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NYLA: Leadership on the Digital Frontier

Nov - 9 - 2012
Nicole C. Engard

I arrived late to this session (somehow I thought it was starting 15 minutes later), so I missed Geoffrey Kirkpatrick’s introduction, but here’s what I got after arriving.

He told his team, “if you’re not playing 10% of your time you’re not doing your job.” Some of his staff understood this right away, but others weren’t sure what he meant by play, saying things like, “you don’t want to see me playing word of war craft” to which he responded, “well maybe I do – what do you want to do with it.” When asked what the value of this play time was, the speaker pointed out that the value of play is not a monetary one – most times you lose money on it, but it changes the organization in ways you never thought of and that’s the fun part – the good part. Play opens the library up to opportunities that would otherwise be missed. The other thing to note is that even our failures are valuable. We learn both through our successes and failures. The goal is to get people to the point where they know a product/tool/technology so well that they can instruct people without looking at their own screen. To get to that level of understanding is both gratifying to the administration and the person who learned through play.

Next up was Johannes Neuer from the New York Public Library. Last week when Sandy hit the library’s website was shut down, but they were able to keep in touch with their patrons via social media because they had built up such a presence already. If anyone questions if libraries can afford to be on social media, the question really is can we afford not to be! This all started with the Digital Foundations Initiative at the library several years ago. In the beginning everyone at the library had the passwords for the social media accounts and they went directly to the networks to post, but that opened them up to security issues so they decided at first to use Hootsuite Pro. That way they just had to log in to Hootsuite with their own info and were given access to the social networks. They went a step further and scheduled their posts to all social networks so that patrons aren’t bombarded with everything at once.

The first tip to being successful on social media is to listen! Pay attention to where your patrons care congregating (online) and what they’re saying. Build social media in to your work day, find 15-20 minutes each day to compose a post and then a few minutes later in the day to check and see what comments have popped up around your post. Another tip was to create a calendar for types of posts. Using something like Google Calendar to schedule (for example) the first Monday of each month to be a post about a new event. You also want to think about your audience. If you have patrons in different timezones they might miss what you’re posting if you post it while they’re sleeping or not at work. Johannes said that early evenings seems to work best on Facebook (for them), but Twitter is much more fickle and harder to pin point a good time. Twitter is also faster moving so it’s hard to catch people’s attention at any specific time. Use you calendar/schedule to test different times – see what kind of response you get at each time. To catch more people on Twitter be sure to repost thing throughout the day so you reach everyone – but don’t do that on Facebook. NYPL uses SocialFlow. We might use “social media” to refer to all of these tools, but you need to be aware that each one has its own culture that you have to learn. So on Twitter you can repost things over and over, but on Facebook that’s more frowned upon. Another network that NYPL is using is Tumblr which is a very bookish community and great for libraries to be a part of.

Johannes was asked how he keeps up with the latest social media tools. He used to keep up with blogs, but it has turned in to an echo chamber and that annoys him. Instead he subscribes to SmartBrief for Social Media which aggregates content for him in one place.

One final note – Email is still being used! Email is a great way to get people to do things. Set up an email newsletter at your library. “Email is a driver of action” and it’s not going away. If you have a WordPress site I recommend Wysija.

Lauren Britton was up next to talk about the FabLab at the Fayetteville Free Library. The FabLab is where you can make things – from kitting to painting to podcasting. This means that they have sewing machines, 3D printers, podcasting stations, digital cameras, and more. This opened up the library to all kinds of new experiences and patrons. People who weren’t using the library before started to use the library because there was something new and of interest to them. This project also showed other libraries that they too can create maker spaces like this and reach more of their audience. While the technology that many of these spaces have is awesome, it’s really the fact that they are a space where people can connect in the library.


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