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Professor Bell was kind enough to let me kill two birds with one stone for this assignment. I asked my library director if I could do a screencast on how to get a kindle ebook from our website, so rather than do a social software tutorial, I did an ebook tutorial. Here it is:
For what I’ve gathered from the reading this week, some of the challenges of building an active (and the keyword is active) online community is to have a community with a clearly stated objective, and make it a welcoming place for people to ask questions. “Successful communities have to put out the welcome mat to create safe, open and fulfilling environments,” explains Andrew Cohen (http://www.idealware.org/articles/successful_communities.php) in the online article entitled “Characteristics of Successful Online Communities. From what I’ve noticed in online communities, there’s got to be a place for newbies to ask dumb questions and to quickly absorb information to turn around and answer other’s dumb questions. I wasn’t surprised to read in the article online article entitled “Building a User Community” that this is actually a key way to creating an involved online community (http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/12/how_to_build_a_.html).
Online communities often begin to have unique personalities as they develop. One online forum I frequent is the Steel Guitar Forum (http://bb.steelguitarforum.com/index.php). It’s a place for pedal steel guitar players to share information. Pedal steel guitar is a funny instrument. It’s incredibly complex, and there aren’t a whole lot of younger players, like myself (okay, so I’m no so young), fumbling around with it. It’s also really tough to find someone to teach you. I live in Washington State, and I have only heard of one person that teaches pedal steel, and they live in Oregon. It’s an obscure instrument, for lack of a better word, and the community reflects that. It’s full of people who are incredibly willing to share and teach, but tend to be a bit old and crotchety. I’ve learned to really enjoy it, but have to admit I’ve been an anonymous lurker who learns more from others who have risked asking dumb questions, rather than ask my own. The community certainly doesn’t adopt a “be nice” policy, but that’s okay (http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2006/12/how_to_build_a_.html). Whereas other online communities may suffer from the challenges of having a crotchety group of regulars, it’s the community’s character that keeps me coming back, along with the content that cannot be found anywhere else. I think about trying to learn the pedal steel just before the internet age, and realize it would have been impossible. There is definitely the type of community Nancy White speaks to in “Online Community Building Strategy: Nancy White On Networks, Groups and Technology Choices” when she says, “a community is a bounded group of people who care about something together and interact around that issue over time (http://www.masternewmedia.org/online-community-building-strategy-nancy-white-on-networks-groups-and-technology-choices/#ixzz1sX7G2lsI). When you are learning an instrument that is like wrestling a piano while lightly strumming a guitar, and patting your belly and rubbing your head, you need a sense of community to keep you going and provide empathy. I think I may finally be ready to stop lurking and make a presence on the site.
One of the most compelling reasons I’ve heard for libraries to be using social media is the potential to attract new library users from, as Marshal Breeding explains, segments of library clientele that might not otherwise be reached (Breeding, pg. 29). With 45% of the U.S. population using Facebook, it’s a huge opportunity to create new customers, and as Nicole Purviance explained in her excellent presentation, “customers are brand advocates” (Purviance). Libraries need to assert their relevancy, and with Facebook’s absolute dominance in the world of social media, libraries must go where their patrons are. Marshal Breeding, in his article entitled “Taking the Social Web to the Next Level,” understands that social media is a valuable promotional tool for libraries, but believes social media activity should always point back inwardly towards the library’s website (Breeding, pg. 28). Breeding feels that library websites must begin to provide a more collaborative and socially interactive infrastructure.
Breeding feels library websites must provide a balance of inbound and outbound pathways to enable users to get the content they need, while being consistently directed back to the library’s main website. Sites like Facebook should be used to create a promotional and marketing resources that creates interest in what the library has to offer on its website and in the library’s physical space. While using social medial to its advantage, Breeding feels that libraries should be moving forward in creating websites that offer content that goes beyond the usual static antiquated sites that provide little “dynamic engagement” (Breeding, pg. 30).
I agree with Breeding’s claim that library websites need to move beyond mere places to provide access to their catalogs and information about their programs. I often hear negative user feedback about my library’s own website that speaks directly to issues Breeding raises. People do not feel a connection with our library’s website because there isn’t a way to interact and engage it. Those complaints coupled with patron’s frustrations in searching the library’s catalog make for an unfriendly user experience. Breeding offers some specific resources he feels are moving towards a more collaborative and socially interactive library website, but feels it’s only a start (Breeding, pg 30). Despite the article being two years old, Breeding’s point is relevant, and library’s have been slow to move forward.
