Prince Edward Island Public Library Service and a little wrap-up

Welcome to the final post. We’ve travelled from an island off the Western shores of Canada to another off the East coast. The population of Prince Edward Island is less than many of the cities we’ve visited along the way. The public libraries of PEI all share one webpage, one Facebook page, and one Twitter account. As shown below, there are two large, easily visible buttons on the PEIPLS homepage:

Prince Edward Island Public Library Service homepage

Both accounts have a substantial (but not astronomical) number of followers. PEIPL’s Twitter feed tunes into local news and events (there’s been a lot of tweeting lately about PEI Burger Love) and the online community (like this video of the Birth of a Book), and often with a sense of humor. They also encourage followers to share their favorite books and they respond to these tweets.

The Facebook page includes upcoming events in the library. And, it looks like I spoke too soon in the previous post when I suggested that public libraries should have a photo contest on their Facebook page, as PEIPL did just this in mid-March:

“Read Around the House Photo Challenge!

Beginning on Monday, March 18th, the PEI Public Library Service is encouraging children throughout the province to read for at least 15 minutes a day during March Break. To make things a little more interesting, we are asking participants to find different (but safe) places in their homes and community to read.

Do you think you have found a unique reading place? Upload a photo to share on the library’s facebook page. Until Sunday, March 25th we will be accepting submissions and the best photo will receive a PEI Public Library Service tote bag!”

The photos can be seen in the library’s Wall Photos album (it would have been nice if they had created an album for these submissions only), but there were only a handful of entrants.

I’d like to return to Twitter and take a quick peek at who the library is following, as I think the people or organizations that libraries chose to follow will have important effects on the type of material that they are tweeting.The library is currently following 286 tweeters (about 100 less than the number of followers they have). The library follows local people, businesses, and institutions, media corporations (for example, the CBC), library journals, and other libraries in North America. The list reveals a strong connection to other tweeters within the province but also a connection with Canadians and North Americans.

If we take a look at the Information Tyrannosaur’s tips for “How Libraries Can Leverage Twitter,” he says that librarians should use Twitter to

Report library happenings

Promote library resources/services

Build community

and Engage users

I can say with confidence that PEIPL is building community by following numerous locals and provincial organizations. They are engaging users by asking about their favorite books and posting contentious articles such as Joel Stein’s recent “Adults Should Read Adult Books” and stating the librarians’ position (“We’re all about NOT judging a person’s reading choices. What’s important? That they ARE reading!”). PEIPL uses Facebook to report library happenings. Some libraries that we visited in previous blog posts used both, which did create a lot of overlap.

PEIPL could, however, make better use of Twitter to promote library resources and services. They could report on new items coming into the library (music, movies, and ebooks included) or new systems or services. I’ve noticed that in many libraries’ Facebook and Twitter posts, there is little mention of material in the library besides books. What about audiobooks, DVDs, microfilm, magazines, cds, newspapers, etc? And, in general, PEIPL’s tweets (and some of the other libraries we’ve looked at) seem to be a conduit for getting interesting tidbits from the web to their followers rather than generating conversation about the library and its community.

I feel like I’m giving PEI libraries a bit of a hard time. I think my comments above could apply to most of the other libraries we have viewed so far. It’s only now that I have begun to see a bit of a pattern emerge. I think it’s time for a little wrap-up…

The Librarian in Black says that “many people (read librarians) treat technology like it’s free like beer but it is really free like kittens…they take maintenance, ongoing effort, and staff time.” PEIPL and most of the public libraries we have visited across Canada are doing a great job of keeping these tools alive and well. Most social media sites I visited on this tour are updated regularly (sometimes more than once a day) and often include pictures and responses to feedback. But, I worry that libraries are using social media as a way to filter interesting library and book related information from the web in general to their followers rather than allowing patrons the space to create the content themselves.

If I lived in any of the places we visited, I would probably follow the local public library on both Twitter and Facebook. I would be guaranteed to know what was happening at the library and have my attention drawn to amusing or important online media and publications. But, I might also feel uncomfortable speaking to a library (rather than a person) or voicing my concerns or suggestions in a public forum. I might not know most (or any) of the library’s other followers and not feel the sense of community that the library has generated.

