In today’s world libraries are becoming increasingly digital, both with our materials and with our services to our patrons. There are few libraries which do not offer some sort of technology programming, access to computers and more. However, libraries should not just rest on the idea of providing access, without going a step further to provide digital community engagement. To that end, many libraries now operate and maintain social media accounts across a variety of platforms. Patrons can follow these accounts to access information about the library as well as gain access to the online “community” this creates for the library, one in which things like photos, videos, information, and more can be shared. Most of these social media platforms allow for users to respond, communicate, and engage, making them even more valuable. Social media coupled with the 24/7 access to the internet via WIFI and smartphones creates an “information field (Roush, 2005)” where users can connect, communicate, and share. Libraries often tout themselves at being at the forefront of technology and technology accessibility. It cannot truly be so without providing a presence on social media platforms.
Twitter has over 320 million active users per month (Johnson, 2016), and is one of the most popular social media platforms on the web. This makes it an ideal service to “build communications online where users live (Stephens, 2006).” Twitter allows for the transmission of various different kinds of media while keeping the text content short and to the point: 140 characters or less. This makes it an ideal platform for librarians to learn and engage in. A multimedia approach to engagement is far more effective than simple text via blogs or other means. While training and setting up the Twitter account will involve an initially high level of time and effort, the short-form nature of the medium means that uploading content need not take a too significant amount of time in a librarian or library staff member’s already busy schedule. Twitter is not a difficult platform to use, and so training itself should not take repeated sessions, and requires no programming knowledge. Twitter allows for users to retweet or respond to the library’s tweet, allowing for a “conversation” between the library, its patrons, and its Twitter followers. A library Twitter account also shifts the library from being a featureless institution to one with a “human” sort of face. This can help with “public perception” issues, by changing how our patrons view the library one tweet at a time. It can allow users to participate in the library itself by giving them another avenue of communication about programs and services, or even allowing librarians to get feedback on weeding projects or planned changes to avoid unintentional missteps (Stephens, M. 2013). Increasing knowledge of library services will hopefully lad to more use of those services, and even tweets that may be no more than an interesting book, a funny moment at the library, or a librarian sharing those interests helps to put a friendly face at the forefront of the library.
Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:
Use Twitter to inform patrons and promote library services, materials, programs and more, as well as engage our community of users. In addition to short posts, librarians will be able to post images, gifs, and short videos, as well as link to parts of the library homepage. Library users will be kept informed about current events at the library as well as be able to maintain a line of communication with the library and library staff via Twitter, allowing for the library to hear from the community and for the community to be heard.
Description of Community you wish to engage:
Engage the broader community of library patrons for an urban public library. The use of Twitter will add to the library system’s online “presence” while making information on the library more accessible for those who use social media. In addition to informing library patrons, Twitter also allows the library to display to the public its services on a social and popular platform. Twitter is extremely popular amongst teens and younger adults and its use may help to draw those patron groups into the physical library.
Action Brief Statement:
Convince the library staff and directors that by using Twitter to promote and spread information about the library they will see an increase in community engagement and lead to more patron awareness of library programs and services, and hopefully more patrons because of increased visibility and advertisement of the library and its many roles.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:
10 Golden Rules To Take Your Library’s Twitter Account to the Next Level – Describes a few pointers for setting up an maintaining an active twitter account that will attract users and keep current users interested and up-to-date. Encourages the use of media, links and retweets.
How to Evaluate Your Social Media Plan – Evaluating social media plans for efficacy and how and if they are reaching your users, patrons or customers.
How to Use Twitter: Critical Tips for New Users – A short guide from Wired for new Twitter users, including various services to make using Twitter easier.
Examples of Library Twitter Accounts:
These various accounts are excellent examples of the types of content libraries are able to transmit via Twitter. Programming, book recommendations, author talks, literary comments on current events, as well as librarians sharing their passions, interests, or just the random books they came across during their day. This content informs and engages, and larger urban libraries like the New York Public Library have over a million twitter followers.
Further resources on social media, hyperlinked libraries and library Twitter accounts can be found at the bottom of this document.
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:
Mission: To increase awareness and community engagement about public library services, programs, and materials, as well as establish an ongoing semi-participatory online presence for the library.
- All librarians are to be trained on Twitter and will be allowed to contribute relevant content. This is to ensure continuous facilitation of the account in the case of a librarian or librarians moving to a new position.
- Two to three librarians will act as the dedicated Twitter content providers, and update the site regularly. Other librarians can contact those in charge of the account to submit content, and may be called upon to moderate the account as needed.
- Tweet Content may include: Library programs and services, new book additions, books/programs related to current events, community and cultural events, book displays, current events related to the library and questions for Twitter followers to promote engagement. These questions can be in the line of asking for book suggestions for an event or history month (Women’s, Black, LGBT, Hispanic, and others), favorite characters, or more. Can also be used as informal surveys of library users on programs/events in the library.
