Confession time: although Kewaskum Public Library was indeed important to me growing up, my primary public library was the Plymouth Public Library. Unlike the Kewaskum library, the Plymouth library had a building of its very own – it’s a Carnegie library. It had more staff, more books, and two circulation desks. At just over 8000, Plymouth’s population is more than twice that of Kewaskum. All this might suggest that the Plymouth Public Library has more resources than Kewaskum.
However, while the Kewaskum library (henceforth KPL) shares a building with the police department and village hall, it at least has an online presence all its own. As discussed in the previous post, KPL has a blog that doubles as their website, a mostly inactive Twitter account, and a very active Facebook page.
Plymouth Public Library (henceforth PPL) has an incredibly basic page on the City of Plymouth site, and an equally basic Facebook page. How basic? Well, if you’re not willing to click through, the page has the library’s address and phone number, a link to the catalogue, an unspecified email address, and bulleted lists for Collections and Services. These may not be up-to-date – does PPL really have a typewriter you can use? The email appears to be a personal one, but it doesn’t say who that person is. The web page is dated and unattractive. It claims PPL is “Your exploration destination… Your information connection” but this web page makes me doubt it.
The Facebook page is no better. Clearly someone took the time to create this page, but it’s very similar to the web site. It lists an address and a phone number. There’s no picture, not even the line drawing they’re so fond of using elsewhere. It inspires no trust, invites no discussion – there’s not even a description! It goes without saying that I wouldn’t use the Facebook page even as a library user, since it has nothing to offer.
To be fair, there are a lot of communities called Plymouth in the world. It’s not completely impossible that PPL does in fact have something out there on the web that’s better than what I found. But that’s a problem in itself – if it’s not on the first page of search results for “plymouth public library” (the City of Plymouth page is), and it doesn’t come up for “plymouth library wi” there’s still lots of work to be done.
Once I was home for the summer and needed to use wireless internet on my laptop. My gut instinct was that any public library would have free wireless internet, but PPL’s web page didn’t mention it. In fact, I wondered if a library with such a terrible web page would have wireless internet after all. In the end I called the library (it’s a 20 minute drive!), and was assured they did.
PPL is a vibrant, well-equipped library that offers wonderful programming and services. Its web presence should reflect that. At the moment, both the website and the Facebook page are equally incomprehensible to new and experienced users. As Phil Bradley points out, “if you’re doing things in your library, you need (in my opinion) to make people aware of them.” I hope the librarians will start working towards that soon. They may not think websites and social media are a priority, but they should look at the nearby KPL, which is successfully using social media despite an even smaller community.
What to do if you’re in PPL’s situation? Looking at nearby or similar libraries is a place to start. Create a website! Keep it up-to-date! A blogging platform might be a good tool for setting up a first real website. Then you can think about social media. Do the librarians use any social media? Those might be worth testing out. Not every tool will be a brilliant success, but it’s worth trying something. Check out blog posts like How To Grow Your Social Media Presence for ideas. Since PPL is already using Facebook (sort of), they should think about adding things to that page. They could use the Information section to provide standard hours, a link to the consortium catalogue, and a list of services that includes wireless internet while leaving typewriters off. Then posts about programming and holiday hours could give people a reason to keep up with the page. The Librarian in Black’s post “Ten Social Networking Tips for Libraries” has lots of good advice as well.
Not all libraries need to be at the forefront of social media, but it’s a good idea to try to stay reasonably up-to-date. At this point, websites are non-negotiable.