This library will always be near to my heart, because it was in the town where I went to high school, and I volunteered there for over a year. But besides all that, the Kewaskum Public Library uses social media pretty effectively. Especially nice for a library in a town of fewer than 4000!
You can find Kewaskum Public Library on Facebook, Twitter, and their blog. The blog is on the library homepage, and the homepage also has a link to the Facebook page, but the Twitter feed is a little harder to find.
The Twitter account (tagline: I am a large building full of cultural ephemera! Love me!) began in May 2009. Most tweets are about new materials or upcoming local events. There are also occasional links to news articles, software, and random other tweets. They cover a few of Andy Burkhardt’s Six Things Libraries Should Tweet. It’s definitely a library Twitter feed, not a librarian one – although there are some tweets which reveal the librarian’s opinions on certain books (and certain Library of Congress subject headings), the focus is on the library. As a result, it doesn’t live up to many of Phil Bradley’s best practices for library Twitter use. The library doesn’t really discuss ideas, it doesn’t follow anyone, it’s not having a conversation. Kewaskum Public Library is clearly using Twitter to get information to people in the community, not to have an information exchange. Twitter can be used for much more than that, but if the current system is working, it’s definitely an effective use of the tool. A library doesn’t need to use all a tool’s features for it to be useful.
Unfortunately, the Twitter account is becoming less active; in September, October, and November 2011, Kewaskum Public Library only tweeted three times.
The blog came first, and is still going strong. The blog also serves as the library’s homepage. It has the library’s hours and address, links to the catalogue and other resources. There were 4 posts in November 2011. One announces that the library budget was passed, and explains where the money goes; one lets people know fewer tax forms will be printed in 2012, so they should come to the library early to get paper forms; one announces the Thanksgiving holiday hours; the last talks about how the library works with area schools. Most posts are a paragraph or two long. Like Kewaskum Public Library’s tweets, many posts are about upcoming programming and local events. They’re a conversational way to get out news about the library.
The blog, like the Twitter account, is more about communicating information than exchanging it. Comments are enabled, but hardly any posts have comments. It’s not very social. But in the very first post, back in March 2005, the director said
Basically, a blog (short for web-log) is kind of like an online newspaper column … The KPL blog will be used to update the news on this website with any and all last-minute information–closings, cancellations, exhibits, events, new items, etc.
The blog is still doing a pretty good job of that. It’s not the most revolutionary use of social media, but it seems to work for them. Combining the website and homepage might not work for a bigger library, but it’s great for Kewaskum. They use the SHARE library consortium catalogue, and the WordPress site does a perfectly good job of listing all the library’s important information. It also means that news can be easily updated, casual visitors to the site can find out what’s going on, and old news is easy to find. Plus, as Darlene Fitcher said back in 2003, blogs are cheap and require less work than creating a website.
Kewaskum Public Library’s newest social media venture is their Facebook page. Unlike their Twitter account and blog, this actually is social! Kewaskum essentially uses it for microblogging. They post several times a week, share links and opinions, and interact with commenters. Blog posts are often duplicated in a shorter form. It’s basically a more social version of their early, active Twitter use. The writing is more informal and personal than on the blog. I appreciate that, and it’s also encouraged by David Lee King. While the blog posts are comment-less, people do comment on the Facebook page, maybe because it’s on a site they already use to be social, rather than on a separate library site.
Kewaskum Public Library’s blog seems to be working just fine, and Twitter is being replaced (rather more successfully – or at least socially) by Facebook. I’d say the librarians are successfully using social media. Sometimes a tool just doesn’t quite work, and you have to move on to the next one. Hopefully they’ll continue to work towards the best balance for them.