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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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.

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library serves the city of Eau Claire, which has a population of about 65,000. The library has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. In the top right corner of the website, there are tiny Facebook and Twitter icons from which you can click on to go to the page. They might be a little too tiny though – when I went to the site to see what kinds of social media the library uses, I looked and looked and looked but didn’t notice them. It doesn’t help that the library site has a blue header and both icons also incorporate blue. Maybe I’m just not very observant, but if I couldn’t find those links when I was specifically looking for them, it’s a safe bet plenty of other people aren’t seeing them either.

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library home page

The Facebook and Twitter icons are a lot easier to find if you already know where they are! Screenshot of the L.E. Phillips library home page.

On Twitter the library is known as Eau Claire Public Library (@ECPubLib) while on Facebook it’s the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. The library does have a really long name, so of course it has to be abbreviated for the Twitter handle. Some consistency would be nice, though. Whether the library goes by its full name or its location doesn’t really matter, but having it go by one in some places and the other in others makes it hard to find all its social media. After finding the Twitter feed, I searched Facebook for Eau Claire Public Library and didn’t find it. Fortunately one of the first results was the profile of someone who works there, and there was a link to the actual page from there. This would be less important if I’d been able to find the links from the library site in the first place. Sure, I was able to find everything in the end, but ordinary users might be just as unobservant as I am, and a little less determined. Making it easy for people to find your social media is an important first step.

Eau Claire Library Twitter

Screenshot of the Eau Claire Library Twitter account.

Even after you find the Twitter icon, it’s not that helpful. When you click on the icon, the last few tweets show up. To go to Twitter, you have to click “Follow me on Twitter” – which takes you to a login page, incredibly frustrating for people who don’t have Twitter accounts. Library, don’t make people sign up for Twitter to see your tweets!

Once you circuitously find your way to the Twitter feed without logging in,the library’s tweets are overwhelmingly programming announcements, with occasional reminders of holiday hours. They follow one person, and are followed by 106 people. In the last few months they’ve averaged just over one tweet a week. They’re pretty straightforward – someone looking at the Twitter feed for the first time shouldn’t be confused by the page (although getting there is another story).

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library Facebook page

Screenshot of the L.E. Phillips library Facebook page

From the homepage, you can like the Facebook page or just go to it. The content is just as easy to understand as Twitter’s. The page has slightly more detailed versions of the programming announcements from the Twitter feed. They also have other posts. For example, there have been two recent posts about a community happiness survey, which has nothing to do with the library itself. 487 people have liked the Facebook page. However, most posts have no comments or likes. The Facebook page also includes the library’s hours, address, website, and lots of pictures from library events. It’s also easy to use for first-time visitors to the page.

Both the Facebook page and Twitter feed for L.E. Phillips Memorial Library are mostly used to make announcements.
Some people have liked or followed them, but there’s hardly any interaction. No one has tweeted anything @ECPubLib, and very few posts on the Facebook page have been commented on or even liked. They’re basically doing the same thing as the library’s Events page. That might be okay, because they’re at least in different formats. Theoretically the point of social media is to be social, but if library users are getting what they want out of these tools, there’s nothing wrong with their current use.

I lived in Eau Claire until recently, went to the library regularly, and never used the Twitter feed or Facebook page. Now that I’ve looked at both pages, I’d consider using the Facebook page if I were still in town. A lot of the posts are irrelevant to my interests, but there are occasional ones – like the announcement about library Kindle books – that I’d like to know about, especially since I didn’t visit the library homepage often either.

I found the Events page on the library site a little confusing. You can’t just go to Events, you have to choose a type of event. When I clicked the link on the bottom of the home page, the Events page never loaded properly (I tried several times). When I chose Main Events from the top menu, a page did load, but there were no events on it. You can choose from several views, including a weekly calendar, a monthly calendar, and a list. No matter what view I picked though, no events showed up. I assumed Main Events is meant to list all the events that are coming up, no matter what categories they belong to. If so, something’s not working properly. The library has a very sophisticated website, which I definitely admire, but that can mean it’s hard to catch all the little things that go wrong. If I’m wrong about the significance of Main Events, a new page title might clear things up.