I think it is also important to remember that Library 2.0 does not end with technology. Library 2.0 initiatives may include other forms of feedback and community participation. While writing these posts and thinking about Library 2.0, I was reminded of Chatelaine magazine back in the 1950s and 1960s. Emily Bruusgaard writes how ” the editorial staff [ ] showed a knack for opening dialogue and a canny understanding of the Canadian public of the time.” Readers often wrote letters to the editor in response to content. Sometimes, these debates would bounce back and forth between readers and sometimes an editor would respond. And, Chatelaine would have been aware of the issues being discussed, registered their readers’ needs, and tailored content to suit it. Indeed, Chatelaine was hugely popular in the 1950s and 1960s because readers were interested in the controversial issues discussed and the sense of a Canadian community (at times, a divided one) that the magazine created. I think what helped, though, is that when they were responding to an article or an editor, they were responding to a person and not an institution. There’s something a little strange about communicating with an institution when you know you are actually writing to another human being but don’t know who that person is.

I think the basis of Library 2.0 (user-participation) is then, not all that new. It has taken on a new medium. I think it may take a while for people to become comfortable with these new tools and the virtual public space they occupy and also to realize that the library values public participation.

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Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries

Similar to the Yukon Public Libraries webpage, the maritime province of Newfoundland and Labrador has one website for all the libraries in their system.

I searched the site for signs of Library 2.0. The website has an Ask A Librarian email service but no online chat. I found a Facebook Like button beside their list of Contacts. It seems that the Facebook page is available only if you have a Facebook account. This and the fact that their Facebook page isn’t publicized on their homepage might explain why they have 4 likes only. 😦

I did some searching around online to see if any of the branches in the system have a Facebook page, and it turns out that a few do. The Mount Pearl Public Library, and the Corner Brook Public Library have active pages with photos, events, news, and regular updates.

MPPL’s Facebook page has a really cool application that is new to me, but that’s been around for a while. It’s possible to search the library’s catalogue from Facebook! You click Catalogue on their homepage, which takes you here, and then you type in your search words (say “Fahrenheit 451”), and it takes you to the catalogue. For those who prefer to take a shortcut, they can skip right from Facebook to the catalogue without having to visit the library’s page at all. I would definitely take advantage of this Facebook application.

MPPL posts regularly and similar to many other libraries we’ve viewed, they announce upcoming events, post photos from past events, and comment on and link to related news. And, unfortunately, as with most other libraries, there is very little response to the posts and only a “like” here or there. It’s not necessarily a measure of who is paying attention, but I think it does register patrons’ hesitancy or lack of need to comment on a library’s Facebook posts. It seems that library’s are having difficulty using Facebook as a social networking tool.

The Corner Brook Public Library has a link to their catalogue and the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries e-library on their Facebook site. The content they post is similar to MPPL’s. They have some recent posts about a Silent Auction and a Family Literacy Day Prize Draw contest. These posts announce or document an event that takes place in the library, but the Social Networking Librarian thinks that libraries could do more:  “Use your facebook fan page and twitter account to promote a contest. This will more than likely get better results than your everyday posts and updates. Require your patrons to answer a question or do something on the page.”

An online contest would be a great way to encourage patrons to follow a library on Facebook if they don’t already and to contribute to creating content on the page. Contests that would take place on Facebook could be advertised in the library (instead of the other way around). An example of a contest that would work well on Facebook is a photo contest of a favorite spot in the library or a patron with her/his favorite book.

There’s no screenshot in this blog post. Although the two libraries’ Facebook pages both have links back to the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, the Public Libraries webpage does not have a link to these libraries’ Facebook Pages. Visible Facebook buttons on the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries site are a good place for the library to start to attract more patrons to the libraries’ 2.0 tools.

