Six years ago, Borowicz (2014) pointed out that the internet of things was already here. One of his examples was connecting Spotify to your car in order to listen to music (Borowicz, 2014). This is something I have done many, many times, and I never once stopped to consider that the futuristic world of the internet of things had already arrived.
Borowicz (2014) writes that we pay too much attention to the “things” part of the internet of things, when we should be thinking of the data. Higginbotham (2014) writes that “the internet of things is a tool for cheaply delivering and gathering information” (Para. 2). What is exciting is not the things, but when the information gathered from different networks of things starts being used in innovative ways.
Another example from Borowicz (2014): a smart city project connects traffic lights to each other to monitor traffic conditions and adjust themselves for better traffic flow. That is what the OCLC (2015) calls an “island” of information; the traffic lights are connected to each other, and they provide information for the city. It’s a local, isolated internet of things. My car and my phone form an even smaller, even more isolated internet of things, which only results in my being able to listen to Spotify through my car’s sound system as I drive (although to be fair, Google or Spotify is probably selling data about my music choices). The internet of things is here, but the islands aren’t connected yet, or at least, not as connected as they could be.
Borwicz (2014) suggests that the smart traffic lights’ island of information could be connected with Google. This could give Google Maps the data to make its traffic predictions more accurate (Borowicz, 2014). Maybe that doesn’t sound very exciting, but that’s only one example. The more the islands connect, the more benefits there will be to the user.
Google Maps can be used as an interactive map that can track a user’s phone’s movement and give directions as the user drives (or walks). An interactive map, connected to the data being produced by other devices, could do so many things. The question is, as libraries adopt this technology, what kinds of partnerships can they make so that their users will benefit? An interactive map of the library? Could Google Maps (or something similar) take you to exactly the library book you are looking for, down to where it is on the shelf, and then bring up information about it supplied by a librarian (or a scholar, author, etc.)? It definitely could. In fact, I found that these two ideas (smart books, advanced book tracking) are pretty common when it comes to people imagining how the internet of things will help libraries. See Purnik (2019), for example.
It’s interesting to think of how all this connection could bring library services “outside the building,” as Ken Varnum puts it (OCLC, 2015, p. 8). Libraries will need to be assertive about getting their services out into the world, to be connected to other things, and people, in ways that we haven’t even thought of yet.
This is unrelated to the rest of this post, but the article about children growing up with Alexa (Kelly, 2018) made me think of this clip from Terminator 2:
Higginbotham, S. (2014). The internet of things isn’t about things. It’s about cheap data [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://gigaom.com/2014/06/09/the-internet-of-things-isnt-about-things-its-about-cheap-data/
I was inspired by the Invercargill City Libraries and Archives to think about how my own library might improve its Facebook presence. Invercargill’s presentation on their use of Facebook at the Asia-Pacific Library and Information Conference 2018 (Eng & Mager, 2018) shows what libraries should aspire to. They have set the bar very high, but there’s no reason that any library can’t try to do more on Facebook, knowing that they might never achieve the heights of Invercargill.
I realize that libraries on Facebook is old news. Everett Rogers (As cited in Mathews, 2012) wrote way back in 2003 that if your library is planning a Facebook page it is lagging behind in the world of library innovation. However, having a Facebook page is one thing, and having a Facebook page that actually engages users is another thing entirely. To me, libraries using social media platforms to their full extent seems to still be an emerging technology, even in 2020. My plan is to use Casey and Savastinuk’s (2007) Library 2.0 model and the example set by Invercargill City Libraries and Archives (Eng & Mager, 2018) to improve Sonoma County Library’s Facebook page.
Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service
Many libraries seem to fall into the habit of using Facebook to advertise upcoming events, and nothing more (Casey, 2011). I do not mean to criticize Sonoma County Library’s Facebook page, or the team responsible for it. Sonoma County Library has a good Facebook page (Sonoma County Library, n.d.), but it could be better. When it comes down to it, any library that is not Invercargill could have a better Facebook page. Sonoma County Library has a page for the library system, as well as pages for each of the individual branches. To their credit, the library does more than just advertise upcoming events. Here is a delightful video they posted when children’s events were cancelled due to Covid-19:
Change in the realm of social media might be even more frightening to administration than change in the physical library. Mistakes in cyberspace often cannot be erased, and have the potential to be seen by many, many people. The thought of a gaffe going viral is terrifying. For this reason, the library’s social media policies might be even more restrictive than their policies governing their IRL services and programs. Why risk doing anything bold when what they have been doing is perfectly adequate? Casey and Savastinuk’s (2007) answer is that libraries must change constantly to meet the needs of their users, and Facebook is no different. In fact, change and innovation are even more important online, where the user has so many options. The principles of Library 2.0. should be applied to Facebook: Constant change, a culture of innovation, vertical teams, empowering staff, brainstorming, encouraging user participation, flexibility, and regular evaluation (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007). The goal is to increase user engagement with the library’s Facebook page, which will in turn increase the reach of the library and promote the library and its services.
Description of Community you wish to engage
I would like to engage the online portion of the community served by the library, specifically the online portion of the community that engages with Facebook. I would also like to engage the members of the community that do not use the library. Fons (2016) points out that making libraries visible on the web may help them reach people who never even think about the library (Fons is not writing about Facebook, but it is still true for our case). This is another way of talking about libraries reaching the “long tail,” as discussed by Casey and Savastinuk (2007). I also wish to engage the staff of the Sonoma County Library, so that they are more involved.
Action Brief Statement
Convince library administration and staff that by improving the library’s Facebook presence the library will engage more users, which will increase the reach of the library, because the more exposure the library gets online the more aware people will be of the library and its services.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service
Tak, E., Cheuk, H., Dickson, H., & Chiu, K.W. (2019). Analyzing the use of Facebook among university libraries in Hong Kong. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), 175-183. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2019.02.007
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service
Library administration will determine what is appropriate for the library’s Facebook page. The ALA (2018) and IFLA (n.d.) guidelines for social media use should be consulted. Invercargill’s (Eng & Mager, 2018) success story is an important guide, as are other libraries’ creative uses of Facebook and other forms of social media. However, it is important that the policies not be too strict. The Facebook team must be granted a certain amount of freedom, or they will not be able to make significant changes. We must strike a delicate balance between policies that protect the library’s image and policies that allow teams enough to engage users as much as possible. Trust in staff will be important.
Facebook is an opportunity to engage with a large number of users, one which many libraries do not take advantage of. Casey (2011) writes that using Facebook for one-way communication does not cut it in the age of participatory services. The ALA lists different levels of community engagement through social media, the lowest level being “The library posts information related to its services and operations for its constituents and does not seek out or respond to comments” (American Library Association, Purpose and Scope section, para. 3). The highest level of engagement is “The library serves as a forum for the discussion of many issues related to its collections, programs, and spaces” (American Library Association, Purpose and Scope section, para. 7). This should be the goal of the library. Obviously not every comment can be responded to, but not engaging with at least some of the comments is a waste (Edelstein, 2010).
Invercargill (Eng & Mager, 2018) and the Orkney Library (White, 2014) are both examples of how powerful humor is as a way to attract interest to the library online. This should not be underestimated. Targeting Facebook users means using humor. Stifling humor with policies will defeat the purpose of the project. The ALA writes that it is common practice for a library social media account to reflect the library and not the librarian (American Library Association, 2018), but if the librarian does not put any personality into their posts the library will have no personality online. A certain level of innovation, humor, and personality is needed to attract the attention of users who have so many other things they could be doing online besides looking at the library’s Facebook page.
Two important principles of Library 2.0 are constant change and user input (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007). The library Facebook page should be trying new things constantly, and user input, in the form of pageviews and clicks (or a lack of pageviews or clicks), will follow. Maintaining momentum is important! Invercargill writes that consistent, everyday content (that reflects your library’s voice) is important to ensure user engagement (Eng & Mager, 2018).
Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service
One of the advantages of Facebook is that it requires no funding to use. Making videos is an important aspect of engaging users via Facebook (Eng & Mager, 2018), but fortunately Sonoma County Library already has equipment to make high-quality videos (cameras and sound equipment). In the future, if the initiative is deemed a success, modest amounts of money could be spent on props, costumes, or other “extras” to improve videos, but that should not be necessary at the preliminary stages.
Action Steps & Timeline
The library director will need to approve this project. The amount of effort put into the initiative can be scaled to fit the level of interest. In this sense, the service can be prototyped; things can start off slow. If we shamelessly copy Invercargill, then we could start with a team of two people, focusing on making Facebook posts more engaging in small ways, such as less text and more pictures (Eng & Mager, 2018). If we decide to ramp the initiative up, then more people can be added to the team, and more leeway can be given for them to get serious about attracting attention (making videos for example). It takes time to build up a social media following, so if the project is ultimately successful it will have a timeline of up to five years. The initial test run would most likely be 6 months to a year.
Administration Consideration and Approval: 6-8 weeks
Finding a team: 2 weeks
Initial phase of improved posts: 6 months to 1 year.
Evaluation by administration: at this point there should be a modest increase in “likes” and other forms of engagement (but expectations should not be too high).
2nd phase (if approved): more staff, more effort: 1 year.
Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service
Sonoma County Library currently has a Marketing, Web, and Social Media team, whose role is developing and implementing marketing and community outreach. The team consists of eight members, all of whom are part of library administration. A dedicated Facebook team would be better, as would a more vertical team (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007). Staff does not need to be a part of the Facebook team in order to be involved (in the form of appearing in videos, pictures, ideas, etc.).
This revamping of the library’s Facebook service will most definitely require staff hours. However, if a team is created specifically for Facebook, the Marketing, Web, and Social Media team will have some hours freed up. Essentially, staff hours from the team that exists now would be reallocated to a team that will focus on Facebook.
Teen volunteers could be utilized, as students were used to help promote Hunt Library through Instagram (Casden, 2013). Having them help brainstorm ideas would be a form of input from the community, as well as work hours that wouldn’t have to come from the staff. Presumably teen volunteers would be familiar with the ins and outs of Facebook.
Training for this Technology or Service
Donna (2015) writes that the training for blog writers in Christchurch City Libraries is brief, and focuses on the tools. They do not expect their bloggers to conform to a particular voice, and they trust them to represent the library. In our case, the initial Facebook team (whatever size that is) will essentially be expected to train themselves. They will familiarize themselves with the policies approved by the administration, explore Facebook Page Insights (for analytics), and learn as they go. Training for future members of the team will be designed by the initial Facebook team. Eventually the Facebook team will have to be trained on how to use the video equipment (assuming no one on the team is already familiar), which can be done in about two hours.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service
As Facebook is a powerful promotional tool, promotion will more or less take care of itself. The quality of the posts must be able to attract attention on their own. Ideally, the library should be active on multiple forms of social media, and cross-promotion is always helpful. Edelstein (2010) writes that being on multiple major social media platforms allows users to choose how to interact with your company. This is true, but Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform (Greenwood, Perrin, & Duggan, 2016). Invercargill found that for them, focusing on Facebook worked best (Eng & Mager, 2018). Focusing on Facebook is a good start, and the library’s Facebook posts should be able to take care of themselves.
Promotional methods outside of social media may be self-defeating. Transparency is important, but putting a sign in the library that you are trying to improve your Facebook presence is a little sad. After a certain point it should be self-evident, or something needs to change.
Promoting within the organization is another matter. Staff should not be expected to check the library’s Facebook page regularly. Periodic emails alerting staff to noteworthy Facebook posts would help keep staff abreast of what is happening.
Casey and Savastinuk (2007) write that “the dreaded Plan, Implement, and Forget” can be a problem for libraries (p. 59). I think this is especially true for Facebook and other forms of social media, which I think many libraries see as something secondary to the real work of the library. They put in some effort, and however much that is, that is good enough. A library’s efforts on Facebook should be treated like any other program or service; regularly evaluated and updated (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007). The Invercargill team wrote “We feel that our continued success is down to our rapid cycle of iteration: getting out and giving things ago, getting feedback and data, and using this to reflect back and inform our behaviours going forward” (Eng & Mager, 2018, slide 26).
