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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