boy, that helped. Thanks :-) That day, the store essentially “showed me the door” in no uncertain terms. Even though the problem wasn’t me – it was their tightly-packed shelf.

Now on to the title of this post, and to my point. Showing patrons the door? Yikes – we’d never do that (under normal circumstances, anyway)! Unlike the silly used record shop, librarians would never consciously walk up to a patron and tell them to leave if that patron was having trouble using something in the library … right?

I think we DO sometimes tell our patrons to leave when we make things difficult for them. We might as well be saying “here’s the door, don’t let it hit you on the way out.”

For example, if your library has a blog, do you moderate those comments? Quickly? I know of libraries that can go 1-2 weeks before they get around to moderating comments. In and of itself, moderating a comment is fine, as long as they are moderated fast (like within 1-4 hours). Blog posts are supposed to be the start of a conversation; comments continue that conversation. If those comments aren’t approved at least in the same day, you have essentially killed that conversation. To me, that sounds like showing patrons the door.

Is your website confusing? Do customers have to puzzle out what they need to do next while on your site? If so … your website is showing patrons the door. Same with our catalogs – a confusing catalog might just steer customers away from checking stuff out – and that’s one of our major, must-have services!

Do you let patrons sign up for a library card online (some libraries don’t)? How about having an online sign-up form that asks for WAY too much info? That’s a sure-fire way to show patrons the door.

What labels and naming schemes do you use on your site? Using heavy-duty librarian jargon might just be a great way to usher patrons towards the door.

How about not having a Facebook Page (or even blocking Facebook altogether)? Or simply doubting that your patrons use Facebook (without actually signing up for a Facebook account and checking)? Yet another way to show a group of very active, involved patrons the door.

Other ways to show patrons the door might include hard to find stuff on your website, hidden content, or even library services that aren’t mentioned anywhere on your website.

So – what do you think? What else shows patrons the door, and how can we fix that?

Pic by Cayusa