or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


Visualizing the Flow of My Library’s Information Online

   August 4th, 2011 Brian Herzog

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:

Flowchart of flow of online information

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.



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Being Personal and Professional on Twitter

   May 12th, 2011 Brian Herzog

At the NHLA conference last week, I was lucky enough to attend a talk on using Twitter by Twitter for Dummies author Leslie Poston (a.k.a. @leslie).

The talk was great, and the part I found most interesting were her guidelines about what to say, what not too say, and how to draw a line between being personal and professional online. This included my favorite advice:

Tweet on Twitter about Tweeting

I think toeing this line is easy on the library's Twitter account/blog/flickr/et. al. - the topics there are always library business, but in a friendly and engaging way. My goal is to be personable, not personal. The trickier area is with personal accounts, which are read by both personal friends and professional colleagues.

In my own head, I drew a distinct line between what I post here (on SwissArmyLibrarian.net) and what I post on my @herzogbr Twitter account. The blog is professional (well, mostly-professional), and the Twitter account is personal - hence choosing @herzogbr as my username. I don't know if anyone else noticed it, but it's the rule I try to follow.

But @leslie's talk got me thinking, and so did a recent blog post by @LibrarianE13 on this very topic. Which also reminded me that Jessamyn West solved the problem by dividing and conquering - she has a personal @jessamyn Twitter account, and a separate @librariandotnet for librarian.net library-related things.

Since doing what Jessamyn does is often a sound strategy, last week I created a new Twitter account just for Swiss Army Librarian stuff: @SwissArmyLib (drat that @SwissArmyLibrarian was too long). I'm using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet new blog posts, so if you'd like to follow* my posts via Twitter, now you can. I'm not sure if I'll use that account for anything else, but if I do it'll be totally library-related.

Having a separate account for personal stuff and for professional stuff theoretically should eliminate cross-over confusion, but things easily get mixed and mashed-up online. I am a bit leery of maintaining two accounts, because it seems like twice the effort. Which is another point @leslie made: with multiple accounts, it'll quickly become obvious whether you enjoy personal tweeting or professional tweeting, because the one you enjoy less will get less attention and quickly feel like a chore. I'm curious to see what happens with mine.

 


*I also recently added a follow-by-email feature, which is part of Google's Feedburner.



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Reference Question of the Week – 10/31/10

   November 6th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Do you ever wonder how I spend my Saturday nights? Why, advocating library services, of course - here's a Twitter conversation that occurred last weekend about 10pm (read from the bottom up):

Twitter conversation

The two points I'd like to make about this are:

  1. Libraries provide free and legal access to things patrons might otherwise "improvise" access* to. But that is only marginally helpful because...
  2. ...the target audience for many library services don't always (or ever) think of the library as a source. So how do we promote ourselves to bring patron and service together? That is frustrating.

I felt pretty good after this exchange, and the patron was happy to not violate copyright to get the content he wanted. Until now I've been pretty passive about this, but perhaps it's time to more deliberate about engaging in "social reference."

Incidentally: I saw his tweet because I have a Twitter search rss feed for the word "library" in any tweet within 10 miles of Chelmsford. That picks up people outside of town, but we get a lot of non-residents in my library, so it all evens out. Besides, on the internet, all reference is local.

 


*I get daily traffic to my website from Google searches such as "overdrive media hacks," so people are definitely looking to improvise.



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Twitter Impersonator

   May 13th, 2010 Brian Herzog

Twitter Suspended logoA funny thing happened to me on Twitter - someone started impersonating me.

What? I'm not famous. I know there's more than one person with my name, so I wasn't too surprised to see another Brian Herzog start following me. But when I clicked into the profile to see read their tweets, it turned out that someone had duplicated my account. Their username was @syuhaedah, but were using my name, the same bio line and same location - the only difference was their website was a tinyurl (which I never clicked, but was able to preview).

It kind of freaked me out, so here are the steps I took:

  1. Click the "report as spam" link in the email from Twitter you get when someone starts following you
  2. Read their Privacy Violations and How to Report Spam pages
  3. Found Twitter's Impersonation Policy and opened a ticket to report it

Within a few hours I got a follow-up response from Twitter, and by the next day that account had been suspended. I feel bad bringing the hammer down like that, but it definitely felt like a spambot or other violation of both me and Twitter.

And how bizarre - I can see when someone sets up a fake Barack Obama or Conan O'Brien Twitter account, but me? So, be careful with both your own identity and that of your organizations.

I got lucky in that this account started following me, or else I may have never known about it. I guess I'll start to periodically use Twitter's Find People and Advanced Search (with operators) to check for this sort of thing.



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Library Game: Escape and Survive!

   February 4th, 2010 Brian Herzog

I'm pretty unsophisticated when it comes to video games, but I do occasionally play escape games when I'm looking for a way to occupy some time. I enjoy them because they require logic and problem solving, but are also just fun.

I saw one recently I thought I'd share: in "Library Labyrinth," you're locked in the library with a serial killer, and you need to find objects and solve puzzles to survive him and get out of the library. Good times, I know, but I also liked that winning this game involved using Twitter (in the game - you don't need an account yourself). Clever, and it also shows (again) how ubiquitous Twitter has become.

Give it a try, and if you get stuck, a helpful tips from previous players is also available.

Library Labyrinth game screenshot



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Reference Question of the Week – 11/15/09

   November 21st, 2009 Brian Herzog

CoywolfThis almost doesn't count as a reference question, because it wasn't on library time and it wasn't even a question someone asked me personally.

But, it is an example of how libraries could use twitter to answer questions from people in the community (and why it's more important to follow/friend your patrons rather than other libraries).

I woke up one morning this week and saw this tweet from @briansawyer

Is it possible that I just stared down a coyote in the middle of the street less than a mile from my house?

I had recently gone to a lecture sponsored by the Westford Conservation Trust, on how what people think are coyotes in this area are actually coywolves. So I responded to Brian with

@briansawyer Yes, but it was probably a coywolf. WCT just had a speaker about them http://bit.ly/wwMkx (<--pdf) and http://bit.ly/srnS1

My links go to the WCT's newsletter [pdf] with an article about the speaker, and also the speaker's website with lots of information about coywolves.

A little while later he tweeted again with a link to his video blog:

I've learned that my encounter on this morning's run was most likely with a coywolf http://bit.ly/UEjli

In the video, I'm the "fellow Westford resident" he mentions at 2:14 - yay

I feel bad that the additional information didn't help reduce Brian's trepidation towards the animals, but based on the experience and facts, perhaps it's justified.

Also: it's holiday time again, so I'll be in Ohio all of Thanksgiving week. Instead of blogging, I'll be playing with my nieces and nephews. I've got a big stack of audio books for the drive, and I'll be back the week of Dec. 1st - see you then.



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