As a final thought, in an earlier post, I mentioned David Lee King’s article “Humanizing Your Facebook Pages” and his recommendations for how libraries can accomplish this. I wonder, though, if there are some limitations to the degree to which a library page can be humanized. Facebook is built primarily around a network of “friends,” of individuals with faces, personalities, interests, and complaints, and who have been ensnared in Facebook’s photo tagging system embarrassing themselves, creating art, getting married, and engaging in other human activities. People relate to each other as people on Facebook. Are libraries maybe a bit out of place on Facebook? Is it difficult for them to find their way in simply because they can only humanize their pages to a certain degree?

Halifax Public Library

The Halifax Public Library has a hopping Facebook page and a very popular Twitter feed with 4,016 followers. Unlike the other libraries we’ve seen to date, they have a mini twitter feed on their homepage with about 3 recent tweets that you can click to get to their Twitter account:

Halifax Public Library homepage

I am having trouble finding any Halifax Public Library events posted on Twitter, which is unusual for a library Twitter feed.

Oh, there they are. They’re on the Facebook page together with book reviews and staff pics. I think this is the first library we have seen so far that has very little (if any) overlap between Facebook and Twitter, and it seems to be working. I would likely follow the library on Twitter just to get my daily dose of interesting news. If I was curious about what was actually happening at the library, I would turn to Facebook.

HPL’s Twitter account reached the 4000 follower mark in early April, which is pretty remarkable. I’m curious as to what it is they are doing right, so this post will focus on HPL’s Twitter account (rather than Facebook) to try and find out what makes it so popular, and if it is a successful Library 2.0 tool.

After sampling some tweets, I suspect that the key to their success is that the majority of their posts have nothing at all to do with the library. So how does that work?

In “Twitter for Libraries (and Librarians),” Sarah Milstein writes that “the essence of Twitter is conversation. Libraries, however, tend to use it as a broadcast mechanism.” Millstein writes that “libraries on Twitter should encourage followers to interact with the library—ask questions, share links, re-Tweet interesting posts from others, and reply when people message you (those are prefaced with @ your account name).” HPL is setting a good example and trying to get some conversation rolling by posting links, news, and events outside the walls of the library and replying to messages. It seems that this method, rather than using Twitter as a “broadcast mechanism,” attracts the most followers, which hopefully leads to more talk about the library in general and a supportive community of patrons.

HPL tweets about Google doodles, CBC stories, the City of Halifax, the release of Census records in Canada and the U.S., job seeking, tech news, and everything in between. HPL tweets several times a day (they tweeted 6 times on April 5!), and the tweets are conversational and upbeat. NPL uses the character limit in Twitter to write a short blurb about something that caught their interest, include a # when appropriate to categorize their tweets, and link to the page where it can be found. Because NPL links to sources outside of the library and because they use hashtags, they have built themselves into a rich online network. They are responsive to user needs, too, as a recent tweet demonstrates. One of the library’s patrons asks if HPL has an iPhone app, which he says he would use. HPL responds: “No iPhone library app yet (except the OverDrive app for library eBooks). We’ll forward your suggestion to our web manager!” I think we’ve just witnessed Library 2.0 in action.

Moncton Public Library

Moncton, New Brunswick is a small mainland city of just under 70,000. The Moncton Public Library has a colorful and welcoming website that can be viewed in either French or English. The library has links to its Twitter and Facebook accounts about halfway down its homepage. I’m used to seeing these buttons either at the very bottom, the very top, or on either side of a page. They don’t stand out, but if you’re looking for them, they’re easy to find.  You can take a cool virtual tour of the library here.

MPL’s Twitter account has

667 Tweets

269 Following

498 Followers

and includes a small handful of seemingly random pictures. If there is some method behind the photos they chose, it’s a mystery to me. I think MPL (and libraries in general) could do a better job of carefully selecting the pictures they post.

Recently, MPL has been tweeting several times a day. As we’ve seen with most of the preceding libraries on this blog, MPL uses Twitter to announce upcoming events and programs in the library, notices and cancellations, trivia, and link to related articles or images elsewhere on the net such as this barn that was converted into a library. The tone is playful, for example, “Have you checked out our teen blog Your Space yet? Do itttt!!” and MPL occasionally responds to other tweets. I think the Twitter account does a good job of getting the word out, and it seems enough people are paying attention.

