#followalibrary Day is Oct 1

October 1st is Follow A Library Day on Twitter!

It’s an easy enough thing to participate in. The Follow a Library website suggests this: “Participating is very simple: tweet on October 1st what your favorite twittering library (or libraries) is (or are). Use in your tweet the hashtag (or keyword) #followalibrary.”

Simple stuff, right?

Why not push that idea 1-2 steps further, to get a bit more bang out of your buck? On Oct 1, do what the organizers suggest – ask your Twitter followers to tweet their favorite Twittering library, using the #followalibrary hashtag.

THEN, do three more things:

  1. Using your library’s Twitter account, actually ASK FOR FOLLOWERS. It IS Follow A Library day, and all. Make sure to use the #gfollowalibrary hashtag.
  2. Then ask your followers to retweet those posts. What’s that do? My library has 1427 followers… what if all of those followers retweeted those messages? And then shared what THEIR favorite library was with all those Twitter followers? Much better reach that way.
  3. Then ask another question using the #followalibrary hashtag – ask “Why are we your favorite library?” Those responses have the potential to be pretty valuable! Use responses as sort of a “check-in” with your library patrons, and share them with staff. Is it what you expected? Listen to what your twitter followers say about you and your library!

OK – one more thing here. You’ve just asked your community to follow your library’s Twitter account on October 1st.

What are you going to do to SUSTAIN that growth on October 2nd?

How We Post in Topeka

I was recently asked how my library posts so frequently on our blogs. It’s a morphing process – here’s where we are now, and where we’re [probably] going.

Right now, here’s what we’re doing. Our digital branch is a huge priority for our library. We’re one big building and 17 bookmobile stops, and we have to reach a whole county. So we have prioritized reaching out digitally. In fact, our executive director often says “no one can opt out of the digital branch.” It’s that important to us.

How does everyone participate? Some blog, some take pictures or create/post videos. Some of us watch/add content to our outposts like Facebook or Twitter. Others answer texts/IMs/email reference questions.

For blog posting – right now, our guideline is two posts a week per blog/section of the site. Do we always make this? Nope – some areas do, some not so much. It’s a work in progress.

It also factors into our annual job performance reviews (more on this in a bit).

How will this be changing? Right now, we’re in the midst of a pretty major website redesign. We learned lots from our current design and the current way we operate on the back end, and are ready to put some improvements in place.

One improvement will be how we handle web content – here’s our thinking right now. We’ll probably align our blogs more closely with our physical library’s neighborhoods – we’re taking stuff out of Dewey Decimal order and putting them into content areas (i.e., all health-related books go in the Health neighborhood, etc).

Each of those neighborhoods has a team and a team leader … and each has a blog, too. So the blog is that team’s responsibility. We’ll figure out a posting schedule for them, and jointly create some goals/strategy for growing their little section of the digital branch (that’s a part of my job).

We’ll also probably figure out a way to more formally reward those teams for the digital branch work they do. Right now, it’s easy to say “no one can opt out” and “it’s part of our job performance” – but there’s no good, formal way to make that happen.

We’ll need to figure out a better way to say stuff like “yes, Joe wrote  24 posts this year, answered 200 text reference questions, and livestreamed an author event.” And have that somehow count for better scores on an annual review (alright – still need to talk to HR and other managers about this – it’s been mentioned that we need to improve in this area, just not exactly how yet).

The goal isn’t to punish people who don’t do the work (cause most of us already do it) – instead, the goal is to better recognize this great work.

And last – remember, I work in a pretty healthy organization. If our library decides to do something … we do it. If someone’s assigned to do something, that thing happens. Isn’t that how all libraries are [David quickly ducks]?

pic by pallotron

Supporting Your Community

I just read You Don’t Sell to a Community. You Support a Community by Dan Blank (found via Chris Brogan’s Twitter feed). And hey – Dan must be ok – he used to work at Reed Business Info (ie., Library Journal, etc). So he gets us library types.

Here’s the gist of the post (make sure to read the whole thing): “As the business landscape rushes into social media – a more nuanced connection with people’s lives – this is something to be understood. The business funnel of marketing to a segmented group of people is not the same as building trust within a community – of supporting a community.”

