“Getting Our Voices Heard”: Creating a Library Community Through the Use of Social Media.

Most people are familiar with the recent trend of libraries utilizing various social media outlets in order to promote programs and services. Currently, I subscribe to my own library district’s facebook page to keep abreast on what’s new at my local library. This widespread use of social media is an excellent way to quickly get information out to patrons and keep them interested in the goings on at their local branch.

Lately, however, libraries are starting to use social media as an outlet for the community to voice their opinions regarding what they wish to see at their local branches. These opinions range from the usual requests of more quiet study space and a better variety of books and media to suggesting how the physical structure of the library is arranged to make it not only more visually appealing but more useful as well. In addition, patrons can use the library’s social media outlets to be more active in programs by participating online.

Intrigued by the idea of a library’s social media page being used as a virtual “suggestion box”, I looked at a couple of libraries that have successfully used social media in this way. The first of these is the Surrey City Centre Library near Vancouver, BC. When the Canadian government awarded a $36 million grant to Bing Thom Architects for the construction of a new library, it was under the condition that the library had to be built within 18 months. With no time to conduct board meetings in order to determine what should be included in the building, library officials turned to social media. They created what was dubbed the “Ideabook” which incorporated Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and the library’s own blog to gather input regarding the design of the new library. The community posted pictures on Flickr of architecture they liked or left comments on Facebook suggesting the kinds of materials they would enjoy best. The result of all of this feedback was a beautiful new library based on a people-centered design and is a building that the community can be proud of considering they had a hand in its construction!

Then there is the LibraryYou project developed by Donna Feddern of the Escondido Public Library just north of San Diego, CA. LibraryYou is described as an “online university for the people, by the people,” and it allows community members the opportunity to contribute their own ideas and programming via podcasts and YouTube videos. Unlike most traditional library programming that consists of patrons coming to the library to participate, LibraryYou allows users to log into the library’s website and watch demonstrations on how to make balloon animals or create a podcast on how they survived the Holocaust. This is a great way for the library to celebrate their community by allowing them to show off their talents or share their life stories with others!

Allowing patrons to have their voices heard through their library’s social media outlets gives people a sense of community and pride in their libraries. It may even serve to bring those who are unable to physically visit the library a chance to participate as well. For example, Susan Chaves recently blogged on TechSoup about how to hold a Tweet Chat at your library. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful alternative for physically disabled patrons to still participate in book clubs and board meetings by accessing live events via Tweet Chat?

With social media so prevalent in our society, it only makes sense for libraries to use it to their advantage to not only get the word out on upcoming programs and services but to allow members of the community to share with each other and voice their opinions. The possibilities for how social media can be used creatively are endless!

References:

Bayliss, S. (2012, June 11). Case Study: How Social Media Built a Library. Retrieved from Library Journal: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/06/buildings/lbd/case-study-how-social-media-built-a-library-library-by-design/

Chaves, S. (2011, November 15). How to Run a Tweet Chat. Retrieved from Techsoup: http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/b/tsblog/archive/2011/11/15/how-to-run-a-tweet-chat.aspx

LibraryYou. (2012, September 29). Retrieved from LibraryYou – Sharing Local Knowledge: http://libraryyou.escondido.org/

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