Breeding, M. (2010). the systems librarian. Taking the Social Web to the Next Level. Computers In Libraries, 30(7), 28-30.
Perviance, N. (2012). “Social Media and Marketing.”
The library where I work definitely has a collaborative culture, but yet we constantly struggle with communication issues. With a staff that’s mostly part-time, working very different shifts, it’s always difficult conveying day to day goings-on, let alone procedural changes and new program information to pass along to patrons. As a circulation supervisor, it’s my job to communicate things that effect circulation, which in a library is nearly everything. Some staff need all communication in writing (i.e. email) to assimilate the information. Others will read my emails, but not remember a word and need me to speak with them face-to-face.
Because the staff don’t have access to their employee emails without logging into specific stations, I created (at the suggestion of a staff member) a library gmail account that everyone could access from the circulation desk. The idea was to provide a more inclusive internal collaboration tool by forwarding all relevant circulation emails to the gmail account, which would always be open on the circulation computer for people to read. I used google documents to provide access to procedural documents. I set up a delicious account to provide a place for the staff to collaboratively provide bookmarks that they felt were helpful in helping out patrons. People were interested in it for a month, and then it fizzled. Why? Because, like I said, some of the staff need the face-to-face interaction. Therefore, it only got used by some of the staff, and as soon as they felt like they were the only ones using it, they stopped using it. I think I unconsciously tried using some of Carpenter’s techniques by giving “forceful reminders” to use the gmail account, but it never really stuck (carpenter, 2009). Besides, I just reinforced their behaviors because I like talking with people and training them, and I like technology, so I couldn’t help but do both and appease both communication styles.
We’ve just recently, to save staff hours, started having staff meeting every other month. It’s absolutely infuriated the staff. They crave the face-to-face collaboration, even if it’s just a place to finally have an audience to vent to that’s not just me (this can be a very healthy thing). These are smart, tech savvy (mostly) people who aren’t afraid to venture into the latest collaborative technological tools, but they also want to know they are being heard.
Carpenter, H. (2009). “Enterprise 2.0: Culture is as Culture Does.” I’m Not Actually a Geek.
I chose to write about the Sno-Isle library system (http://www.sno-isle.org/). The assignment requirements read “a” library, but Sno-Isle is a system of libraries. I hope this fits within the scope of the assignment, because I was interested to see how a local library system was using social media. The Sno-Isle library system has a blog (including many individual branch blogs), a presence on Facebook, a Twitter account, a Flickr and Youtube site.
Sno-Isle’s Facebook site is up to date and active, clearly a place they advertise current events at all library branches, while featuring some local information specific to branch library’s communities. Sno-Isle has plainly made the commitment to make regular updates and keep the content fresh. They’ve allowed for comments, which preserves the traditional communicative style of Facebook. Initially I had a hard time getting a sense of the unique character of Sno-Isle from their Facebook site. This is a bit unfair critique, because of it representing many branches. But, as I spend some time on the site, I realized they do a good job of adding character by providing links to videos that are literature or library related. They share some amusing letters and notes written to the different libraries that contribute some personality. Branches provide anecdotal stories and musing unique to their libraries. Despite being a Facebook site representing a library system, there is still, amazingly, a sense of place and a picture of the overall personality and attitude. Sno-Isle isn’t afraid to use humor. There’s a wonderful sense of pride expressed through their Facebook site in being part of the public library tradition. They seem to respect their communities and are quick to respond to patron comments and concerns. While Sno-Isle doesn’t take too many risks with creative advertising on their site, they aren’t afraid to advertise that they have personality. You get a sense from Sno-Isle’s Facebook contributors that they enjoy the forum and have integrated it nicely into their library’s advertising.
Although very traditional in it’s format, Sno-Isle’s Oak Harbor branch’s blog (http://snooakharborlibrary.blogspot.com/) has a sense of self. It’s clearly there to communicate the library’s programs in the community, and to provide a venue for reader’s advisories, while occasionally interjecting a more personal touch. As far as the way the blog markets the library, it’s doesn’t offer any “wow factor.” It’s a library blog as you’d expect a library blog to be. Don’t get me wrong, the content is well written and it acts as a great resource for program information, but it reads more like a library website than a dynamic blog.