Facebook provides an analytics tool called Facebook Page Insights. This tool tracks not just likes and comments, but also data such as actions on page, page views, recommendations (the number of people who recommended your page), and post reach (the number of people who saw your post in their timeline) (Newberry, 2020). “Post engagement” combines a number of different engagement types into one metric. These metrics should be used to evaluate posts and to plan future posts.
Donna (2015) writes that Christchurch City Libaries uses Hootsuite because “it allows us to publish to both Twitter and Facebook, shortens the links nicely, and lets you schedule posts. It also helps you manage statistics and analysis” (What’s under the bonnet section, para. 1). This is an option if Facebook’s tools are found inadequate.
According to Rolf Hapel, “Libraries aren’t just entities that have dropped down from heaven” (As cited in Peet, 2018, LIS instruction section, para. 2). Libraries are working hard to please their users. They have plans, goals, and objectives. One of those goals is to provide a space where everyone feels welcome. Even in this age of digitization, the library as a physical space remains an important element of the services that the library provides (Hapel as cited in Peet, 2018). Laerkes (2016) writes that this space should be for people to do things in, not a “passive, collection based space” (Para. 2). Laerkes (2016) discusses the four spaces model, and the many different types of activities a particular library might want to emphasize, such as artistic activities, lounging, organized meetings, and learning opportunities for children and adults. By providing space for all kinds of activities, the library is providing space for all kinds of learning. This will most likely include books and a quiet space for good old-fashioned reading, because people still want those things too (Rainie, 2014).
Providing these different types of spaces means that libraries must be fluid. Or, as Stephens (2016) puts it, “Changing daily. Filled with art, sound, life, and inspiration” (Para. 1). This fluidity can be physical, such as the motorized system of 50-foot screens used to change the space of the massive LocHal library to fit that day’s needs (Schwab, 2019).
Fluidity can be policy-based as well. Østergård (As cited in Stephens, 2016) urges us to get rid of rules that get in the way of people actually using the library. After all, people have to be comfortable in a space if they are going to use it. The Galiwin’ku library tossed the revered Dewey Decimal Classification when they decided their users would be better served by a categorization system based on the culture of the community (Thompson & Trevaskis, 2018).
Libraries create space for their users in cyberspace as well (Laerkes, 2016). Invercargill City Libraries has an amazing online presence (Eng & Mager, 2018). It is almost as if they are showing an idealized version of their libraries, but so what if they are? Everyone’s Facebook page is like that. It is a story about their libraries that their users can be a part of.
Here’s some of my favorite slides from their APLIC18 presentation (Eng & Mager, 2018):
Eng. A., & Mager, B. (2018). Keeping up with the librarians [PDF]. Available from https://www.dropbox.com/s/onsho3q3uvh6kst/KeepingupwiththelibrariansWithNotesFINAL.pdf?dl=0
Laerkes, J.G. (2016, March 29). The four spaces of the public library [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://blogs.ifla.org/public-libraries/2016/03/29/the-four-spaces-of-the-public-library/
Peet, L. (2018). Rolf Hapel: Toward a global instruction and practice. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=rolf-hapel-toward-global-instruction-practice#_
Rainie, L. (2014). 10 facts about Americans and public libraries. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/24/10-facts-about-americans-and-public-libraries/
Schwab, K. (2019). The library of the future is an 80 year-old converted train shed. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/90316219/the-library-of-the-future-is-in-an-80-year-old-converted-train-shed?fbclid=IwAR17fZ3TDaYY2n-fQEvpGJLrXw8ft-ZoxoX4VO7CbXno6eKEz0xCRrBzA2Q
Stephens, M. (2016). Dream. Explore. Experiment. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=dream-explore-experiment-office-hours
Thompson, J. & Trevaskis, L. (2018). A remote library dropping Dewey to use local indigenous concepts instead. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-22/remote-galiwinku-library-closes-book-on-dewey-decimal/10147024