Like Mia Breitkopf, I also had the opportunity to attend the 2012 NYLA Conference from November 8-10. While there, I was able to attend a session on using social media as a reference tool, presented by several employees of the New York Public Library (NYPL). Here are some of their tips for using social media in the library:
Meet patrons in their “social neighborhood.” If your patrons are all using Twitter, creating a MySpace page for the library isn’t going to be a very effective means of communicating and connecting with them. The best way to meet the needs of your community is to find out what social media tools they prefer to use, and establish your library’s social media presence based on that. Then, you won’t be asking patrons to go outside of their normal routines to access information from the library.
Create an editorial calendar and schedule things in advance. NYPL doesn’t have one person in charge of social media. Rather, staff members from all different departments can and do contribute to different social media platforms. In such a big institution, this could easily become chaotic and disorganized. To prevent widespread chaos, there is an editorial calendar detailing when certain tweets, blog posts, and other postings are supposed to occur, and staff members responsible for posting schedule their content in advance. This keeps things running smoothly for the library.
Train the library’s staff. Not everyone loves social media or understands its purpose. You can’t expect people to be enthusiastic about using Twitter if they have no experience and are uncomfortable with the platform. The best way to get your staff on board with using social media is to train them. NYPL offers 4 different social media training sessions for staff members. Currently, about 300 NYPL staff members have completed the training sessions for blogging, and about 100 people blog regularly.
Make blog posts “timely and timeless.” It is important to make sure the information you post on social media is information patrons need and want. Therefore, library staff should be answering current questions and anticipating future needs with timely blog posts, as well as providing information on those topics in which community members will always be interested (timeless posts).
Encourage staff to write about topics they enjoy. Passion and enthusiasm are evident in writing. NYPL encourages staff to choose topics in which they are interested for blog posts, as long as they tie back into a library collection or service. Staff members are able to pursue their interests while they inform community members about interesting materials and services available at the library.
As connecting to the world through technology becomes a more frequent occurrence, it is more and more necessary for libraries to develop a way to communicate with community members outside of the physical library building. The New York Public Library has developed a system that works for them, and these tips can help other libraries to do the same.
What do you think about libraries using social media? How do you get information from your library? Let us know in the comments, email Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her on Twitter @AlisonJane0306.