Tanin's Blog

November 26, 2009

“Share & Bookmark” the Seattle Public Library

Filed under: Public Libraries — tanin @ 5:22 am

The Seattle Public Library has 199 widgets, hidden inside a little button, called “Share & Bookmark,” at the bottom of its homepage.

I tried a few of those—Y! Mail, Facebook and WordPress, and this is what I found:

  • By signing on to Yahoo! Mail through the SPL, I can email the SPL homepage to those on my email list.
  • By signing on to Facebook through the SPL, I can share the SPL homepage with my Facebook friends.
  • By signing on to WordPress through the SPL, I can write my blog post about the SPL with its name as the title and its name and link as a part of the post—which is what I’m doing right now.

So the SPL’s approach tosocial media turned out to be quite different from that of the MPL. The MPL “participates” in social media.  For example, in Facebook, the MPL has a presence like any individual user, and interacts with its “friends” that way. It talks about the hours of the library during Thanksgiving, and encourages its “friends” to come by and pick up special recipes.

The SPL “uses” social media as media (or tools) to publicize itself. It does not try to assume a “persona,” but instead puts out decks of business cards which can be picked up and distributed among friends. (Like restaurants that display their cards at the cashier’s register. “Did you like our food? Take these cards and tell your friends about us!”)

I feel the librarians of both the MPL and the SPL are doing a wonderful job. They all seem sensible.

Ask a Librarian 24/7

Given the small size of Monterey (30,161 in 2006), I think the MPL is right in trying to attempt to “establish rapport” with its community through a more intimate and personal engagement via Facebook and Flickr. (See “Facebook and Rapport” by The Other Librarian.) On the other hand, for a large city library such as the SPL with 27 branches, it makes good sense that the library maintains its integrity through its homepage. It also offers personalized service through “Ask a Librarian” for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

However, if I were to be in a position to choose between the two approaches, I would probably opt for the SPL’s. As some of my classmates pointed out in our online class discussion, my biggest concern is time. Engaging in social media definitely takes up time and energy. Another important thing to consider is the percentage of library users who involve themselves in social media. If the percentage is small, wouldn’t it be better to “delete the accounts” and redirect the energy and time for some other important functions of the library that can benefit the majority of users? (See #10 of “Ten Social Networking Tips for Libraries” by LibrarianInBlack.)

* The images are in the public domain, as confirmed by the Seattle Public Library.

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November 23, 2009

Monterey Public Library on Flickr

Filed under: Public Libraries — tanin @ 1:00 am

Monterey Public Library.  I think this is a good beginning since I am rather familiar with this library.

In 2008 when I was a frequent user of the library, I didn’t notice anything on the MPL webpage that related to social media. On returning to the MPL website, I looked for widgets, and found two—Facebook and flickr—at the bottom of the webpage. Not a very noticeable area. But I think it’s a good idea not to put those right on the face of the library website, because social media are tools that libraries use, not what libraries are about. Those who have some experience with social media will have no trouble recognizing them, regardless of their location.

This time I explored flickr, which took me to Montereypubliclibrary’s photostream, which displays 814 photos, in chronological order from the most recent to the oldest. Most of them were posted in 2007-2009 and show the events the library hosted, mostly for children—Games Fair 2009, Daisy Scout@MPL, The Flying Skeleton 2009, etc.

To be honest, in spite of my warm friendly feelings toward the MPL, I found those photos boring to look at. Maybe if I were someone involved in those events, for example a parent of any of the kids in the photos, I would have felt differently?

Pretending that I was a parent, I continued to explore, and found out there are different ways to navigate the photostream–by event titles (Sets) and by dates—either the date on which the photos were taken, or when they were posted on flickr (Archives).

Archives seem particularly useful for retrieving library event photos. If, for example, I forgot the exact date last June on which my kid participated in the event, but wanted to view and download some of the event photos, I could simply click the month on the list, then a calendar would open up the dates of events marked with relevant photos. Based on my imprecise memory, I could find and click the date, and get all the photos of my kid.

The problem though is that the Archives are not easy to get to unless one is really familiar with how photos are organized in the photostream. I happened to click the button by chance.

If there is a question about whether or not a library should put its photos on flickr, I won’t hesitate to say, “why not?”

But does a library need to provide additional explanations about who the photos are for, and how the photos are organized?

Why not, as long as its staff can find the extra time to do so?

How about the boring nature of the photos? When I retrieved the photo below, it was marked “viewed 6 times.”

http://www.flickr.com/photos/montereypubliclibrary/ / CC BY 2.0

At least 2 out of 6 were mine, because my computer crashed while I was viewing it the first time. Four viewings for a photo of 11 kids and a few adults. That’s not a very popular photo. The number of viewing for other photos was similarly low.

So how should a library get involved in flickr? I’ll have to think more about that.

Leaving social media aside, what I find appealing about the MPL catalog, which led me to revisit it today, is that it offers easy links to editorial reviews. I used to check out books—Lost City Radio, for example—based on the summary and reviews from the catalog records.

(This is me, not tanin speaking.) I like libraries that provide easy access to information about items I need. A functional catalog keeps me more connected to the library than any social connection it attempts to establish.