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David Lee King

Facebook from a Patron’s Perspective



A day or two ago, we invited a couple of our patrons in for a focus group session on our website. The goal was to gather insights about our current website that can be incorporated into our redesign … but in the process, one patron in particular shared some eye-opening insights into how she uses Facebook.

This patron shared that she sits in front of a computer for 8 hours a day at work, and starts her morning out by opening up Google Reader, email, and Facebook as separate tabs on her web browser, and keeps them open all day long (while she’s working).

What does she do in Facebook? A lot. She follows co-workers, friends, and family there. The keeps up with the news and other organizations she’s interested in … through her Facebook news feed.

And the library? She primarily keeps up-to-date with the library through Facebook, too. Yes – through status updates and links within those status updates to interesting things.

OK. She was just one person who works in front of a computer all day. But I’m guessing she’s not alone – in the last three months, my library’s Facebook Page has added almost 900 fans.

Implications?

  • We need to not treat our Facebook Page as an afterthought. Some of our more savvy, active patrons are using Facebook as a primary source for library news.
  • We need to develop strategy and goals around our Facebook Pages (and any other social media tool our library incorporates).
  • We need to be actively sharing and conversing. Not just broadcasting press releases, but actually holding conversations with our patrons (just like we do in our physical spaces)

Are you seeing a similar thing with your customers? Your friends? How are you talking with patrons using a Facebook Page?

Photo by Paul Walsh

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dick

    David,

    Your thoughts are right on target and we are actively increasing our interfacing with Facebook (and twitter) because they are such effect communication channels. But with mixed emotions.

    From a library point of view reaching out to the community has never been more important, and engaging the community requires a lot more than cluttering their space with computer generated “stuff.”

    But as an employer, I find it disturbing that this employee would use my equipment while on the timeclock for her personal amusement. Abuses like this will cause retaliation and firewalls restricting access to Facebook.

    Finally if your dialogs are being conducted during normal business hours, and you were tempting my employee away from their work duties, I am not sure how supportive I might be toward your library in the future.

  • http://twitter.com/JustinLibrarian Justin The Librarian

    Great post sir, and thanks for sharing what you learned.

    I keep my library's teen page up and running at all time (http://www.facebook.com/PortlandPLTeens). Not much has gone on in there yet, but keeping track of what is going on, to me at least, is key to me being able to be the best teen librarian I can be for my community.

  • Pingback: Facebook and Libraries…07.15.10 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian's Weblog()

  • http://www.appbistro.com Ryan Merket

    Nice post. First time reader here, subscribing to your RSS.

    Ryan

  • http://twitter.com/wawoodworth Andy Woodworth

    I'm going to dodge your closing question, but I want to give kudos for this particular focus group. It's this kind of feedback that some libraries really need as they move to create an online presence.

  • Jody

    Respectfully, I disagree with Dick. I am an academic librarian (full-time), and I am like David's patron — FB is open all day. Yes, I keep up with friends this way, but I also keep up with trending topics in tech, academia, librarianship, etc. I post many of these newsie bits on our library's FB page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Arlington-TX/UT-A

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Yep – I'd agree with you, Jody. On the employer side, I think we need to think more about if our staff are achieving their goals, getting their projects done, etc – as long as they're meeting those annual goals, I don't really care what else they're doing.

    Plus, using a tool like Facebook really IS part of their job – it's a way to connect with our community, and it's a way to stay familiar with a tool.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Thanks!

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Thanks! I have always come from the perspective that our website is for our patrons, so we need to ask them what they like, then try to build that. HUGELY important, I think.

  • http://www.colleenscommentary.net/ Colleen Greene

    I too am an academic librarian who keeps these tools open all day. I also use them as my personal & professional learning network and share relevant tips on our library's Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pollaklibrary

    I agree with David, too — these tools ARE part of library faculty and staff jobs, same with learning and using other tech tools that our patrons champion.

  • http://www.colleenscommentary.net/ Colleen Greene

    Our library, Pollak Library at California State University Fullerton has an official Social Media Team (a mix of librarians, staff, and management) who defined a specific set of social media goals (“why” we use it) for our efforts that are inline with our library's mission and goals: http://www.slideshare.net/colleengreene/the-pol

    While we do not plan to develop a formal policy, we are now working this summer on developing a formal strategy that identifies recommended guidelines for “how” the library as a brand should be using it.

    I also work heavily with campus organizations to help them adopt and implement some of these same practices. Most of these groups certainly see the value in using social channels to broadcast their news, but the Library and I help these groups see the benefits of proactive engagement.

  • Jody

    Nice feed, Colleen! Congrats on a great job :).

  • http://twitter.com/bmljenny Jenny Reiswig

    I'm guessing the focus group patron is not a library employee, and so to me Dick's comment is absolutely an indicator of the working lives of our patrons. As another academic librarian, I am completely supported in my blended work/life style, but not all of our patrons are. Sites like Facebook and Twitter may be blocked at the daytime job locations of many of our patrons. Which is another argument for a great mobile strategy too. A friend of mine is banned from the Internet at her work computer, so she uses her mobile instead! Fortunately Facebook has a great mobile app, at least for iPhone!

  • Allison Carr

    I'm also an academic librarian who keeps Facebook open all day in order to keep up with my students and current events that they might also be following. We're just starting our Facebook presence and I doubt there are many who have Facebook open all day. So how do we get our few posts noticed amongst others they may see?