- Librarians in charge of the Twitter account should check the account regularly to ensure they are not repeating content, and should assess the Twitter account using various tools to learn which posts get retweets or likes to know what direction to take the account in.
- All tweets must be in accordance with broader library guidelines, ethics and mission statements
- When tweeting photos of library programs and services, librarians should take care not to include photos of children or those who otherwise not given consent to have their photos taken. Patron privacy must be respected. Instead of taking photos of patrons at programs, librarians can take photos of materials, set up before patrons arrive, include author/speaker photos, or if the program is of a creative nature, photos of products produced at the library.
- Librarians who maintain the twitter account should work up to daily posts. Twitter depends on a steady stream of contents.
Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:
Twitter is a free to use service, and therefore will require no monetary funding unless the library seeks to hire a part time or full time employee to handle library social media accounts. However, the hope is to have current library employees suggesting content or contributing to the account.
Action Steps & Timeline:
- Agree to maintain a library Twitter account and devise name and logo for said account
- Recruit and train library faculty in the use of Twitter, through information sessions, video tutorials, and more. Poll library staff for those who wish to be on the “Twitter” but ensure all librarians are capable of using the service. Designate 2-3 librarians as Twitter account content contributors and moderators.
- The designated librarians will meet to discuss initial plans for things they may be able to tweet and librarians will prepare 10 – 20 tweets in advance of live service, so that content is already prepared and can be deployed consistently. Librarians will meet biweekly or monthly in order to further plan tweets and social media content for the library’s Twitter account. Library supervisors should ensure that the Twitter team has adequate time to meet, create content, and monitor the Twitter account as needed.
- Once a “bank” of content is drawn up, librarians in charge of account will begin with daily tweets, scaling up content as needed, and making sure to always tweet the following:
- Library programs
- Special Library events such as author visits daily, up to two weeks in advance
- Celebrations of special history months, events
All other content may be determined by the Twitter team of librarians/library staff.
- After the start of the Twitter account, librarians should confer on what problems they are encountering and revise as needed, whether it be the need for additional support, help with content, or other issues. Other evaluations in regards to the success of the account in terms of daily visits and followers will also need to be made
- If the library declines to use Twitter as a social media platform, there are other platforms such as Facebook or Instagram that can be explored for use.
From the initial announcement to the time the Twitter account goes live, the process of recruiting, training librarians, promoting the account, and giving the Twitter Team time to generate content in advance should take no more than three months, with at least two to four weeks’ time given in advance warning for training sessions. For example, if the library management team announces that they wish to plan for the Twitter account at the beginning of September, they should hold the initial information sessions for the library staff within that month, the training session for library staff in October, and set aside November and December for the Twitter Team to plan, generate content, and try to work out any unforeseen kinks ahead of time, with the site going live in December.
Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:
Staff for the Twitter Team will consist of 2-3 librarians/library staff who regular update the Twitter account and create content for it. However, any library staff member will be able to suggest content via e-mail or in person, subject to the Twitter Team’s approval. While one person might more efficiently be able to monitor the Twitter account, having a team ensures that there is not a “silo of knowledge (Stephens, 20XX) in which only one person knows how to or has any practice in maintaining the account. This approach will also ensure that with the new technology, no one person feels overwhelmed with content generation or maintenance. Christchurch City Libraries (2012), in reference to their social media accounts, also touts the value of having “many voices” as contributors. . The team will be able to assist one another, and if one member leaves, the others will be able to train a new team member.
The Twitter Team must be given the appropriate amount of time to meet, plan for content, and update the Twitter account. This time may need to be set aside from part of their “normal” duties, and may involve the need for more volunteers or support from other staff. This time should be scheduled as regularly as possible. The library should also give the Twitter Team the option, if desired, of updating the account from home. This is not to encourage library staff to take their work home, but as social media accounts are available anywhere, it allows staff more flexibility should inspiration strike. If there are library closures or events such as natural disasters, it also allows the Twitter Teams to keep patrons abreast of these instances, or even note if the library is offering services such as shelter or food.
Library and library staff should be encouraged to contribute to the Twitter account and bring their voices and viewpoints to bear. The library serves a diverse community with diverse interests, and limiting the Twitter “voice” of the library would not be advantageous.
Training for this Technology or Service:
All librarians and library staff will receive basic training on the Twitter platform. The training will be administered by those librarians who are on the Twitter Team so that they are known by library and library staff. Prior to larger staff training, the Twitter Team will set aside to learn about Twitter, how it functions, and study other library twitter accounts for ideas and examples of content. A one hour training session will be initially scheduled for staff, with at least two scheduled times available depending on the number of staff needed to be trained and availability. Staff will polled and scheduled ahead of time for their training time of choice. Training videos will also be put together by the Twitter team that the library staff will be able to access 24/7 if they need a refresher or if updates to Twitter’s service model are made. New staff will have one on one training sessions with a member of the Twitter Team as needed after the initial training session. If staff members are already fluent in the use of Twitter, they can demonstrate their knowledge and be excused from portions of the training. However, they will need to know the guidelines for Twitter content.