Sno-isle’s Twitter feed is pretty active (http://twitter.com/#!/snoislelibrary). They’ve tweeted nearly 4000 times and have nearly a thousand followers. Again, the focus is on programs, but that’s what libraries are about. I’m impressed with the way Sno-Isle has used Twitter to advertise their services. Within the brevity of a tweet, they provide links to more information about the programs they are advertising. Like their Facebook site, Sno-Isle is clearly commitment to keeping up with Twitter, using it regularly, albeit in a somewhat traditional way.
Sno-Isle’s Flickr site (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sno-islelibraries/), on the other hand, feels a bit dead in the water. There haven’t been any updates since 2009. Short paragraph, but what can I say?
With over twenty videos, Sno-Isle’s Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/snoislevideos) presence shows a broad spectrum of their personality. There are some very strange humorous videos, artsy videos made by local teens, serious sales pitches for reading, and some great tutorials on library services. Sno-Isle’s video are actually fairly well made, and their most recent “what’s your story” feature is well advertised on their main website and provides stories of fans of the library as a community enhancer. It helps advertise the libraries pride of serving their community.
On to branding… We’ll, there’s not much there. Sno-Isle’s main website, Facebook and Twitter accounts use the same unique library logo, but I can’t say it provides a continuity between the sites. There’s little visual continuity between their sites, and almost no effort has been made to make their social media tools look unique.
Sno-Isle are not doing anything revelatory with social media (of course, my library isn’t doing anything). They seem to be towing the line of what’s commonplace in social media, but they are doing a great job keeping up with the content while advertising that they have personality. They are committed to the social media they do use, as far as the content is concerned, but they have not risked gambling with a bit more creativity to provide a unique social media marketing. Sno-Isle could take the leap and start playing around with other social media websites. Perhaps they could think of a unique way to use Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/)? With their great video experience, maybe Sno-Isle could do something creative with Tout (http://www.tout.com/). Sno-Isle certainly has an intelligent and creative staff, it would be great to see what they could do with less traditional social media tools.
Aesthetically, the simplicity of Library Success Wiki immediately appealed to me (http://www.libsuccess.org/index.php?title=Main_Page). Of course it’s the one created by the author of our textbook, Social Software in Libraries. Ha ha. It has a traditional Wiki look to it that quickly makes sense and feels intuitive to navigate. It seems to follow Wiki inventor Ward Cunningham’s idea that Wikis should have “simple syntax and few text formatting options” (Farkas, 2007, pg. 68). The only problem is, I felt like I heard crickets when I visited the site. Even though Wikis are supposed to “seek to involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the Web site landscape,” they often fell strangely inactive and Library Success Wiki is no exception (Farkas, 2007, pg. 68). I checked the “recent changes” link, and there has been recent activity, but not a whole lot of content contribution (certainly better than the Alaska Association of School Libraries Wiki, which hadn’t been edited in nearly two years).
Maish Nichani’s online article “Sustaining Wiki Based Collaboration Projects” speaks to the Wikis advantages stemming from the “desperate need for collaboration in enterprise.” (http://pebbleroad.com/perspectives/planning-sustaining-wiki-based-collaboration-projects). Wikis are quick and easy to manage, which helps get past the technology and onto the actual collaboration, but I can see how Wikis would also be fleeting; meeting a collaborative need and then sort of fizzling out. Still, of the examples provided for this class, Meredith’s Library Success Wiki provides a create template for creating an effective Wiki.
Farkas, Meredith. 2007. Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online. Medford, NJ: Information Today.
Nichani, M. 2007. Sustaining Wiki Based Collaboration Projects. http://pebbleroad.com/perspectives/planning-sustaining-wiki-based-collaboration-projects
One of the main points that has come across in this weeks reading is that Facebook is a commitment. Libraries that seek to make a presence on Facebook need to be ready give it some time and energy to make it work. You can’t just set up the Facebook site and let it do its thing. As a fellow student, Stephanie Mantz, explained in her blog post entitled “Facebook is a Must,” the Facebook site must be maintained and run by someone savvy enough to know how to generate interest in the site (Mantz, 2012, http://slmantz.wordpress.com/). Andy Burkhardt, in his blog post entitled “How to Grow Your Library Social Media Presence,” provides a list of ideas all geared around generating “fans and followers,” and one of his main points is that you have to reach out to your community online and began to befriend and follow fellow Facebook users so that they can do the same to you (Burkhardt, 2009, http://andyburkhardt.com/2009/09/22/how-to-grow-your-librarys-social-media-presence/). Facebook is a very proactive resource that requires putting energy into it to get anything out of it. The moment people have the sense that you don’t have any presence on your Facebook site, they’ll no longer make an effort to visit. It’s like having a friend that you call all the time that never calls back.
