We begin our trip in western Canada on Vancouver Island in the provincial capital Victoria at the Greater Victoria Public Library. The Greater Victoria Public Library (GVPL) website provides service “to almost 300,000 residents in 10 municipalities” in the greater Victoria area and Brentwood Bay. On the homepage, the eye is first drawn to an animated image scroll of upcoming events in the library or services available through the website. It’s evident at first glance that the website has quite a bit to offer patrons online. Steampunk scavenger hunts and a language-learning program are two of the entertainment and educational activities available to patrons through the website. My favorite feature on the website is Tales from the Vault, which GVPL describes as “our ongoing look at local history. In it we present some of the stories you’ll find in our old and rare books, newspaper clippings and hundreds of more recently published books of local interest.” Anyone can access the enticing tales from the website.
Let’s move on to social media. The GVPL uses 3 social web tools: Twitter, Ask Now, and RSS feeds. GVPL’s Twitter and Ask Now buttons lie unobtrusively at the very bottom of the page in shades of grey and blue. The buttons aren’t hard to find, but they would be more obvious if they were colorful. The image below is taken from the library’s homepage and shows the Twitter and Ask Now buttons.
Greater Victoria Public Library homepage
GVPL has an active Twitter feed, and to date has
GVPL tweets regularly, either every couple of days and once in a while several times per day. GVPL both tweets about upcoming and current events at the library, good reads, job postings, links to relevant articles, and much more. The tone is upbeat and friendly, and the language is clear. GVPL often responds to other tweeters who mention GVPL in their tweets, which is a good way for them to keep in touch with patrons and reach those who live far from a branch or aren’t able to make it to the library regularly.
The Ask Now instant messaging service is often offline, and this is because they have set hours that do not correspond with their branch hours. Ask Now is closed Sunday. Monday, Friday, and Saturday, the service is available 1-5pm; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, the service is available 1-8pm. When Ask Now is offline, you can click on the Ask Now button and a box where you can leave a message pops up. The limited hours may be inconvenient for some users, who prefer to do their work in the morning, but it is possible to leave a message. GVPL does have a Fast Answers page that can be found in the drop-down menu under “Digital Content.” Fast Answers lists links to ready-reference sites such as dictionaries, encyclopedia, telephone directories, local organizations, and the library’s most popular websites. Fast Answers isn’t too difficult to find, but it might be helpful to some users if they were either given a link to Fast Answers or made aware of the page when they clicked Ask Now when the service is offline.
GVPL also has a news feed that you can subscribe to via RSS. There is quite a bit of overlap between the library’s news feeds and tweets. For example, both feeds posted about a job opportunity and an upcoming book sale. I think this overlap is ok and to be expected. Some users may not subscribe to twitter and may be more accustomed to checking a website’s news page. Also, the library’s RSS feed often provides more information than a tweet. Sadly, there was only 1 person who subscribes to the news feed compared to the 1,462 (and growing) who follow GVPL on twitter. While RSS feeds are useful for those who want to receive information, it is not a networking tool. Twitter, on the other hand, enables people to respond to posts and communicate with one another.
Overall, GVPL uses social media tools effectively. The RSS feeds don’t seem to be doing too much though and perhaps having news feeds on the webpage and updated tweets is enough. The Ask Now service would improve if service was available weekday mornings. It would also be a good idea if the “Send a Message” pop-up provided a link to their Fast Answers page when offline. GVPL’s web 2.0 asset is their Twitter feed. They tweet regularly, engage with their patrons and community members directly, and express enthusiasm. If I lived on beautiful Vancouver island, I would likely subscribe to their twitter feed and wouldn’t hesitate to use the Ask Now service. I wouldn’t feel the need to subscribe to the RSS news feed because I would feel confident that the twitter feed would keep me up to date and in the loop!