Two other good quotes:

  • “You don’t sell to a community. You support a community. You provide for a community. You connect a community. You mediate a community. You balance a community. You sacrifice for a community.”
  • “it is hard to truly “build” a community. Communities exist already. A list of Twitter followers is not necessarily a community.”

So – how does this relate to libraries? We don’t sell stuff, do we? Sure we do. My library has a 3-person marketing team that creates newsletters, giant posters, and marketing & promotion campaigns (for starters. They do a lot of great work). Their business is making sure everyone in Shawnee County knows about us, checks out our stuff, and attends our events. That’s selling – selling our stuff and our services.

What do some libraries do soon after they set up their blogs, Facebook Pages, and Twitter feeds? They start selling! Many of us primarily use our online social communities as broadcast avenues. We throw billboards out into the middle of our digital community, hoping someone reads it, clicks the link, and attends the event (or checks out the book).

But I’m with Dan – that’s not the primary thing we should be doing in our online communities.

Think about it for a sec – when it comes to our analog community (ie., our buildings), we get that. We ROCK in that space. Who else (maybe besides a church) has an actual community that visits regularly, connects with the people who work there, and that’s not obviously selling stuff (like a grocery store)? That’s us! We’re not there to sell stuff – our stuff sells itself. In our analog spaces, we exist to support our communities, and we do it well.

So why, when we venture online, do we suddenly turn into snake oil salesmen? How come we have a hard time connecting via a text box, a camera, or a short video? We’ve had some form of these tools for a LONG TIME (ie., email for example). The rest of our community picked it up (look at national Facebook and email adoption rates) – why are we struggling here?

Want to fix this? Here’s a couple of things to try:

  • Take a look at your organization’s social media spaces (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Is it full of answering questions, or is it full of announcements? Think about balancing those out a bit.
  • Think of your social media spaces like a large gathering of people where you’ve been asked to represent your library. I’m guessing you wouldn’t bring your bullhorn, right? Instead, you might say “Hi – I’m from the library. What do you do?” … then you’d go from there. Treat your social media spaces the same way.
  • Give this quote from Dan some thought – “You don’t sell to a community. You support a community. You provide for a community. You connect a community. You mediate a community. You balance a community. You sacrifice for a community.” Are there ways you can do this online? Probably so.
  • In your library’s social media spaces, don’t be “The Library.” Be “David, the dude who works at the library.” Be a person, not a billboard.

More later.

Photo by cindiann

Dealing with Comments on your Website

First, a bit of backstory: my library is going to start charging late fees. Wow – exciting, David! Most libraries do that! Yeah, yeah – I know. But we haven’t had a late fee for 35 years or so, so it’s a bit of a big deal in Topeka right now. We’re starting to share our plan with our community, and one obvious place to share has been on our library’s website.

Guess what? People have been sharing back. Quite a few (check the comments! It’s interesting reading). That one post, so far, has gathered a whopping 89 comments (a first for us). Comments by 36 people, mostly from customers (there’s about 7 library staff who have chimed in, including me). One customer has posted 14 comments! It’s been a rather hot blog post for us.

Here’s how we’ve been handling our comments:

  • Normally, the blog author (ie., library staff) get an email when there’s a comment on their post, and they respond to the comment – thank the person for commenting, answer questions, etc.
  • Once in awhile (as in this particular blog post), the questions are passed off to appropriate staff to answer (if you look through the comments to the post in question, you’ll see that happening).
  • I actively monitor comments (that’s part of my job)
  • When there’s a misperception or misinformation being shared, we correct it
  • If there’s a personal attack (which has happened twice so far), I step it and email the person individually, telling them that they’re welcome to post, please stick to the topic, and stop attacking others…  then I also post a comment on that blog post stating what I did and why. We’re going for transparency.
  • If there’s a comment that’s highly inappropriate, I delete it (there’s been one so far).
  • And we delete spam comments.