You can also see featured events, art exhibits, and events for kids and teens under the Events menu. But at the moment at least, there’s nowhere on the site that lists all the events in order. Facebook and Twitter do this pretty well. I wonder if the library has any way of keeping track of how many people who come to an event heard about it through one of these social media. It’d be interesting to know just how effective they are.

This library is using two kinds of social media, and it’s keeping up with both of them. They’re being used pretty much the same way, and there’s not a lot of interaction with either of them. It’s definitely worth keeping up with both of them, especially because it might be faster for some people to check Facebook than use the library website to see what’s going on in a given week. More social interaction might come with time; for Facebook, this could be encouraged by posting questions.

Plymouth Public Library

Confession time: although Kewaskum Public Library was indeed important to me growing up, my primary public library was the Plymouth Public Library. Unlike the Kewaskum library, the Plymouth library had a building of its very own – it’s a Carnegie library. It had more staff, more books, and two circulation desks. At just over 8000, Plymouth’s population is more than twice that of Kewaskum. All this might suggest that the Plymouth Public Library has more resources than Kewaskum.

However, while the Kewaskum library (henceforth KPL) shares a building with the police department and village hall, it at least has an online presence all its own. As discussed in the previous post, KPL has a blog that doubles as their website, a mostly inactive Twitter account, and a very active Facebook page.

Plymouth Public Library (henceforth PPL) has an incredibly basic page on the City of Plymouth site, and an equally basic Facebook page. How basic? Well, if you’re not willing to click through, the page has the library’s address and phone number,  a link to the catalogue, an unspecified email address, and bulleted lists for Collections and Services. These may not be up-to-date – does PPL really have a typewriter you can use? The email appears to be a personal one, but it doesn’t say who that person is. The web page is dated and unattractive. It claims PPL is “Your exploration destination… Your information connection” but this web page makes me doubt it.

The Facebook page is no better. Clearly someone took the time to create this page, but it’s very similar to the web site. It lists an address and a phone number. There’s no picture, not even the line drawing they’re so fond of using elsewhere. It inspires no trust, invites no discussion – there’s not even a description! It goes without saying that I wouldn’t use the Facebook page even as a library user, since it has nothing to offer.

Plymouth Public Library Facebook Page

Screenshot of Plymouth Public Library Facebook page

To be fair, there are a lot of communities called Plymouth in the world. It’s not completely impossible that PPL does in fact have something out there on the web that’s better than what I found. But that’s a problem in itself – if it’s not on the first page of search results for “plymouth public library” (the City of Plymouth page is), and it doesn’t come up for “plymouth library wi” there’s still lots of work to be done.

Once I was home for the summer and needed to use wireless internet on my laptop. My gut instinct was that any public library would have free wireless internet, but PPL’s web page didn’t mention it. In fact, I wondered if a library with such a terrible web page would have wireless internet after all. In the end I called the library (it’s a 20 minute drive!), and was assured they did.

PPL is a vibrant, well-equipped library that offers wonderful programming and services. Its web presence should reflect that. At the moment, both the website and the Facebook page are equally incomprehensible to new and experienced users. As Phil Bradley points out, “if you’re doing things in your library, you need (in my opinion) to make people aware of them.” I hope the librarians will start working towards that soon. They may not think websites and social media are a priority, but they should look at the nearby KPL, which is successfully using social media despite an even smaller community.

What to do if you’re in PPL’s situation?  Looking at nearby or similar libraries is a place to start. Create a website! Keep it up-to-date! A blogging platform might be a good tool for setting up a first real website. Then you can think about social media. Do the librarians use any social media? Those might be worth testing out. Not every tool will be a brilliant success, but it’s worth trying something. Check out blog posts like How To Grow Your Social Media Presence for ideas. Since PPL is already using Facebook (sort of), they should think about adding things to that page. They could use the Information section to provide standard hours, a link to the consortium catalogue, and a list of services that includes wireless internet while leaving typewriters off. Then posts about programming and holiday hours could give people a reason to keep up with the page. The Librarian in Black’s post “Ten Social Networking Tips for Libraries” has lots of good advice as well.

Not all libraries need to be at the forefront of social media, but it’s a good idea to try to stay reasonably up-to-date. At this point, websites are non-negotiable.

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.