If library staff are unable to make training due to unforeseen circumstances, they will hopefully be able to attend one of the alternate training times. If library staff are unable to make any training times, a one on one or virtual session will be offered to them by a member of the Twitter Team.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:
The Twitter service will be promoted amongst the library staff and team, initially as a way to see who might be interested in joining the Twitter Team. Information about the library’s twitter service, training sessions, and more will be shared along with links and information on other library Twitter accounts so that staff can get an idea of what content might be tweeted. Conversation, suggestions and input will be encouraged from the staff at all levels to ensure the service is a success, and any planning adjusted as needed. Any meetings held on the new Twitter service should be used in order to generate excitement, learn about who wants to contribute and what they might want to contribute. Library staff should have conversations about their interests and what they would like to see promoted about the library, as well as asked about what patron queries keep coming up that might be answered by a Twitter account.
To promote the service to the wider public, a multi-pronged approach will be taken in order to inform as many people about the service as possible. The new Twitter account handle and “live date” for the account will be available on any library fliers, program books, and posters the library puts out at least two weeks in advance. Library staff can promote the Twitter account on the library’s homepage and at the beginning or end of appropriate programs. Library staff serving teens and younger adult groups should take special care to promote the service as those groups are most likely to use it. The Twitter Team may come up with a special event that requires patrons to view/follow the account in order to participate, such as giving clues to a library “treasure hunt” or similar event. The library can also offer classes or programming in the use of social media such as Twitter around the time the account goes live. Social media classes may appeal to a broad range of users, such as teens, younger adults who may be expected to know how to use social media for work related purposes, or older adults.
Twitter itself has several metrics at the top of its user homepage that allow for basic metrics such as number of tweets, followers, number of people the account is following, and likes. There are other services which allow for further metric data should be collected. These should be evaluated and used accordingly. Looking at visitor data will let the library know if patrons are using the site, and if not, further planning can take place to decide what content needs to be showcased or what marketing needs to be done to attract more followers. Possible metrics, in addition to the standards twitter provides may be number of visits per day, number of unique visits, and more. Evaluation on the stresses, time input, and amount of content the Twitter Team also needs to be put in place to measure the sustainability of the program, whether or not the team needs to be expanded, or if more time needs to be given to coordinating or creating tweets. The team can self-evaluate and report to a designated supervisor on a monthly basis in the first six months of the program, and then decide on the frequency of self-evaluations after the six-month mark.
If all goes well, and the Twitter Team feels confident, the content on the library’s Twitter account can easily translate to another social media platform such as Instagram or Facebook(if not already used). Whether or not the Twitter Team expands its responsibilities or if other librarians are brought on to post to the accounts is something that will take planning and deliberation. The more social media platforms the library is on the more widely the library can disseminate information and promote its services, and reach a broader audience of patrons.
Christchurch City Libraries (Donna). (September 25, 2012). This is how we do it: Social media at Christchurch city libraries. Christchurch City Libraries Bibliofile. Retrieved from https://cclbibliofile.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/this-is-how-we-do-it-social-media-at-christchurch-city-libraries/
Edelstein, Megan. (June 25, 2010). How to evaluate your social media plan. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/06/25/evaluate-social-media-plan/#BJdIWMpdN5q3
Glaser, April. (May 5, 2016). How to Use Twitter: Critical Tips for New Users. Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/05/twitter-onboarding-tips-for-new-users/
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Roush, W. (August 1, 2005). Social machines. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/404501/social-machines/
Stearns, J. (November 4, 2015). 43 Great Literary and Library Accounts. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@jcstearns/43-great-literary-and-library-twitter-accounts-f2f8fe619969#.9b4qlpoy3
Stephens, M. (August 22, 2013). Collection bashing &trashing | Office hours. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/08/opinion/michael-stephens/collection-bashing-trashing-office-hours/
Stephens, M. (2006). Into a new world of librarianship. Next Space, 2, 8. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/publications/newsletters/nextspace/nextspace_002.pdf
Stephens, M. (2011). The hyperlinked library. Retrieved from http://mooc.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/StephensHyperlinkedLibrary2011.pdf
White, A. (December 1, 2014). Here’s the story behind the orkney library’s hilarious twitter account. BuzzFeed. Retrieved from https://www.buzzfeed.com/alanwhite/real-talk-who-doesnt-dress-as-whitesnake-once-a-week?utm_term=.gukZLpLM7#.mqB0lPl5b