Otherwise, we let it go – after all, we created an open forum, and people can say whatever they want (for the most part). I am also working on some online Community Discussion Guidelines. We’ll probably put a link to them somewhere around our blog comment box. It’s been an interesting lesson in online forum management for me!

Why are we putting ourselves through this? Why don’t we just close comments and move on? Because we are in control of the conversation. Think about it. If people were talking about this issue on their own blogs, the library might or might not be able to respond. If people were discussing this on the newspapers editorials/comments (which they have been), we’re not in control of that conversation either – the newspaper is.

But when the conversation happens on our website … then we’re in control. We can correct misinformation easily, and point to the correct answer. We can add phone numbers, email addresses, etc. We can even email the commenter individually (assuming they used a valid email address).

This allows  us to hold the conversation in “our building” – on our digital branch. One of my co-workers recently said she was putting on her fireman’s hat when we started getting negative comments. I reminded her that she was right – but we were doing a “controlled burn.” Because we’re in control of the conversation.

Have you had similar experiences with your organization’s blog and/or website? If so, how have you handled:

  1. lots of comments?
  2. inappropriate comments?

I’d love to know!

Pic by Vetustense

SXSWi2009: From Flickr and Beyond: Lessons in Community Management

Panelists: Heather Champ – flickr, Mario Anima – CurrentTV, Matthew Stinchcomb – Etsy, Jessamyn West – MetaFilter (aside – LIBRARIANS ROCK), and Micah Schaffer – YouTube

Excellent – Jessamyn introduced the Metafilter part of her jobs, then mentioned I’m a public librarian in my day job. Awesomeness.

Metafilter didn’t have moderation for about the first 5 years. Started out as some dude’s blog, and grew from there. They recently added flagging, to mark content as breaking the guidelines.

Youtube – harder to perceive trends as they grew. They’re figuring out how to do it by slicing metrics in different ways

Etsy – Challenge – how to grow big but to stay small at the same time. A goal – make sre they’re having a dialogue. Have to remember the community is king before they do anything.

CurrentTV – they have different types of communities, ie., viewers and producers – they have to balance that.

They all mentioned mean names their communities have called them at times.

The YouTube guy – probably speaking the truth about YouTUbe – but he’s talking about bikinis and sex a lot. His point was that their site has a diversity of content, and sometimes you might not want, say, a bikini to mix with your hedgehog videos.

(aside – dude – don’t sit by two women and say “the internet’s about sex” and talk about liking bikini videos. Just sayin.

CurrentTV guy talks about content of conversations. IE., your comment will be taken down if you say “I will hunt you down …” etc. They actually say edit that out, and we’ll put it back up.

YouTube – criticism is good. They have to balance good, constructive criticism with crazy person criticism.

Flickr – Heather has learned when NOT to respond. She lets craxy people “dig their hole to crazy town” by not responding – it allows the community to notice and ignore the crazy person.

CurrentTV has multiple ways to deliver feedback – email, twitter, video responses, etc.

Etsy agrees – communicate in as many ways as possible.

YouTube – realize you’ll have to adapt your policies and guidelines as your site and your product evolve.

Etsy – people use site and communicate in ways you don’t expect – because of that, they have to revisit their policies every few months.

Metafilter – be able to explain your rules, and why you think that rule is a good one

Q&A now:

Q: How do you get community engagement in flickr?

A: You get what you give. You have to participate in groups for example. I’d add that you have to have a real community / network first – they’ll view and comment. Also wondering if he’s actually ASKED for comments?

Q: Does YouTube delete comments?

A: Their community guidelines apply to comments. Comments are the lowest barrier to entry at YouTube – it’s easy.

A: Allow members to determine what’s ok and what’s not.

Q: question about being logged in and being stupid …

A: Etsy – login name is same as their shop name, so your reputation follows you big time.

Q: Clay Shirky asked a question – funniest thing with community disagreeing with them…

A: Jessamyn – they banned someone, community started an “unban this user” …

A: Etsy – the Etsy 5 thing …

A: CurrentTV – a guy constantly complained a lot, then “asked for a divorce”

Q: what happens when another user community invades your own

A: flickr … you have to protect your own community first, really watch it – she gave a few examples. She calls them community crashers