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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Yellowknife Public Library and Nunavut Public Library Services

Yellowknife is the capital of the Northwest Territories and one of Canada’s smallest capitals with only 18, 700 residents. The Yellowknife Public Library is the only Northwest Territory library that uses a Library 2.0 application to reach users.

The YPL does not have its own webpage but is instead nested within the city of Yellowknife’s homepage. Unfortunately, the YPL’s Facebook page can only be accessed if you have a Facebook account, which I don’t, so I couldn’t even take a peek. The link to their page is easy enough to find, but they should make it accessible to anyone rather than Facebook users only to reach a broad audience.

My post could end here, but I decided to look a little further and see if there were any related organizations, blogs, or websites that were using 2.0 apps. I found the Northwest Territories Literacy Council website, an active site with great resources on Aboriginal languages, literacy facts, and digital literacy (which provides information on some Web 2.0 social media such as blogs), and more. The NWT Literacy Council has a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page that include regular updates on poetry, books, youth literacy, the NWT 11 official languages, and much more. Twitter and Facebook are updated regularly, and the YouTube channel has 15 uploaded videos where you can learn about Family Literacy or how to make a foam book.

The territory of Nunavut has a population of just over 33,000. The Nunavut Public Library Services site serves all of Nunavut’s public libraries. The Nunavut Public Library Services provides vital services to those in the community, including a Borrower by Mail program, Reading Circles, and internet access. Although Iqaluit’s Public Library has seen major cutbacks in programming in the past, recently, the library has had a record number of visitors. Hopefully, as communities and telecommunications companies work to bridge the digital divide in Nunavut and as more and more people visit the library, library staff will be able to engage in 2.0 services and maintain a regular presence online.

I wondered if the digital divide has anything to do with the NWT and Nunavut’s libraries’ lack of engagement in Library 2.0 services online. I came across a recent article on the digital divide in Canada’s northern communities in Up Here Business magazine. Loren McGinnis’ article “The Digital Divides” discusses internet connectivity in northern communities. McGinnis says the digital divide “means some people have access to all of the information and services provided on the Internet and some do not.” The digital divide in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as the relatively small and sparse population, may explain why their public libraries use few 2.0 applications.

Perhaps there are in-library initiatives that I am not aware of that encourage patrons to engage with their library. As Michael Casey iterates, “Library 2.o is not just about technology.”

Red Deer Public Library

Before heading over to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, we’re going to make a quick stopover in south central Alberta at the Red Deer Public Library in Albert’s third largest city. Calgary and Edmonton’s public libraries both use a handful of  2.0 applications to keep in touch with their users, but I thought it would be interesting to check out a smaller centre. I’ve been to Red Deer before, and all I remember from the trip was buying delicious cinnamon pretzels in the mall with my cousins. After visiting the RDPL Facebook page, I am intrigued and may have to make another trip to visit the library.

The link to the RDPL Facebook page can be found on their homepage on the left hand side closer to the top, which makes it a little easier for new users to find. The RDPL also has a Twitter button that is easy to spot:

Red Deer Public Library homepage

The RDPL’s Facebook Page has 450 Likes, which was more than I expected. At first glance, it’s easy to tell that the page is updated regularly and includes conversations among followers, two signs of a healthy library 2.0 application. RDPL posts to Facebook at least once a day and posts include upcoming events in the library, new catalogue features, author trivia, related news, neat library or book projects, and even cute puppy pictures. Most of the RDPL followers’ feedback seems to be positive, which is good but doesn’t necessarily mean Facebook is being used as a tool for change. That said, whoever is behind the delightful Facebook posts is doing a great job of keeping patrons (and even non-patrons like myself) interested.

RDPL’s Twitter feed currently has

1,880 tweets

900 following

1,387 followers

Not bad. Unlike the Facebook page, though, the Twitter feed seems to be a monologue for the most part, but some tweets do respond to patrons. RDPL tweets mostly about upcoming events at the library but also about news in Red Deer such as rising gas prices. Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz on both RDPL’s Twitter feed and Facebook page about their new catalogue, which has some interesting personalized and social features and is worth reading about. Although the Twitter feed is not as engaging as the Facebook page, I think they complement each other nicely and use the respective character limits appropriately. To be honest, I didn’t expect this much Library 2.0 innovation in little old Red Deer, but I’m happy to have been pleasantly surprised.

Yukon Public Libraries

From British Columbia, we go north to the Yukon. The Yukon Public Libraries   “provides library services to Yukon people through a central library in Whitehorse and 14 community branches located throughout the Yukon.” The YPL has a clean webpage, and a link to their Facebook page can be found at the bottom of the homepage:

Yukon Public Libraries homepage

Like GVPL, I think that YPL could benefit from having the link to social media sites closer to the top of the page. YPL has a list of Quick Links in the top right hand corner of their homepage, and I think the Facebook link would fit nicely there.

YPL’s Facebook page can be viewed without a Facebook account. It seems that on average, YPL posts to Facebook about once every couple of weeks, sometimes less, sometimes more, and sometimes more than once a day. The library uses Facebook to announce upcoming events in the library such as upcoming readings and holiday closures. In December, YPL posted nearly 100 photos that document the Whitehorse Public Library’s recent relocation. Currently, the Yukon Public Libraries has 43 likes, which isn’t very many followers. It’s unlikely that I would follow YPL on Facebook.

Unfortunately, most of YPL’s Facebook posts do not encourage library patrons to participate in a discussion about library services and the way they are used. Unlike GVPL’s twitter posts that encourage and respond to user feedback, the YPL’s Facebook updates are a one-way street. In their article, “Service for the Next Generation Library,” Michael Casey (the man credited with coining the term Library 2.0) and Laura Savastinuk write that “at its most basic level, the Library 2.0 model gives library users a participatory role in the services libraries offer and the way they are used.” Although YPL’s Facebook page may look like a Library 2.0 tool, it’s not necessarily used as one.

Understandably, it can’t be easy for a small library system that caters to remote locations to attract a lot of followers. I think that YPL could attract more Facebook fans and spark lively conversations if they posted more often, encouraged feedback from and conversation among patrons on Facebook, and posted on events, news, or new releases of interest but not related directly to the library community.

Perhaps the library should consider creating a blog and joining Yukon’s Urban Yukon blogging community, which hosts over 100 blogs. Urban Yukon was started to give “bloggers more exposure and to help people discover and share information about what it’s like to live and work in the Yukon.” Sounds like a perfect opportunity for a librarian to share their experiences!

Greater Victoria Public Library

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 Vancouver Public Library Homepage

Greater Victoria Public Library homepage

GVPL has an active Twitter feed, and to date has

1,292 tweets

373 following

1,462 followers

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!