“A Facebook profile is an excellent mechanism for communicating with our students because it allows us to go where they already are,” explains Mack, Behler, Roberts, and Rimland in their article, “Reaching Students with Facebook: Data and Best Practices.” This applies to public library patrons as well. You can become more than just a physical building they visit, or a stagnant website they visit only when they need information, by reaching out on the social networking sites they know, love, and most importantly, use. It allows the potential to proactively provide services to patrons who would have never thought to seek out the library’s help. As Meredith Farkas explains in “Social Software in Libraries,” potential library patrons “may never visit their library’s web site, but libraries can build presence and services within the online space their patrons do use” (Farkas, 2007, pg. 123).
Burkhardt, Andy. (2009). How to Grow Your Library Social Media Presence. http://andyburkhardt.com/2009/09/22/how-to-grow-your-librarys-social-media-presence/
Farkas, Meredith. 2007. Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online. Medford, NJ: Information Today.
Mack, D., Behler, A., Roberts, B. & Rimland, E. (2007). Reaching Students with Facebook: Data and Best Practices. http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v08n02/mack_d01.html
RSS feeds help us all manage the constant stream of data on the internet. Despite the fact I visit many music blogs several times a week, I’ve never really thought to subscribe to their RSS feeds until I started LIBR 246. I just had them all bookmarked, and I’d pull them up individually. Now I’m starting to subscribe to their RSS feeds and use Google reader to create one stop to check to latest post. It’s interesting how all the different RSS feeds I’ve subscribed to co-mingle on Google reader to create an interesting hodge podge of interests.
It was interesting to read Randy Reichardt’s article “Library Connect Volume 3.2” to learn how libraries are using RSS to proactively push out information about everything from programs and new books to reference services (http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/librariansinfo.librarians/lc030208) . Libraries can clearly benefit from RSS feeds by increasing their web relationship with patrons by making fresh library content a part of a patron’s everyday reading. It’s a much more dynamic push of content rather than stagnant webpages where users must have a reason to visit to be exposed to the content.
The “nowness” of the real-time streams of the internet seems like it’s adding to the addiction of the internet (http://techcrunch.com/2009/05/17/jump-into-the-stream/). Nobody wants to step away from the stream, in case they miss something. Web pages are no longer stagnate, but allow for instant interaction. As Nova Spivack explains in “Welcome to the Stream – Next phase of the Web,” the idea of “now” on the internet is getting increasingly shorter (http://www.novaspivack.com/uncategorized/welcome-to-the-stream-next-phase-of-the-web). Information on the internet isn’t just updated daily or even hourly, but has become an instant interaction. How in the world can we all manage the many streams of now?
Erick Schonfeld’s article “Jump into the Stream” reassures the reader that the stream isn’t something you are ever going to get on top of, like you would your email inbox (http://techcrunch.com/2009/05/17/jump-into-the-stream/). He seems to allude to the idea that you just sort of jump in the stream for a while, then get it out. Of course it keeps flowing without you, but that’s ok. We also have to find ways to manage streams. Spivack’s explains that not only will there constantly developing new tools to manage and organize the stream, there will be tools that help us evaluate what is important to pay attention too (http://www.novaspivack.com/uncategorized/welcome-to-the-stream-next-phase-of-the-web).
Tools or no tools, the constant feed of data is more than anyone can handle. We all must find ways to not just manage it through tools, but manage it through our own personal choices. To me it seems like the best way to avoid information overload is to just accept that you have to disconnect every once-in-a-while from the endless stream of data. You have to let go of the idea that you are going to miss something important the moment you disconnect. You’ve got to remember that real life is happening in real time too, and that’s definitely a stream you don’t want to ignore.