Just a quick post to share this great video, in case you haven't seen it already: the M. N. Spear Library in the Western Massachusetts town of Shutesbury put it together to help raise money for a new building.
Whether or not you donate is up to you, but I thought this was an excellent example of a library being creative with new media: the video is great, they're encouraging sharing it, they involved their patrons, and it's fun.
Speaking of great library videos, I hope you've seen this one too:
My library just launched our long-overdue Facebook page. In the course of preparing it, we had a discussion about why we needed a Facebook page, what we wanted to use it for, and how it related to everything else we were doing online.
This led to the realization that no one really understood exactly what all we were doing online. We have a website, Twitter account, blog, email newsletters, flickr account, and now Facebook, but no clear policy as to what gets posted where, when information is duplicated, how things are updated, etc.
To help understand how our various types of information are represented online, I created the diagram below - it's probably not 100% complete, but it does cover most of our bases:
On the left are our different types of information (MacKay is our branch library), and the arrows show how that information flows through different electronic tools. There isn't necessarily a hierarchy at work*, other than perhaps the automatic updates necessarily come after the manual updates. Otherwise, the boxes are laid out just so they all fit on the page.
After discussing this, we uncovered two philosophies at work:
use the different end tools - website, Facebook, Twitter - for unique content, so as not to duplicate things and essentially "spam" our patrons that use more than one service (for example, you can see above that no event information is posted to Facebook)
publish all of our content almost equally through all of our channels, so we're sure to reach all our patrons regardless of which tool they choose to use
I don't think they are mutually-exclusive, but it does take a lot of work and forethought to do it well. I also think that more of what we do could be automated, as cutting down on the manual postings would save staff time.
Do other libraries have similar online information relationships? I imagine things range from very structured to a free-for-all to orphan accounts galore, but I'm curious to hear what other libraries are doing, to get ideas on how to do it better at my library.
*Something to note on the diagram is our "secret" Twitter account. We have a primary Twitter account we encourage patrons to follow and we use for regular tweets. The secret account is one we use only to post messages directly to our homepage. The reason for two, and why I don't really want anyone following to the homepage updater one, is that clearing the message off the homepage requires sending a blank tweet - it's not the end of the world if anyone follows it, but the blank tweets do look odd. Besides, everything posted to it gets posted through our primary account anyway.
I feel bad that this post might not be library blog award quality, but it's been an extremely busy week - so please consider this a light interlude, and I'll get back to more practical posts next week.
The image below is a postcard promoting a book, sent to my director this week. I'd like to submit it here without comment, other than to link to the ForeWord review (cited on the postcard) which was itself an interesting read.
One question I get asked all the time, by patrons who were attracted by one of our book displays and then spent a few minutes looking at all the books, is, "can these books be checked out?"
The answer is of course yes (that's why we put them on display). I don't actually mind answering the question, but any time I'm repeatedly asked the same question, I think there has got to be a better way to communicate the answer.
Then it struck me to use the same trick that restaurateurs and buskers use - you know when you see a tip jar with money already in it, you're more likely to put some in yourself versus a jar with nothing in it?
To translate this theory to book displays, we could start using dollar bills as bookmarks in display books, but I thought a better idea would be to always leave one of the display stands empty. It's subtle and non-verbal, but if someone sees that someone else has already checked out one of the books from the display, it might communicate to them that it's okay for them to check one out, too. Which is what we want them to know, especially if no staff person is around for them to ask.
I did this on all the displays around the Reference desk last week, and I'm waiting to see if anyone asks about checking out a display book. Usually it happens a couple times a week - so far so good.
What do other people do to let patrons know it's okay to check out display books?
Another post worth reading is Do Library Staff Know What The Users Want? (via Jessamyn). Good user experience has to start with library staff making an effort to accommodate patrons' needs and wants, but we will not out-smart (or out-stupid?) patrons about everything.
"Anticipate and respond" are words to live by, but it's also a good idea to go right to the source. Here are a few ideas for that:
Easy-to-find suggestion box at each service desk and online (and promote it)
Teen advisory board, or Adult Advisory Board, or ESL Advisory Board, etc
Focus groups (private and confidential) and open forums to invite comments, reviews and suggestions
Encourage members of the Friends of the Library to regularly relate their library experiences, good and bad
Trustees organize a "secret shopper" program - especially to test out library policies, which will help keep them up-to-date with patron needs
Have evaluations at the end of each program (library-sponsored as well as club/group meetings) and ask open questions as well as specific questions about the facility
Pay attention to what people ask - if everyone needs to ask where the bathroom is located, that might be an area to improve
If a patron comes to you with a comment/complaint/suggestion, listen, and encourage (but don't require) them to put it in writing to make actionable paper trails
Ask friends and family what their experiences have been
Visit other libraries for a fresh perspective, and share ideas with other librarians
[Please share additional ideas in the comments]
And when you do make adjustments based on patron input, get feedback on the new setup, too. Nothing is static, and it's possible to improve improvements.
Using the library shouldn't be annoying or complicated or antagonistic. Occasionally patrons tell me that they come to my library because the staff at their town's library was rude or unhelpful, or they can't find parking, or the policies are prohibitively restrictive. It should make me feel good about where I work, but really it makes me sad they had to shop around for a library.
I am glad they came to us, but I also always tell them to make sure they report their complaints to their home library to make sure they know about it and can work to improve it. Most of the time they laugh at that idea, as if they've washed their hands of their home library. What really worries me are the people who have a bad experience at one library and never go back or to another one, and instead take their information needs, community participation, children, and votes elsewhere.
There has to be a balance between what the patrons need and what each individual library can offer, but if we don't support our patrons, why would they support us?
*Full disclosure: I was mentioned in the book (page 20 and 258!), but absolutely read it anyway. And if you're interested in obituaries, I also enjoyed her previous The Dead Beat.