MPL has a Facebook page with 224 Likes currently, about half of their Twitter flock. They have a neat photo album with quotations from Moncton Public Library patrons writing about what the library means to them. As with other libraries, there is a lot of overlap between tweets and Facebook posts, which seems redundant and like a waste of time. It would be ideal if libraries had some way of knowing which of their Twitter followers were also their friends on Facebook to determine whether or not it was worth the time to post the same message in multiple places.

MPL makes an effort to engage with their Facebook fans, by asking questions like “Who has seen The Hunger Games movie? Love it or hate it?” But, sadly, they usually get only a couple of responses if any at all.

In David Lee King’s blog post “Humanizing your Facebook Pages,”  he observes that popular library Facebook pages are doing what he calls “humanizing” their pages. He lists the following activities that attract followers and generate dialogue:

  • Posting regular status updates
  • Interacting with visitors in the comments of status updates
  • Pointing to stuff that’s happening in the library (ie., lectures)
  • Regularly add photos and videos – sometimes hundreds of them.
  • They use Facebook’s Events feature to list events.

MPL does all of these things. And while 224 Likes isn’t bad for a small city library, there are very few user comments and only a couple of likes here and there. Both Facebook and Twitter are getting the word out, but are they successful Library 2.0 tools? They might be getting people into the library, which is a good starting point, but there is little user interaction, feedback, or content creation. Once in a while, a library patron will ask a question, such as “I was wondering if there is a photocopier there for public use?” or “Hi wondering if you could give me info on your children’s story times for 1 year olds and 3 year olds. Thanks!,” interactions that are refreshing to see on a library’s Facebook page.

I think that Facebook and Twitter can be powerful tools for simple reference/information questions like the ones mentioned above. But, I think librarians have overestimated people’s level of comfort in asking these types of questions in a public forum such as Facebook or Twitter.  But, are these types of interactions even really Library 2.0, or are they the same old library questions in a new medium? I think when we start to see Facebook or Twitter followers asking for programs that they would like to see, that will be a sure sign of Library 2.0. In the meantime, it seems that in the libraries we have visited so far at least, libraries are sharing with their patrons but patrons are not yet sharing with them.

Morrin Centre Library

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any public libraries in Quebec that have an English homepage and/or that use social media in English. The Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales du Quebec use Facebook, Twitter, RSS, and YouTube, but in French. They do have a strong following (6,279 likes on their Facebook page). The Bibliothèques de Laval uses Facebook but in French, too.

The Morrin Centre, an English cultural centre in Quebec City, has a Victorian library that is open to the public but lending privileges are for members only. You can see photos of the charming library here. Although it is not fully public, I thought it would be worth taking a look, as they do have an active Facebook page with 206 likes, not outstanding but not bad for a small cultural centre. The link to their Facebook page is easy enough to find on the Morrin Centre homepage:

Morrin Centre homepage

But, this is the only place on the site to link to the Facebook page. So, if you land on the library page, you might never know they have a Facebook account. It would be better if they had a little Facebook button at the bottom of each page near their contact info.

The Morrin Centre’s Facebook page announces both upcoming events at the Morrin Centre (such as Irish fighting stick classes), but it does include library events and a weekly book review. I was a little disappointed by the Weekly Book Reviews or Book of the Week (as they were called previously). They are usually only a couple of sentences or quotes from other reviewers and a photo of the book.

The tone of the posts is friendly and conversational. In his article, “Facebook for Libraries,” David Lee King writes that libraries “need to work on being personable online. Make sure your status updates read like something you’d say out loud. Sometimes, it helps to actually say your status updates aloud. If it’s not phrased like something you would say in conversation, edit away. The more conversational you sound, the more opportunities for conversation you’ll have.” This is great advice.

A post like the following from the Morrin Centre is both conversational and friendly. The emoticon adds a nice touch:

“Still looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift?

