Public library social media policy #osm11


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Presentation delivered at Bodleian Libraries' Oxford Social Media Day 2011 on Thursday 8 September 2011.

All statements represent the author's own opinion and don't represent the views of any organisation with which he is affiliated.

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  • The title was actually very difficult. It's important that you know that.\n\nAll screenshots were taken on Tuesday 6 or Wednesday 7 August 2011. \n
  • This is the token "about my job title" slide, since everyone always seems to want to know. \n\nThe Transformation Officer role was created as a fixed-term post with a remit to proactively seek opportunities for improving the range of services and the quality of service delivery we offer. My focus has mostly been on online services, because that's my professional interest. I've also worked on our new central library -opening in January 2012! - and a few other bits and pieces. \n\nI owe my interest in the library and information profession to online services. In my first week at Hull University (one of England's great universities, Blackadder fans) I attended a demo of a CD-ROM citation database. I thought it was brilliant. I still do. \n\nImage from \n
  • I work for Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, which is a registered charity commissioned by Wigan Council to provide leisure and cultural services to the borough's 300-odd thousand citizens. Wigan is known for a couple of things - rugby league and the world pie-eating championship - and it was a big mining town back in the day. The mines have gone and we've got a borough with some seriously income-deprived wards.\n\nScreenshot grabbed from the results of a Google Image search for "Wigan pie-eating championship." \n
  • This is probably the only "proper" slide I'm using, so enjoy it. Garish colours lie ahead.\n\nBefore we get started, everyone stand up. \nStay standing if you know about Facebook. \nStay standing if you know about Twitter. \nStay standing if you know about Bebo. \nStay standing if you know about Google+. \nStay standing if you know about Groupthing. \nApplaud anyone who's still standing. They deserve it. \n
  • The 1964 Act, as we fondly call it, generates a lot of debate. Like it or not, it's the legal framework within which public library service delivery fits. \n
  • This is the bit everyone usually gets hung up on. What does "comprehensive and efficient" mean? The authors of the legislation didn't (and can't be expected to have) know the changes and challenges we'd face over the next 50 years. It doesn't mention online services or MP3 audiobooks, but I would consider each of those a part of today's "core" public library service. \n\nWe use that word, "core," a lot. We use it as though we all share the same understanding of what it means, and therefore what constitutes a "comprehensive" service, but there's enough regional variation for that to not always be the case. \n
  • I think this is the most important bit of the 1964 Act. It encourages us to be prepared for anyone to come through the door and to, within reason, be prepared to handle pretty much anything. \n\nWhen thinking about social media policy, it's especially handy. Not all persons will "desire" the ability to engage with public library services via social media, but some of them will. The tricky bit is trying to figure out whether there's enough of a groundswell to make it worthwhile. \n\nI'd like to do more user and non-user consultation to address this part of the Act, but the reality is that public libraries rarely have the resources to do this kind of work. We rely instead on the conversations our staff have with their users, and for often ad-hoc "Friends of" groups and other community representatives. \n\nThe true test of the efficacy of public library social media is the same as any other component of public library service delivery: the level of user engagement. \n
  • We all know this guy, I hope. Ranganathan is someone I'm getting more and more into. \n\nI know there have been attempts to rewrite the Five Laws, but I really don't think it's necessary. The principles are more-or-less universal, and you can substitute "resource/social media tool/whatever you like" for "book." Oh, and "his/her" for "his," obviously. \n
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  • This, for me, is key. We change (or at least try to) and make sure we provide the right services. \n\nThe 30s brought us Ranganathan’s laws, and though the language isn’t quite as it would be if they were written today, the ethos is spot on.\n\nThe 60s brought us free love and legislation to make public libraries a statutory service.\n\nThe 80s brought us a different, yet similar, philosophy. \n
  • I grew up in the 80s, which is probably why Ranganathan makes me think of Preston and Logan. They invited us all to "be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes." We may not all choose to use their west coast idiom, but the underlying sentiment - the aim to do something good and well, and to enjoy doing it - isn't a bad one. \n\nImage from\n
  • This is something my boss said to me just before I started my job last year. I thought, "Oh crap, she's going to tell me there's a minimum fitness requirement or something. I am not in good shape. I am completely screwed."\n\nBut she didn't. She said that we take reputation management very seriously. Unlike local authorities, we're in a position where we can expand our business by taking on contracts elsewhere. We cut the trees in Salford, for example, and we run a leisure centre in Selby in North Yorkshire. I'd mentioned my new employer on Twitter - not in a derogatory way, because I'm not stupid - and someone, somewhere, had come across it. \n\nIt's this caution, this risk aversion, that typically presents the biggest barrier to implementing social media. IT departments are increasingly getting on board with it, especially since their professional body, Socitm, tells them it's s good idea. But sometimes it's just hard to get things like this up and running. \n
