UW-Stout Library

The University of Wisconsin-Stout is a state university with just over 9000 students. The library has a blog, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account.

The library page on the UW-Stout website has links to all of their social media. Unfortunately, UW-Stout also has links to all of the university’s social media quite near to the library’s social media icons. I definitely on the university icons first, but realized my mistake. The library icons are clearly identified as library-related, and presumably if I were more familiar with the website (which, the library announced on all its social media, changed this very weekend) I’d know the university icons are always on the bottom bar. The setup’s not ideal, but it’s okay. Even though I clicked on the wrong icon, I saw both sets of icons right away – hurray for obvious links to social media! After all, people won’t use your social media if they don’t know it exists.

UW-Stout library page

Screenshot of the UW-Stout library home page.

I really like the library blog. Every week a Library Video of the Week and Browsing Area Book of the Week are posted. There’s a brief description of each book or video, a picture, and the library call number. The descriptions are both clear and interesting, and each post is clearly tagged. It’s a really great feature and lets students know about the fun stuff they can find at their academic library.

In addition to the book and video posts, the blog posts about some library and campus events. There are posts about the new website, banned books week, a thesis workshop and checking out textbooks. This practical information is nice, but the majority of the posts are for books and videos, so anyone who checks the blog regularly presumably does so for those.

The blog also has a link to the Facebook page and the last few posts appear. It’s great that you can go to the Facebook page from the blog; it would be even better if there was also a link to the Twitter feed.

The library Facebook page links to each blog post, but it also has many other posts. There are some Facebook-specific posts, which mostly involve photos or links to other local organizations’ posts, but the majority of the posts are tweets or links to the blog. It covers practical library-related information that students need to know, like special hours, as well as fun information. There are links to all kinds of technology news articles, links to free classical music downloads, and of course those videos and books of the week. You can also find the library hours, website, and contact information from the Facebook page. It’s attractive, with all those images and links the Librarian in Black would recommend, and updates several times a week. The page has been liked by 177 people.

The Twitter feed contains links to blog posts and links to news articles, those classical music downloads, and so forth. They’re making announcements, not having a conversation, but that’s a valid way to use Twitter. The library is following 177 Twitter users and is followed by 52.

If I were a student at UW-Stout (or using the library in some other capacity), I’d like their Facebook page. I already use Facebook, so I wouldn’t have to go anywhere outside my usual routine, plus the Facebook page brings together the blog posts and tweets, so it has everything all in one place. It would let me know if anything important was going on at the library, plus I could see all kinds of interesting articles. Overall, the library uses social media mostly to promote the library’s leisure collections and provide links to all sorts of technology and information news. That’s a pretty valid function. Their posts are all easy to follow even for people new to the various pages. If the library started asking more questions, they might get more people interacting with their social media, which would be the next step up. An explicit invitation for users to share their thoughts on an article, or a book or video of the week, could be all they need.

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.

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.

McIntyre Library

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.

Reference Rex's Facebook page

Screenshot from Reference Rex Facebook profile

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.

Kewaskum Public Library

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.