Why not go off the beaten track and buy your beloved bookworm a year’s membership to the charming library of the Morrin Centre? We have the most up-to-date and comprehensive collection of English-language novels, to keep the thrill going ;)”

Sometimes, the Morrin Centre asks for user input. For example, “Enjoyed a book from our library? Send us your review!” King writes that it is important to “share really interesting stuff about your library and the information found there. … asking about books really encourages comments. People love sharing their favorite authors, or which books they’d want if they were shipwrecked on a desert island.” The Morrin Centre does make an effort to ask these kind of questions occasionally, but I think they could be a bit more creative and ask more often to encourage participation. I can say that if I lived in Quebec City, I would definitely visit this library simply to witness its charm. If I was interested in events at the Centre or the library, I would join the Facebook page, but I probably wouldn’t do so for the book reviews. As King points out, it’s important to share neat facts about the library or its contents. The library must have an interesting history, but  no one’s writing about it on Facebook.

Toronto Public Library

I know it’s incongruous to choose Red Deer Public Library as the library of focus for Alberta and then pick Toronto, Canada’s largest city, for the Ontario post. But, I think diversity is good. One blog in particular caught my eye, the Accessibility Services blog. Of course, TPL has a plethora of 2.0 tools, but the Accessibility Services blog will be the focus of this post.

The blog can be accessed by clicking the blog button on TPL’s homepage:

Toronto Public Library homepage

And then choosing the Accessibility Services blog from a list of active TPL blogs:

Toronto Public Library Blogs & Publications page

As you can see in the first screen shot above, TPL has all sorts of Library 2.0 tools (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr). They also have an Ask A Librarian Chat Service. On their homepage, they have a blog feed that lists recent posts. This is the first library on the tour so far that has given this kind of space and priority to their blogs.

The list of blogs is long, which can be expected from such a large library, and includes blogs for people who are new to Canada, science fiction fans, and healthy living. All of the blogs use TypePad and have a similar layout. The Accessibility Services blog lists Recent Posts, Categories, Archives, and has an About statement. The blog’s About statement is worth quoting to gain an understanding of what the blog offers and what it wishes to achieve:

“The Accessibility Services Blog provides information and updates on current and upcoming library trends, programs, collections, and services to existing and potential TPL customers with disabilities, along with their friends and family. The blog offers a forum through which library customers can interact with TPL and share feedback and ideas, and communicate with staff. Features of the blog include highlights on special collections and assistive technologies available through the library, opportunities to get involved, and staff recommendations for programs, books and other materials.”

As I’m new to Library 2.0 tools, and the blogosphere, I was surprised to see how libraries have created very focused blogs such as this one to suit their customers’ particular needs. I think that the Accessibility Services blog sounds like a great idea, and an important Library 2.0 service as it exists not only to serve the needs of users (in particular those with disabilities, their families, or caregivers) but also to promote the library. For example, the blogs features Children’s Braille Books in the library’s collection.

The blog is young and was born in April 2011. The frequency of posts varies from several times a month to once every two months, which, by most standards, is irregular and infrequent. However, the posts are substantial and feature reviews of products, such as the Kindle, to evaluate accessibility and personal anecdotes of living with a disability (there’s only been one to date). There are very few comments in response to blog posts and only 3 subscribers to the RSS feed. I really hope this blog, and others like it, can attract a larger following. The posts are thoughtful and well-written, and I would assume helpful. But, perhaps they are too few and far between or perhaps the blog is too new and hasn’t caught on yet.

The TPL is dedicated to accessibility in its library and has a page devoted to accessibility at the library that includes updates from the blog. But, it seems that this blog is going largely unnoticed. Infrequent posts aside, how can a blog with a good mandate, a focused user group, and useful posts go unnoticed? Maybe the posts aren’t very useful, or they provide information that people already know about? Or, maybe there are a lot of people who read the blog but choose not to comment or subscribe? If I was interested in accessibility services, I may consider subscribing to this blog or at the very least reading through the posts. I wish that they did update it regularly though or perhaps hyperlink to outside sources in order to create a network and maybe draw some interest from outside the TPL’s community. While it is imperative for Library 2.0 services to reach users, I think it can also be important for them to reach the internet community at large. Some of the blogs I stumbled across when I was researching, I found because they were linked in to a rich network of discussions online about social media and libraries.