  • Dick

    David,

    Thanks all of those who replied to my comment. Jenny is right, I am not working for a library, I run my own business, and I am struck by the difference in opinions that distinction seems to have made with the respondents. And I think Allison put her finger on the key point, avoiding excessive clutter so relevant information can be given attention.

    In my business we incorporate facebook, twitter, blogs, web pages, widgets and email campaigns for our clients. Facebook is an important tool for libraries and an important tool for us. It can also be a diversion and for some addictive. In the private sector these days where competition is fierce, efficiency is more important than ever. Facebook and other electronic communications can fuel that efficiency, but abuses such as personal amusement on company time, can sap it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Banks/1287247262 Rob Banks

    David,

    I just finished the book, “The Facebook Effect.” One point in that book is that Zuckerberg envisions FB as a platform. His idea is to use it exactly as these users describe both in the focus group and in the comments to your post. I completely agree we need to take this more seriously, because people are using FB to focus on the news of the day, whatever form that takes for each individual. If we don't consider that, we are losing a growing population. As you know, David, I have FB open all day at work, and with my new iPhone, I stay connected in my off work times. I certainly understand the conflict that Dick mentions and it will take some time for us to figure out how to address those issues in an effective manner. None of us can afford to have our staff “playing” given smaller budgets, less staff, fewer customers, etc. The flip side of that, in my opinion, is we can't afford to not have our staff connected to our customers in important ways, like FB. I have to admit, given my reluctance a few years ago to even setup my FB page, I've begun using it in ways I never dreamed and it is expanding my reach in ways I had not considered. That doesn't mean there aren't concerns within our own shops, as well as with the philosophy at FB. All issues we need to work out. In my opinion, we make a mistake if we don't incorporate this phenomenon into most aspects of our work.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rob-Banks/1287247262 Rob Banks

    David,

    I just finished the book, “The Facebook Effect.” One point in that book is that Zuckerberg envisions FB as a platform. His idea is to use it exactly as these users describe both in the focus group and in the comments to your post. I completely agree we need to take this more seriously, because people are using FB to focus on the news of the day, whatever form that takes for each individual. If we don't consider that, we are losing a growing population. As you know, David, I have FB open all day at work, and with my new iPhone, I stay connected in my off work times. I certainly understand the conflict that Dick mentions and it will take some time for us to figure out how to address those issues in an effective manner. None of us can afford to have our staff “playing” given smaller budgets, less staff, fewer customers, etc. The flip side of that, in my opinion, is we can't afford to not have our staff connected to our customers in important ways, like FB. I have to admit, given my reluctance a few years ago to even setup my FB page, I've begun using it in ways I never dreamed and it is expanding my reach in ways I had not considered. That doesn't mean there aren't concerns within our own shops, as well as with the philosophy at FB. All issues we need to work out. In my opinion, we make a mistake if we don't incorporate this phenomenon into most aspects of our work.

  • Zuckyscookies

    At my public library, we've been having a sort of ongoing conversation about Facebook: Is it an appropriate tool? Is our page successful currently? What should go on our Facebook page? How should content be added, and by whom? I have gradually come to realize that our conversation is garbled and at cross-purposes. Currently, our marketing department has control over our Facebook page. All content has to come through the marketing manager. As you can imagine, librarians in the branches find this frustrating and inconsistent with the idea of social networking as a two-way conversation. At the same time, the marketing manager (whose content is typically in the form of announcements, though there is one person in our administrative office who has the authority to post blog-style entries about books she's read) correctly points to the fact that over 800 people have “liked” our page and are supposedly seeing the announcements that are posted. In other words, the Facebook page is currently used to further the goals of the marketing department, which is to generate one-way information about the library.

    The crux of the problem is that the goals of the marketing department and the goals of our branch librarians are completely different. I can't say that the marketing manager's goals are wrong–they're just different than mine (I'm a branch librarian). The question then becomes: how do we use Facebook to meet the needs of the marketing department for “pushing” digital communications to county residents while also meeting the needs of librarians to continue their longstanding two-way interaction with patrons/community residents? So far, this question has not been asked through official channels, but now that I've formulated it, I am beginning to push it to the fore as best I can. There have been some blind gropings even so, though they have created controversy. For example: The library system also has a YA (Teen) Facebook page. This page has few who have “liked” it and has little traffic. It is currently managed in the same way as the general Facebook page: by the marketing manager. Posts must be submitted and approved. So, some of us guerrilla fighters (not a good long-term strategy) have created personal Facebook pages with names like “Norrisville Ya-Librarian” to fool Facebook into thinking we're individuals. With that account, we can then, as individual YA librarians, at least comment on the official YA page.

    So in summary, we need to frame this question correctly, give credit to the marketing department as having legitimate goals to push information out one-way, but also recognize that the entire social networking initiative should not be captive to the goals of the marketing department. Part of what keeps this from going anywhere is a staff of librarians who either are not comfortable with technology, are anti-technology, and/or do not have the drive to push the issue with an administration struggling to understand how the world has changed (even while accepting the fact that it has). We also have no digital/technology champions in our computer department (note that it is not even called “information services” or something similar).

  • http://www.cygnismedia.com/social-media-application/facebook-application-development.html Facebook Development

    Seriously good information, here. Thanks for posting it.