McIntyre Library serves the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC). With just over 11,000 students UWEC is a medium-sized state university. The library has a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter feed. At the moment, all three are pretty active. Back in 2010, McIntyre librarians wrote Quick and Dirty Library Promotions That Really Work – they’re definitely committed to promoting the library through social media!
The blog title and titles of the three most recent posts appear on the library home page. Blog posts are mostly about services and programming. In November, there were two posts about physical changes to the library, two posts about programs, and one announcement that the library is hiring. None of these posts have any comments.
A link to the Facebook page also appears on the library home page. It has more concise versions of some of the blog posts along with many additional ones. Recently they’ve shared pictures and information from the campus archive, student worker interviews, and many events postings including general campus-wide announcements. There’s not a huge amount of interaction with the page – most posts don’t have comments – but some of the posts have been shared by other users, and over 400 people have liked the page. The McIntyre Library page has also liked other campus pages. In his article on Twitter, Phil Bradley said it was important to follow other people, not just have followers. I think that also applies to Facebook – it shows goodwill to interact with related pages, not just expect other people to interact with your page. Especially as a library, you don’t want to be too intrusive, but liking other campus pages seems nice.
The library staff has also recently hit on something students are interested in. They’ve posted pictures and brief descriptions of how different campus looked fifty years ago versus today. The campus is on both sides of a river, and all students can commiserate about crossing the bridge in the winter. McIntyre Library recently shared on their Facebook page that the bridge was originally meant to be covered and heated. This has been one of their more popular posts, with 11 likes and 5 shares 16 hours after posting.
In addition to the Facebook page, the librarians have created a Facebook account for the library mascot, Reference Rex. The library Facebook page has a link to this profile in their About section – hurray for making it easy to find social media! At one point UWEC’s Career Services also had a Facebook account for their mascot, but it doesn’t seem to be up anymore. Reference Rex’s wall has versions of lots of the posts from the Facebook page, but from the perspective of a small, plastic, library-affiliated dinosaur. Reference Rex has 250 Facebook friends, and there are likes and comments on some of its posts.
As a student at UWEC, I did not befriend Reference Rex. I didn’t mind seeing the toy dinosaur around, but I saw no reason to be friends on Facebook. I may not have been alone in that. After all, the McIntyre Library page has 150 more likes than Reference Rex has friends. I appreciate Reference Rex more now – it’s hard not to with posts like “Even though I’ve been around for millions of years, I never knew that the footbridge was supposed to be enclosed and heated!” It’s a more personal version of the McIntyre Library page, and as long as staff are willing to update both, I think it’s worth keeping both of them around. If I were a student there now, I’d probably be friends with Reference Rex and like the library page, to get the information and Reference Rex’s versions.
Finally, McIntyre Library also has a Twitter feed, although it’s not linked to from the library home page. The tweets are pretty much the same as the Facebook posts, abbreviated where necessary. The library seems to have taken Bradley’s advice on having a conversation – they follow slightly more people than they are followed by. They’ve recently retweeted tweets from campus organizations and the local public library. And on November 28, an actual person sent a tweet @mcintyrelibrary.
McIntyre Library’s doing a pretty good job of using social media. They have a blog, a Facebook page for the institution, a Facebook account for the mascot, and a Twitter feed. Except for the blog, there are actual interactions taking place with each. All are pleasantly conversational in style. Reference Rex is definitely sort of silly and out there, but it’s working for some people. It’s best not to rely entirely on the Reference Rexes of social media, but alongside less whimsical expressions it’s definitely worth a try.