I imagine that there are a lot of little blogs like this that go unnoticed and eventually either gain momentum or lose steam. This brings me back to a point I discussed in a previous blog about the Saskatoon Public Library asking what can be done when librarians make a concerted effort to engage in 2.0 tools, but their users are either disinterested or unaware? Is it that the need for some of these services doesn’t exist in the first place? Is the medium wrong? These are questions that I think have already come up and will continue to be addressed in the following posts. I really liked the Accessibility Services blog, but I would like to see more content more frequently and perhaps a little more zest in the posts before I would commit to reading it regularly.

Winnipeg Public Library

With 20 branches in Manitoba’s capital city Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Public Library serves a population nearly double that of Saskatoon. Similar to the Yukon Public Libraries homepage, WPL’s main page is nested under the city of Winnipeg’s city services site, which is a pity since I think the library merits its own site. On the other hand, people who are new to the city or checking out the city website might be more likely to stumble upon the library site.  The library has several buttons that connect to its various 2.0 tools, which can be confusing at a first glance.

I checked out WPL’s Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube accounts, and they use them in much the same way as the Saskatoon Public Library. WPL’s YouTube account has only a handful of videos that range from entertaining in-library programs to informative how-tos. They also have a blog called Readers’ Salon, a forum to discuss books. But since we were on the topic of YA lit. in the previous post and because WPL uses Facebook and Twitter in similar ways to the Saskatoon Public Library, I thought I would focus on WPL’s teen blog Booked in this post.

I didn’t notice the Booked button on their homepage until I had already found the blog through the blog button at the bottom of the page. The Booked button isn’t very helpful since someone who is new to the library or doesn’t know about the blog would have no idea what Booked is. The same applies to the Readers’ Salon button.

So what is Booked? Booked is an engaging blog space for teens. Booked includes a blog, online polls, events at the library, hot topics, reviews, top tens, a link to the catalogue and the library’s social media tools, and a space called The Mash Up that I have yet to fully comprehend. There is a “What is a Mashup?” button on Booked, but the site is currently under construction. From what I can see, the Mashup is a space for teens (not for librarians) to post their photos, poetry, and create collaborative fiction. You don’t need a WPL card to post to the Mashup. So far, there have only been a couple dozen posts, but I think it has the potential to be a relatively safe online space for teens to explore and share their creativity.

The blog portion of Booked has been running since January 2010 and is updated several times a month. The posts are mostly substantial reviews of YA lit., book awards, and reading awareness such as I Love to Read Month. Comments on the blog are not enabled, which is too bad since readers might like to contribute feedback about the posts and discuss books that are reviewed. The Top Ten lists are for the most part subjective and provide useful links to the library catalogue if you click on a title, which is a great way to use social media to bring patrons directly to the library’s catalogue.

The online Polls are few but have the potential to get important user feedback. So far, the polls have focused on both library and non-library questions such as “Which of the following series is the most futuristic?” or “Do you use your cell phone during class?” People can suggest a poll they’d like to see on the site and while this might produce some amusing polls, I think the library could do more to include polls that relate to library services or the information and entertainment preferences of teens in particular.

YALSA’s (Young Adult Library Services Association) Teens & Social Media in School and Public Libraries toolkit says that when teens “have the opportunity to communicate with peers, experts, authors, etc. via online social media they develop social and cultural competence,” when they “have a voice in the future of the school or the library by using social media they gain a sense of personal identity and value,” and they may also see how positive role models such as librarians engage with social media. WPL’s blog Booked has the potential to help teens develop strong online social skills, a voice for their future, and a sense of identity as well as provide a model for how teens can use social media for educational, entertainment, and social purposes. I never want to be a teen again, but if I were, I can see myself using this space to write collaborative short stories.

As a final thought, here are some tips from Michael Stevens about how libraries can use social media to connect with teens. Overall, I think WPL’s blog Booked is trying really hard to engage with teens, and is keeping the posts fresh and relevant. I hope they can keep up with the numerous services offered on the blog and keep teens coming back.