Last Friday I attended an event held in our very own Aldham Robarts LRC, on social networking in libraries. Given that we are about to embark on this area it was timely. I attended with my colleague Pauline Smith and this post is based on both our notes from the session.
First up was Gareth Johnson from the University of Leicester who premiered his new weasel video all about social networking. At Leicester they started off with a library blog, with clear house rules for content to ensure style and purpose - it's very important to decide who your audience is. It started quietly but gained voice as it was inclusive for the whole university. It has now gained official recognition and is referenced in the new staff pack. The team (core of enthusiasm) support each other and prompt each other for articles.
Leicester also have a Facebook page, it's maintained by librarians but they don't post content directly to it, it all comes from feeds from other places. It's seen as providing information and there is very little interaction. In comparision the Graduate school at Leicester have a Facebook page which is updated much more regularly and is a good example of a two way conversation.
Twitter - this is a good way of finding community and encouraging professional awareness. It's also been used an another channel for support.
Gareth said that using such tools humanizes the library and that a lot depends on the personalities, ethos and culture. It is better to start small and often and be responsive to feedback from users.
Next up was Zelda Chatten from University of Liverpool. In early 2006 Liverpool had many many subject blogs but it proved hard to keep this going - eventually you run out of things to say. However the most successful blog was the e-resources blog, which continues to be updated. This blog now filters information into Facebook and Twitter. In late 2007 a Facebook page was set up as another way to promote new resources and services and does get a good response.
Twitter was set up for welcome week 2009 and was publicised in all library inductions. Relevant and interesting tweets are retweeted. They found it valuable to follow others as another source of information - I hadn't really thought about this for our twitter feed (about to be set up imminently) but I will now.
Liverpool Uni like Facebook and Twitter - it sparks interest and keeps users aware of the library as well as giving the library staff a more "human" face. Facebook reaches those who never make it as far as the web pages and its free. Zelda also said don't forget the "lurkers", you may be reaching many more people than those who choose to engage with you.
Dave Pulpett from London School of Economics was next talking about their experiences. They have a marketing and communications manager - which I think is key when trying to promote library services. Their motivations for getting involved in social media was a need to keep up, a feeling that they should be doing it and to fill gaps. The approach is very much experimental - see what happens, some things will work others won't.
They used Twitter as feed for discussion on their library catalogue but as it was so successful continued it to cover all areas of the library. Like others they also have a Facebook page and their page is interactive not just static. They use Delicious and have >1000 bookmarks. It has proven to be a good tool for both students and sharing with colleagues. Dave talked about the way forward being mobile - Mobile usage will increase and we need to develop support for this. LSE have LSE mobile for iPhone, soon to develop an android version - this is something that is under development at LJMU too. He also saw feedback and how we respond to this as key, what do we do with what they are telling us via Facebook, Twitter etc?
Last up was Andrew Walsh, who had the unfortunate task of being last as the presenters before him had talked about a lot of the areas in his presentation. As well as a Facebook page they have two twitter feeds, one for the main library and one for the digital repository @hudeprints - the second proving very successful for academics to promote their own work .The twitter feed has been embedded on library web pages as well. They have a number of blogs for different purposes, some of which have proved useful for internal communications e.g. Information Literacy blog has helped networking continue between meetings.
Andrew also talked about comments and star ratings - they started with the library catalogue but now have moved onto other pages - we need to think about whether this is useful. The university have also used other web 2.0 tools previously mentioned by other speakers but Andrew also spent some time looking ahead. Some tools to be aware of are location social networking tools like foursquare - these sites use GPS software on phones to tell you and other people where you are. Layering information on these sites could be a useful tool.
All in all the afternoon was very interesting, as it's always good to see what other people are up to. I am glad we are about to embark on some social stuff ourselves, as we don't want to be left behind. But it was heartening to hear that we weren't the only ones who hadn't created a Facebook page yet.... I say yet... watch this space..