Posts Tagged ‘libraries’

Let’s call the whole thing off

I’m a little bit confused about Thing 19. Apparently advertising is “only 10% of marketing (if that)”, the rest of it being what we *actually do* and the services we offer. But in the same paragraph I read that “a lot of libarians offer brilliantly appropriate services or tools for their users, but they just don’t wield the megaphone enough in order to get the message out there” um, but surely ‘wielding the megaphone’ is the advertising part, so what are we talking about- marketing or advertising?

If I’m honest, I haven’t come across anything in the Cam23 programme that is going to fundamentally change the services we offer our users. It hasn’t turned up masses of vitally important information that we were previously unaware of and that our students must know about, but it has shown me several platforms that could be adopted for more successful ‘megaphone wielding’. To me, reaching users on as many different platforms as possible is a way of advertising our library, and to argue that it’s not advertising because it’s ‘connecting and conversing’ seems to be going to extraordinary lengths to avoid saying that we *need* to advertise our libraries. Conversation can only develop when there’s something there to engage with, and the only way we can make our users more aware of our presence is by advertising.

Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for me. The social media we’ve been exploring has shown me lots of new and exciting ways of presenting the information that is already there. Yes, these new platforms offer huge opportunities for engaging on a personal level with our users, and the fact that both librarians and users can interact in meaningful ways has got to be a good thing, but the boundaries between advertising and social media are becoming increasingly blurred.

Arguments about whether it’s advertising or marketing aside, what’s the one Thing I think our library could adopt to help engage with our users? I’m afraid the answer has to be Facebook. There are several reasons for this:

  • It’s versatile and flexible
  • Most of our users will have an account (and will have had for several years)
  • It’s fairly universal
  • We can set the tone easily
  • At least some of our librarians are comfortable using this format (if not particularly comfortable with the personal/professional divide)
  • Facebook has the critical mass needed to make it really successful, something even Twitter hasn’t quite managed yet
  • It’s interactive and can be used to engage as well as advertise
  • It can be used to help further a sense of community – something especially useful in the college context

Now I’m not a huge fan of Facebook on a personal level, but over the past few weeks I’ve come across quite a few good library pages and have been convinced that it can be used to good effect if we were ably to get enough support. Facebook page addresses can easily be added to library guides and literature for incoming students, to email signatures of library staff for further coverage, as well as a link on the library web pages. I can easily believe that it might be something that users would look at and engage with if bought to their attention, and well maintained, well-judged page (like the Jerwood Library’s) would do a great deal to promote the friendly and approachable face of the library.


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:

Slip-sliding away…

Slideshare is not something I’ve ever explored or had the occasion to use before. I’ve never had to give a powerpoint presentation¬† and, until now, I’d not thought of revisiting presentations that I’d been to, or catching up on ones that I’d missed (mainly because I didn’t realise they were available) in this way. So I’ve had a bit of a nose around and watched a few presentations – Let’s get it On(line) from Heriot Watt Universty Library, Andy Priestner’s Cam23 presentation, and several presentations about blogging for libraries and the uses of social media – and get the impression that this is quite a useful resource in many ways. You can:

  • Re-visit presentations you’ve seen
  • Catch up on presentations you’ve missed
  • Explore subjects you’re new to
  • Gain different perspectives on subjects you’re familiar with
  • See what engages you in a presentation (and what makes you switch off)
  • Get ideas for presentations of your own

In terms of it’s use as a resource for a library, it’s particularly useful to be able to store presentations that are used repeatedly (such as library inductions) in a place where staff and users can find them and re-cap; to be able to point staff to useful presentations that they may have missed (especially if only one or two members can attend a meeting where a presentation is used but it’s relevant to all); and if your library has a ‘laser display board’ it’s a good way to display presentations to users within the library setting.

The fact that the presentations on Slideshare can also be linked with audio makes it quite a versatile tool, but, like many of the Things we have explored, you have to be selective. The content of presentations can be duplicated in others on similar subjects, and there are only so many ways you can introduce people to web2.0 using bullet-points and a limited number of slides!

Slideshare isn’t really of use to me at this point in time, but it’s certainly something that I will keep in mind with regards to ideas for presentations and user oureach in the future.