And the prizes go to…

English Faculty and the Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall. These two Facebook pages show really well what can be achieved with Facebook and the enormous range of uses it can be put to. Opening hours, new displays, new collections, events, exhibitions, feed back from users – all these things an be catered for in one fell swoop, in addition to creating an online community focused on the library. I particularly like the way the tone of the two pages mentioned above reflect the different feel and purposes of the Faculty/College library. The Jerwood page is friendly and approachable with a real ‘community news’ feel to it, with the English Faculty catering for a much larger contingent of users and pushing it’s new collections and exhibitions, as well as pointing fans towards outside news articles that might also be of interest.

Another library that uses Facebook relatively well is our own Central Library in Cambridge. This is just as well, really, because their website is frankly rubbish, but they do seem to use Facebook and Twitter to their advantage especially for publicising events. If they paid as much attention to their website as to the other two accounts, I’d probably give them game-set-and-match.

All these things are great, providing libraries actually reach their users this way. Facebook pages, as with all social media,  need to be well maintained and up-to-date if people are going to pay them any attention, so you need to be sure that the effort is going reap some reward. We recently had some work-experience students visiting our library and I took a little bit of time to talk to them and show them a bit about the Cam23 programme. I was particularly interested in their responses to the ways libraries use social media – they have grown up with Facebook, and will be our users in a couple of years time. Opinion was divided over the use of Facebook; they were all users but the first group admitted that they’d never even thought of Facebook as a resource for ‘useful information’. Having seen a couple of library pages they recognised how it could be a useful platform for disseminating information, but agreed that they would probably still carry on using Facebook socially and weren’t persuaded that they wanted to combine it with ‘school stuff’.

The other student was considerably more engaged and fully appreciated the potential of Facebook as a way for libraries to communicate with their users. However, they were also quite definite that they expected this information to be available via a library’s main website, AND, that they would always use a library website as the main source of information over and above anything else (visiting that first). This begs the following question: if users still expect to be able to find all the information they need via a library website, do we really need to duplicate all that information (and time and effort) elsewhere?

I’m not sure I know the answer to this – part of me says that reaching out on multiple platforms is a ‘good thing’, we do after all want to reach as many of our users as possible, but the other part of me says ‘this is the main problem (as I see it) with web2.0 and social media in general’; namely that most of the ‘useful’ stuff is all duplicated information, and the rest of it is just white-noise about the aforementioned useful stuff.

It seems as though we’re getting more and more impatient, and less and less adept at searching out useful things for ourselves, but before I start ranting I’ll stop there.

I’m not going to talk about the social use of Facebook – I’ve been on it for a number of years and am becoming increasingly ambivalent towards it:

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5 Comments »

  1. Agh, that awful Central Library website. I’d quite managed to block it from my mind.

  2. Josh H Said:

    Funny. I’ve visited the Cambridgeshire public libraries site many times to find out information about the central library (opening times, etc) but I hadn’t realised that they had an individual website as you point out.

    What’s the point of it? The main libraries website has everything you need.

    The building I used to work in had its own website– it was fine as an estate agents’ advertising site, but I never really understood the point of a location (rather than an organisation) having its own site.

    • I think that individual site is a legacy of the central library refurbishment. The FAQs are strongly geared towards answering queries about when it will re-open, and what new facilities there will be. It’s strange that they haven’t either updated it (and added links to useful things like the catalogue, or the correct Twitter account) or taken it down. Indeed, it seems that the Facebook page links there, and not to the pages on the main council website (http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/leisure/libraries/). And I can’t find a link from Facebook to the catalogue…

      I’m going to stop now – I’m getting irate. Maybe we should all email the library to let them know what we think?

  3. Miss Crail Said:

    Very interesting that both a web-savvy young person and more social-media-oriented ones [?] did not expect to find information about libraries on Facebook. Perhaps that is still a bit in the future …?? Useful bit of research, Whispersinthewilderness!!

    • Josh H Said:

      To address the broader point of the post, I’d very much agree that I would neither expect nor want to access library information on Facebook. I use Facebook for certain things, but if I want to know what a library’s opening hours are, the best source will always be the main website.


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