Aberdeen Library

Aberdeen Libraries include a central library, 16 community branches, and mobile and home library services. The city of Aberdeen has a population of 200,000. The Aberdeen Library and Information Services site is part of the City Council site, but it’s a simple, attractive site with plenty of information. I particularly like the clear link to Facebook on the right-hand side of the home page. I find it easy to overlook icons, so the brief description, photo and Like button work well for me.

Aberdeen Library site

Screenshot of the Aberdeen Library home page.

The home page of the site also acts sort of as a blog. There are announcements about library closures, programming, and other news announcements. It’s more of an old-fashioned newsletter than a blog, though, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to leave comments. Their options may be limited by the City Council site’s design. Aberdeen Library’s primary social media is Facebook.

There’s an Aberdeen City Libraries Facebook page, which 167 people have liked. It’s very straightforward and easy to use. There are posts about changing hours, new materials, and special programming. Occasionally other people post on the wall to ask questions. The new materials posts are mostly about DVDs, and include links to trailers. They might consider expanding their new materials posts to books and other materials.

Their most social posts have to do with displays at the central library. They’ve been soliciting user suggestions for a display of books people didn’t finish. There have been a few comments, and the current list includes Ulysses, Austerlitz, and Midnight’s Children. I really like this idea. People get to contribute to the displays, and it’s a good question. Continuing to come up with questions that users will be will want to answer for displays could be tough, though.

The library also occasionally posts pop culture links: there’s one for the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death, and one for the birthday of Robert Vaughn, Scarlett Johansson, and Jamie Lee Curtis. The first post asks users about their favorite Queen song, and the second lets people know that the Aberdeen Libraries have several of those actors’ movies. It’s a pretty good way of reminding users what the libraries offer while being somewhat interesting and timely.

Now, the Aberdeen Libraries offer a lot more than DVDs. As a former user of the Aberdeen Libraries, I can attest that at least in 2009, their collections were dominated by books. Their fixation on DVDs when it comes to their Facebook page is interesting. Aberdeen Libraries charge for checking out CDs and DVDs. It’s possible that they just want people to know that the library does have materials other than books. However, by only talking about DVDs it seems like they’re trying to encourage people to use these paid services instead of the free ones. That might well be their aim. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it would seem a little less suspicious if they mentioned the occasional book.

Even if I were still using the Aberdeen Libraries, I don’t believe I would have liked their Facebook page. I might occasionally show up to a closed library as a result (which, in fact, I did do while in Aberdeen…), but since I’m not that interested in what DVDs the library could rent to me, I probably wouldn’t bother using a Facebook page that focuses on that. If they broadened the focus of the page, I (and potentially other users) would be more interested.

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University of Aberdeen Library

The University of Aberdeen’s University Library uses quite a few social media. There are links on the bottom right corner of the library’s home page (which are very easy to see against the light grey background). I’ll be focusing on their use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, but they also have Flickr and YouTube accounts. Pretty impressive!

The University Library has created a Facebook profile. It has a really awesome profile picture that appears to be a book sculpture of a computer. It looks like they just started this in September 2011.There haven’t been a whole lot of posts so far. They’ve announced a new way to return books, and shared a link about an exhibition at a campus museum. Only 12 people are friends with them so far, and no one’s commented on any of their posts. Still, their page looks good, and they’re interacting with other campus entities. It’s a good start. Besides, that profile picture would make up for a lot. Hopefully they’ll continue posting – maybe posting more, since the University Library certainly has programs and exciting news they could be sharing. It’s definitely a solid start.

University Library Facebook

Screenshot from Biblio Teque facebook profile.

There’s also a more established Facebook presence, the Library, Special Collections and Museums (University of Aberdeen) group. It’s so much more established and active that I’m not sure why the Facebook icon at the bottom of the home page doesn’t lead to that. I only found the group through one of the rotating images on the library’s home page (thanks to Daniel O’Connor’s blog for helping me figure out what those are called!). It doesn’t have that awesome profile picture, but I really like the group. People seem to be using their actual Facebook accounts, both library staff and users. Staff make announcements, but users also ask questions. Some of those questions are things like ‘why do the desk lights keep going out’ but it’s nice that they have a place to ask those questions where librarians can actually respond. It’s an open group, so anyone can ask to join. It’s the most active, social library Facebook space I’ve seen yet. If I were at the University of Aberdeen, I would definitely join this group.

The fact that the group is a group might be part of the reason it’s working so well. It seems less like the library is just making announcements and more like this is a place you can have an actual conversation. Most of the user-started conversations are students complaining about various things that aren’t working well, whether that’s lights going out or silent study rooms that are too loud when lots of people are typing. Librarians actually get to know what people think this way – often a couple of students will comment on a post before a librarian does – and can figure out what they need to change. Librarians said they hadn’t known about either the desk lights going out or the less-than-silent silent study rooms, and said what they’d do to fix the problem. It’s really encouraging that they respond to all these complaints. Ryan Deschamps of The Other Librarian said that libraries on Facebook should ask people questions and figure out what they like. I think figuring out what people don’t like is pretty important too.

One possible drawback of the group is that it could be tricky to identify librarians. On the other hand, it’s not that hard to figure out. If someone’s making announcements, start their response to a comment with “Hi _____”, or generally seem to know what’s going on, they’re probably librarians. Users might have to read a few posts to figure that out, though. It’s definitely something to keep in mind for libraries making the Facebook jump.

I’m so impressed by this Facebook group that it’s especially disappointing the main Facebook link from the library home page doesn’t go to it. I hope the University Library will think about changing that. A clear link from the Facebook profile to the group would be nice too.

While the University Library is using Facebook in a social way, they’re using Twitter mostly for announcements. There’s about one tweet a week, but it varies with what’s going on. A lot of these tweets are about various online services going down. Some are about changing hours at the physical libraries. The tweets are pretty intuitive, and they start with words like “MAINTENANCE”, “REMINDER”, and “INFO” so you can see at a glance what category a tweet fits into. They have 612 followers, so clearly some people think this is worth keeping track of. I’m curious as to why they don’t announce programming via Twitter. It’s great that they let people know what’s not working (and let them know the librarians realize it’s not working), but maybe they could tell them about other things too.

Finally, the University Library has a blog. This also announces when online services goes down, giving more information than tweets allow for. Plus it talks about positive stuff! The last two articles are about a new way to download library materials and an exhibit at a campus museum. I really liked the museum post because it wasn’t just an advertisement. It sounds very conversational, the writer clearly had opinions about the exhibit, and it includes the line, “The King’s museum is an amuse-bouche for the mind.” Where other library blogs tend to come across like newsletters, this one seems like a blog. Personally, I appreciate that. There aren’t comments for most posts, but it’s still interesting to read. If I were at the University of Aberdeen, I’d visit the blog from time to time. You don’t need any experience with the blog for it to make sense, either.

The University Library is doing a great job with their social media. I was particularly impressed by the blog and the Facebook group. I don’t want to discourage testing out new ways of using social media, but I almost wonder why they started the Facebook profile when they had the group. If their Facebook link went to the active group instead of the profile, they’d be pretty much set. Actually engaging people and seeming personable can be tricky, but they’ve managed it.