The Flip-Side of Social Media & Libraries

While perusing the American Libraries website for the first time (to see if there really is additional online content, as the print copy claims) I came across a column called Outside/In, by David Lee King and Michael Porter. The April column, titled “Follow Yourself,” encourages librarians to actively seek out social media mentions – on Twitter, Facebook, etc. – and then engage with the posting users and learn from their comments.

I was struck but how simple, yet fantastic this idea is. Social media is a very hot topic in modern librarianship, and yet most of the literature is only about how to use social media to promote your library, services, and collections. While this practice is great, and should definitely be emphasized, the flip-side of social media offers a wealth of untapped information. Don’t just focus on how you portray yourself to the public – be sure to also investigate what the public has to say about you! The column lists a number of tools and websites that can help you search Twitter and Facebook in targeted ways, to help you see what people are saying.

Out of curiosity, I used some of the techniques to plumb the depths of Twitter and see what people are saying about the Funk ACES Library, where I work. First off, it’s very clear that many of our tweeting patrons still refer to us as “ACES” or “ACES Library.” Since we now also house City Planning, Landscape Architecture, Biology, and some Biotech collections, we’ve been trying to go by “the Funk Library.” But apparently it isn’t catching on with everyone. Also, as we’re well aware, our library fills up around finals time: “Not a single place to sit in the ACES Library smh” “#aces library is the happening place today” “There were no seats at Aces. Not a one. I’m not used to being rejected by the library”
Many tweets were more like check-ins, with patrons stating they’re at ACES to study. Also got a few positive reviews: “it’s all about ACES. Definitely the best library on campus in my opinion.” And lastly, a very confusing incident, which none of the recent staff reports mention:

Not sure what's going on there...
Not sure what’s going on here…

But overall, I think doing this kind of thing is a regular exercise in honest reflection. How do your patrons talk about you to others? What are their complaints? What do they like? How can we use this feedback to improve our institution?

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