  • We're not just setting this stuff up for fun. We're not just doing it to chat with our friends all day. Social media is a means to an end and is most definitely not an end in itself. \n\nThe marketing aspect - pushing information about events and activities to multiple social networks - is easy and commonplace and is too often the only thing that public library social media is used for. I want to see it used as a tool for service delivery, for user engagement, and for DVD extras: behind the scenes peeks for people who are interested in what goes on.\n\nHaving looked at what I think social media can do for public libraries, we're going to have a quick look at some not-so-good examples. \n
  • If you're a library somewhere other than where I live, you shouldn't be following me. Follow your users. I don't even know where Shropshire is. \n
  • This isn't a library, but I think it makes a similar point: the corporate Twitter user has clearly gone through some sort of thought process when attempting to build their user community, but it was the wrong thought process. Ned lives in York. This hotel's services are aimed at people who don't live in York. There're plenty of them to choose from out there. \n\nPublic libraries should start building their social media communities locally. Many of them collect followers like Scout badges, but don't follow them back. A social media community should be an environment for dialogue. \n
  • Groupthing was an initiative to create a new public library social network based on the theme of, erm, creativity. The idea was that "young people" - a mythical creature to which we often refer in public libraries - would use it to share their short stories, book reviews, poetry, recipes, videos and photos. \n\nCreating a bespoke social media environment struck me at the time as a misdirection. We keep telling each other that we should "go where the users are," and to set up a new network seemed odd in this context. I felt that it would have been more useful to work on a set of advocacy tools which might make it easier for public librarians to convince their higher-ups that user engagement via established social media is in fact OK and is not a waste of anyone's time. \n\nI don't know what sort of usage it managed to achieve, but it looks like whatever community it had has since moved on. \n
  • I feel quite bad picking on these guys. I used to work at Bolton and if I hadn't left for my job at Wigan, I would've been doing all of their social media stuff. Dialogue can only happen in this environment if someone actually says something every now and then. \n\nKnowledge management theory tells us that communities of interest might grow and will flourish for as long as that shared interest is relevant and valuable. They won't last forever though. They shouldn't be expected to, really: it's OK for something to have a finite lifespan, especially when (as is the case with social media) the cost of establishing that community is so low. \n\nA couple of years ago I went to a meeting to talk about corporate social media. Some people were talking about the importance of Bebo. It was on its way out then, and you'd probably struggle to find anyone who would admit to having used it in the last 18 months. \n
  • That's why, particularly in public libraries (where, don't forget, we're interested in "all persons desiring to make use thereof"), the focus should not be on a single tool but on finding the best tool for a specific purpose right now. That tool will change, and change is OK. \n
  • This guy's story is interesting. He used to be a TV producer. Now, he roasts and sells coffee, having bought a long-running local institution in Lancaster. The way he uses Twitter is interesting because it includes a lot of the behind the scenes stuff I want to see from libraries. He posts pictures, videos of his vintage roasting equipment and tasting notes on newly-roasted coffee. \n\nNot everyone is going to like it, but don't forget: "Every books its reader." "Everyone" is not the target audience. \n
  • This is probably the biggest social media thing that public libraries do, but I bet a lot of them don't count it. Enquire is part of the People's Network (the great New Labour infrastructure project morphed into a suite of services about five years ago, and Enquire is the only one I've ever considered a success, or even worthwhile). \n\nIt's a collaborative online real-time chat-based reference service. It's staffed by librarians in England and Scotland 9-5 Monday-Friday, with out of hours support from the US. The really fun part is picking up a US enquiry - don't forget, this is collaborative - and taking great delight in spelling words like "colour" properly. \n
  • Enquire is a partner in the social enquiry tool, Yahoo! Answers. It consistently produces the best answers, as voted by the people asking the questions. You may, like me, have seen the "How is babby formed?" meme and therefore be a little wary of what you might find here, but Enquire's participation puts public librarians and their enquiry services where they can be found by non-users. \n
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  • Enquire also has a Twitter account. \n\nSometimes, they tweet feedback from the people whose questions they answer. \n
