Saskatoon Public Library

We now head south to the heart of the prairies to visit the Saskatoon Public Library. Links to SPL’s Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook accounts can be found about half-way down the homepage on the left-hand side:

Saskatoon Public Library homepage

Yep, that’s a friendly pelican you see at the top of the shot. Pelicans like to congregate on the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon in the spring and summer, and the SPL’s mascot is PJ the Library Pelican.

On the homepage, the Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook buttons are green when inactive but change to their usual colors when you hold the mouse over them, which might make them a bit more difficult for new users to spot.

SPL’s Twitter feed does a fine job of keeping followers in the loop. And currently has

2,643 tweets

711 following

931 followers

which is significantly less than Red Deer’s Twitter account in a city with a third of the population of Saskatoon. SPL is using Twitter to post on upcoming events in the library, library and book news in general, and respond to followers’ questions.

SPL’s Flickr photostream has photos from the recent Speed Scrabble Tournament, a donor appreciation event, library anniversary celebrations, and the J.S. Wood branch archives, which has some neat historical photographs. On its own, the Flickr photostream is not much of a Library 2.0 tool. The albums have on average 100 viewers, and there are few comments (if any). But, I think the Flickr photostream has begun and has the potential to document Library 2.0 initiatives in the library, such as the Speed Scrabble Tournament or the recent Human Library event at the SPL. I think the SPL, and other libraries with photostreams, should subscribe to the less-is-more philosophy. I think if they choose a handful (maybe no more than a couple dozen) photographs to upload, they can capture an event without overwhelming the viewer.

SPL’s Facebook page is available to those who don’t have a Facebook account and has 720 likes, which suggests that compared to Red Deer (and perhaps other cities), either SPL’s Facebook page is more engaging or the people of Saskatoon use Facebook more than some cities. I’ve heard before that cities seem to have a preference for either Craigslist or Kijiji. For example, Kijiji is pretty popular for house-hunting in Saskatoon but Craigslist is more popular for the same thing in Vancouver. My guess is that it’s the same with social media tools. As Meredith Farkas points out in her web presentation Organization 2.0, one of the keys to using 2.0 technology successfully is to know your users, which includes knowing the kind of social media tools they prefer. (The Librarian in Black’s helpful summary of and comments on Farkas’ presentation can be found here.)

SPL’s Facebook page doesn’t have as much dialogue as Red Deer’s, but there is frequent activity and photos and events are posted. Occasionally, a post will spark an interesting debate, such as a recent post with a link to the New York Times article “Adults should Read Adult Books.” SPL asked “Do you agree with this author’s argument that adult should not read YA?” Some did and some didn’t. Similar to their tweets, SPL posts frequently on YA literature. It might have something do to with recent buzz about the highly popular YA trilogy The Hunger Games. But, it might also be the library’s effort to reach younger patrons that they believe are more likely to be using social media in the first place.

Overall, the SPL does a good job of using social media tools to inform users of upcoming events in the library, documenting those that have passed, and every so often creating dialogue. As with the other libraries we have viewed to date, Library 2.0 applications seem to generate a bit of a one-way street. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that libraries are making an effort to meet their users in their online environment, but users seem reluctant to voice their needs to the library. But, I think asking engaging questions, as SPL sometimes does on its Facebook page, marks a good starting point for encouraging residents to participate in library programs and services. Although there has been a lot of focus in online forums, blogs, and articles in the library community about how libraries and librarians are using 2.0 tools, I think patrons’ willingness to use these tools and themselves participate in a discussion with the library need to be further examined, so that a more fruitful two-way conversation can begin.

I used to live in Saskatoon, and I didn’t subscribe to any of these social media tools. I visited the library a lot, and so I assumed if something important was happening, I would read about it in the library. But, if I move back, I would consider following SPL on Twitter or Facebook (if I ever sign up again).

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