Milwaukee Public Library

The city of Milwaukee has just under 600,000 people. They’re served by the Milwaukee Public Library. There are thirteen library branches throughout the city. Milwaukee Public Library (MPL) uses Facebook, Twitter, and blogs.

You can find all of those social media from the library’s home page, which is always a good thing. The website’s design is pretty busy and a little dated, so it might take a little while to find those links. A simpler redesign could help people find what they’re looking for; if I wasn’t specifically looking for links to social media, it’s unlikely I would have noticed them among all the other links on the homepage.

Milwaukee Public Library website (part of)

Screenshot from the Milwaukee Public Library home page.

Once you find the social networking link towards the bottom of the home page, you’re taken to a page with links to MPL’s Twitter feed, main Facebook page, and Teens of MPL Facebook page.

The Twitter feed is used to make announcements. There are also tweets every time there’s a new blog post. The library has 1908 followers and is following 1129 people. While recent tweets are purely announcements and there doesn’t appear to be much in the way of discussion, the fact that MPL follows other Twitter users suggests that it’s not a completely one-way communication.

Having two separate Facebook pages is an interesting idea. The main page seems geared towards adults. It has links to MPL blog posts, programming announcements, and more. One of the coolest, most unique things that MPL does is post a notable quote from an author on their birthday. Recent authors include T.C. Boyle, Mark Twain, and Lousia May Alcott. These posts also appear on Twitter, but for whatever reason, I think they stand out more on Facebook.

MPL Facebook page

Screenshot from the Milwaukee Public Library main Facebook page.

The main Facebook page is very attractive. A lot of the posts are links to MPL blog posts, but there’s a picture accompanying each one. Many of the pictures are book covers, so they let you get an idea of what the post is about without even reading anything. You can see the address and phone number for each library branch, the website, and lots of pictures from library events. There are also links to WorldCat and CountyCat. It’s a really well-designed Facebook page. The author quotes are a cool way of making it clear that this is a library page. I’m not sure whether many people are using the WorldCat and CountyCat links, but they’re unobtrusive, so there’s no harm in having them available. This page fulfills a lot of David Lee King’s suggestions for library Facebook pages. It’s a nice page.

The teen page is a little different. There aren’t links to MPL blog posts or author quotes. Instead there are links to new books in CountyCat, posts about teen-specific programming, and announcement of writing and drawing contests for teens. There are also lots of pictures. Unlike the main Facebook page, there’s not information about every library branch, only the central library. There’s very little overlap between the teen and main Facebook pages – you could see updates from both and not see any duplication. If everyone who uses the teen page also uses the main page, that’s good. Otherwise, people could be missing out. I’d like to see clear links from each Facebook page to the other, so that users don’t have to go to the library site to learn there are two Facebook pages.

Teens of MPL Facebook page

Screenshot from the Teens of MPL Facebook page.

I’m not sure why the two pages have such different approaches. They’re both attractive, and they both update frequently, which is great. But the teen page posts new materials, while the adult page posts author quotes. Why aren’t they both doing both of those? The main page is very popular; 2658 people have liked the page, most of the posts have been liked, and some posts have comments. Only 60 people have liked the teen page. Part of the problem might be that while the main page is listed under Education and Library for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the teen page is listed under Government & Community and Public School for the same city. It’s clearly a library page, so it should really be under Library. It’s a good page with pretty interesting information, so hopefully people will continue to find it.

MPL also has two library blogs. Both their Twitter feed and main Facebook page link to these blogs all the time, so people who are interested should be able to find them. Now@MPL posts about programming, news and events while Read@MPL posts book reviews. Recent Now@MPL posts are about programming, holiday hours, and the US government’s online recipe collection. Each post is informally written and has a picture. The library page that links to the blogs says comments are moderated, but I don’t see any comments on the blog itself, and can’t figure out how to leave one. I’d like to see a clear link on this blog to Read@MPL, but there isn’t one.

Read@MPL looks just like Now@MPL (and is also missing a link to its companion blog). I like the consistency, which makes it clear the two are related. Posts are either straightforward book reviews or announcements about programming that’s clearly tied to a given book. Each author is identified by their first name and branch. Having comments enabled would be really valuable for this site, because people could have their own conversations about a book after reading the review. Moderating comments is a pain, but it would make the blog far more interesting. If comments are available, the library needs to make that more clear from the blog itself. If they’re not, the library should update the webpage that links to the blogs.

I don’t think I’d regularly use any of these tools if I were an MPL user. I know myself, and I mostly go to the public library to check things out, not for programming. I might like the main Facebook page just to keep track of what’s going on, but even that is uncertain. Still, obviously plenty of users are more active than I am, and these tools are great for them.

Overall, MPL’s social media focus on their materials and programming, which is exactly what the libraries do. The Facebook pages are pretty interactive and very attractive. Twitter isn’t terribly interactive, but it is popular. The blogs aren’t interactive, and don’t link to each other or any of the library’s other social media. This troubles me.

Ideally, I’d like to see everything link to everything else. People shouldn’t have to navigate the library’s rather clunky webpage to find social media; if they already know about one tool, they should be able to find others from there. Hopefully MPL will make some changes soon, while keeping up their frequent updates and excellent main Facebook page.

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