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Note: I struggled with this post assignment, and the discombobulated results below show it. I went into the assignment thinking I was pretty sure that libraries didn’t do well with online branding, but then was left with feeling that they really do give it a go, but the results are hard to quantify. I guess I ultimately don’t really know how effective libraries are about branding, and you’ll sense my flip flop in my post. I better student would have started all over again…
My gut reaction to the question of how effective libraries are about branding online is, not very. That being said, I don’t think that a very accurate assessment. I’m going by my own experience with the library where I work, which I feel has always struggled with promoting itself outside the usual channels. Our library website is improving (check it out: http://library.cityofanacortes.org/rooms/portal/page/Sirsi_HOME) thanks to some great work from our computer tech staff of one, but we haven’t been able make a presence in social media. What that means is that someone really has to be looking for information about the library to find it. Other than our main library website, and one other site that’s not promoted well (discussed in next paragraph), there isn’t anyplace to electronically stumble, so-to-speak, across something our library has to offer that someone might not have thought to directly seek through our library website. That being said, I’m not sure if social media is the answer.
I feel like the Anacortes library has a really strong culture of wonderful customer service, diverse programs, and a wonderful collection of materials, and I’m not sure how well that is translated through our website alone. It’s easy to dismiss the necessity of a strong social media presence when you are a small town library with a committed community, but I feel like it’s a library’s responsibility to share what it’s got with a wider community, and we have yet to explore the tools available to us through social media. I had someone comment to me that libraries have a hard time tooting their own horns, and I tend to agree. Social media is certainly not the answer all to the problem, but I think it would be a way to reach a bit broader audience.
Our library has, however, made one electronic leap outside of our main website. Thanks to a large endowment granted to us years ago, Anacortes Library houses one of the most incredible jazz music collection on the West coast. The endowment pays for performers to play in our library’s community room once a month, drawing from both local talent, and well-known acts. It’s very well attended by a group of core regulars, but I find that people are always surprised by it when they first discover it. First they’re surprised a library would have a monthly jazz concert, and then they’re surprised they hadn’t heard of it until then. If you Google the phrase “jazz at the library” you will find our jazz endowment’s webpage (http://www.jazzatthelibrary.com/) is the first site to pop up. Ironically, through writing this post, I discovered that the jazz community has their own Facebook site where they represent the jazz goings-on at the library. So in a sense, Anacortes library already has some social media presence, it’s just specific to the jazz community. Considering that none of the library staff knows about the site, it’s clearly not being promoted
Ok, I’ve got nowhere in answering the assigned question of how effective libraries are about online branding. I think I need more than the allotted time to think on it, and will put this post out of its misery now…