Friday, 30 July 2010

"O Come All Ye Faithful...!"

The library will always be an important part of any educational institution (and not just there). We do not need to advertise that we exist but rather what we can offer to our users showing them that we are keeping up with latest developments not just gathering dust on shelves with well matured, falling apart volumes. The great thing about all new information technologies is that applications like all the 23Things, which we are exploring now, are free or very cheap (I am not talking about the cost of equipment or internet access). Even the smallest and poorest library is able to advise its users what is available online and how they may use it (people have their own computers and are connected!). This is then the simplest way of promoting libraries - promoting our services/help/advice in using what's available on the world wide web dot . Mind you, we are promoting somebody else's inventions!

However, what would we not do for our customers! Let others earn bucks, we may earn some respect!

Where and how to do it?

At first thought, Facebook should be the first choice. It seems to be the most popular site for social networking. Having the official library Facebook account for many institutions is, I believe, already an important place where they post their ads and information, millions of links to more information, promote their services with words, pictures, slide or video shows. There is no need even to produce their own illustration. Too many are already published and free to use (creative commons licencing). All these can be just as easily be used and applied on the existing website of any library or institution. The website can be enriched and made more interesting by adding images from Flickr, SlideShare, YouTube and perhaps also with one's own extras. On SlideShare there are some very good productions, e.g on plagiarism. There is no point to produce a new piece on this subject, creating (even unwillingly) another plagiary, is there?
The first thing would be, however, to carry out a survey, to find out what our readers know and what they use out of the social media package. Are they familiar with any of the applications, are they willing to use Zotero and other Things and to follow our future Blog, Facebook or Twitter?The second step would be to advertise where to find the information about what services we offer. At this point the traditional library inductions, posters and leaflets might be a more convincing and encouraging way to promote our services instead of posting all these straight away online. However, not as long as all our users are not "ON"(line) and "IN"(Facebook). Also not if we are short in time or staff to provide full service online. Not if we do not have enough time to be able to talk to people face-to-face (not just Facebook-to-Facebook). That would be the bit called "Conversations", wouldn't it?

I liked very much the Illinois Libraries idea of Social Media Cards. Instead of on business cards, information about what and how is offered could be put on bookmarks displayed in "Take one" boxes in libraries. An attractive bookmark may also encourage people to turn away from computers for a while and read books for a change. It could also encourage readers to ask library staff "What is this LibraryThing, Zotero etc.?" or to search for information on inter/intranet by themselves.

What can we offer?

When we are already well prepared ourselves and have done our homework well (and blogged about it) we can offer training on how to use Zotero and some other Things which might be useful for our patrons. We may create a library account with all the favourites that might be useful for our users ("DO NOT DELETE OR ADD ANYTHING!"). Via Blog or Twitter we can encourage people to visit the library by advertising new purchases. We can make their lives easier by posting reading lists with proper citations, links to full texts of recommended articles and all the other online possibilities - full ZOTERO! However, there is no point to do all this if nobody uses it. Let's find out then what our users think. Survey! Definitely - survey first. New academic year is approaching - just the right moment for this.

P.S. Perhaps when on duty we should start wearing T-shirts with ads printed on them, like the one on the Flickr photo? Once a week? Once a term? On an induction day? Not a good idea? Perhaps not.

1 comment:

  1. Completely agree that it is a potential waste of time doing things that our users do not want to use or know about. BUT having said that we started our Library facebook page rarely promoted it and now have something like 350 fans, some alumni, some current students and staff and many nothing to do with Cambridge. So We don't waste time putting the really important things there but we do actively use it and it seems by the stats that people are looking at it - and we did this all before we did the survey!