  • Sometimes they tweet the questions they're asked. Some of them are quite tricky. \n\n\n\n
  • Like Jo said, libraries are about fun. \n\nOrkney Library is brilliant. It's definitely idiosyncratic and not a model every public library should want to follow, but it does one thing extremely well: it humanises the services, although achieving this via computer-based interaction is at least a bit ironic. \n\nTheir themed book displays are a favourite of mine, as is the casual humour with which they're assembled and introduced. \n
  • Here's the display for you to enjoy. \n\nI follow a few public library social media accounts, and this is one of them. \n
  • This is another. Manchester's approach is a bit different to the usual "just stick everything we do on Facebook" tactic: they put some effort into developing their presence here and it shows. It's very well styled and the content is refreshed frequently. \n\nTheir use of Facebook isn't limited to this page though: they use other established pages and groups too, if they're audience-appropriate. For example, to promote the Queer Up North festival (if it's not obvious from the name, it's an LGBT literary programme) they posted on the established Canal Street group. \n\nAs our pal Ranganathan would say, "every reader his book."\n
  • They also post on other forums when appropriate. This example is from a pet forum, where a post about an event with the author of Marley and me generated a response. \n\nThe response leads me to the question of performance measures. We're used to monitoring our active users, our total issues and the number of visits each library gets, but the outcome of each instance of social media use is a little harder to gauge. \n\nI said earlier that user engagement is the important thing, but it's difficult to quantify a "good" response to each tweet or Facebook post. I instinctively dislike arbitrary measures, so I haven't yet found anything I'm happy with, preferring to emphasise the quality of engagement over the quantity. \n\nWe're going to look at my social media policy now. \n
  • There isn't one. I don't want a long document, not when I've got the Act and Ranganathan and Bill and Ted. \n\n\n\n
  • Social media should be agile. Who's more agile than Spider-Man?\n\nWe shouldn't get hung up on individual tools, nor should we establish a huge set of rules which govern how our 140 characters should be used. We should jump on whichever bandwagon fits our requirements right now, and we should be comfortable enough to ditch it when our users aren't there any more, or if they don't choose to join us in the first place. \n\nThe social media landscape is not a popularity contest. It should not be about the numbers; the focus must always rest on the user communities we have targeted, and on the quality of our engagement with them. \n\nThe best existing uses of social media in public libraries demonstrate this and provide an extra route into interaction with the service. \n\nI was asked a couple of weeks ago (at another meeting about corporate social media policy) what the value of linking to a Twitter or Facebook account from one of our own web pages would be: surely, we've already got the user if they've visited the website? Why would we want them to go away and follow us elsewhere?\n\nMy answer was this: I want to be in the user's pocket, on their lap as they surf the web while watching TV, with them while they're bored at the bus stop and looking at their own social media streams. I want them to follow us so that at those moments, they see that we're doing something "for all persons," that they are indeed one of those persons, that there's a book for their own particular brand of reader and that they're happy to get to know the library as a "growing organism." I want them to see something on our social media accounts and to follow up by reserving a book, coming into the library and sharing their thoughts in person or online. I want people to read books they enjoy and to tell us why they didn't enjoy some, and the more channels we make available for that kind of conversation, the better. \n\nIf everything goes to plan, we'll be launching our social media suite in January, along with our new central library. I'd suggest that you keep your eyes peeled for our social media onslaught, but you know you're not the target audience. If you have any friends and family in Wigan though, send them our way. \n\nImage from\n
  • It would be foolish of me to not take advantage of you, so I'm going to get you to do a little bit of work for me. \n
  • Spend a few minutes talking, in pairs, or small groups or whatever works for you, about what content you would expect to see from your local public library. Then tell me about it. Don't be surprised if I steal your ideas: all of my best ideas are stolen. \n
  • Thanks!\n
  • Public library social media policy #osm11

    1. 1. Public library social mediapolicy: finding the mosteffective ways to provide a“comprehensive and efficient”service in fewer than 140 chaMichael SteadTransformation OfficerWigan Libraries
    2. 2. Content• Driving principles• Purposes and limitations• Good examples• Not-so-good examples• What I want to do• The audience participation segment
    3. 3. “comprehensive and efficient”
    4. 4. “for all personsdesiring to make use thereof”
    10. 10. “Maybe it’s becausewe’re a leisure trust...”
    11. 11. Why?
    12. 12. “We want a Facebook/Twitter/whatever page”
    13. 13. My social media policy
    14. 14. Audience participation warning!
    15. 15. What would you expect from a publiclibrary’s social media presence?
    16. 16. Thanks! @MichaelStead