Going Social to Get Local

My public library has been busy growing a loyal local fan base through social media — we’re up to 2900 fans on Facebook and 2800 followers on Twitter, with frequent interaction and a place for our local community to interact & engage.  One of the best compliments we receive is when patrons say: “I get my sense of community from your library’s social media.”

Early this year we were tapped by the State Library of Kansas to develop a webinar for their “Library as Community Center” series. Since then we’ve also given it at the Kansas Library Association Annual Conference and NEKLS Technology and Innovation Day.

Susan, Jenny and I had a lot of fun showing the shiny personalities that we try to convey through our different social media platforms, and we pulled some of our favorite examples to share: from Captain Ahab on a Date to live-tweeting the NCAA championship game. Enjoy!


Bunnies with Moustaches, and Nine Other Things I Love About the Library

Plush bunny with moustache

There have been too many things to love about the library this spring.  At least five of them have to do with beer:

1. Reading Terminal Market and the Fabric Workshop and Museum

In March I headed to my first ever PLA conference, in adorable Philadelphia.  I roomed with my boss, and we watched “Friends” reruns in our hotel room.  So, it was pretty rad.  These Amish women at the Reading Terminal Market made the best sticky buns I’ve ever had in my life. Beer was consumed. But my favorite was the Fabric Workshop and Museum, where I met the very awesome Chicago librarians Vicki Rakowski and Ben Haines, and scored some pink plastic tentacles and a bunny with a moustache.  Then we saw Betty White.

2. The San Jose Public Library

Nate Hill, web librarian at San Jose Public Library, is my new favorite librarian — I saw him speak at PLA in Philly.  Imagine: self-published books by library patrons that could be instantly cataloged and then vetted by upvoting, like on Reddit.  And check out that sexy color coding on their website.  These are some of the brain children of Nate Hill, who makes jokes about dogs and burritos.

3. Erotic Fiction workshops

Also a Philly highlight: talking about smutty books with about 100 fellow librarians at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.  I learned that many erotic novels have purple or red covers, and I placed a hold on Fifty Shades of Grey.

Continue reading

Pinterest and Zombies

Aside from meeting the fabulous Nancy Pearl at Wednesday’s Staff Development Day, I also got to sit in on a couple of sessions by two of Kansas’ hippest librarians: tech wizard Heather Braum, and Matt Upson, mastermind behind the Zombie Guide to the Library.

HEATHER BRAUM is Technology Librarian at NEKLS, and she introduced us to 5 tips, 5 resources, and 5 tools to help manage professional information overload.  Heather started out by reminding us that “information overload” is as old as information itself, and that we have to dip in and out of the ocean instead of trying to drink it all in.

A few of my favorite librarian goodies of the session included American Libraries Direct, Dropbox, Mashable, and Lifehacker.  Lifehacker has showed me how to make a fridge out of a flower pot before, but now I’m inspired to try using it as a fun, user-friendly interface for approaching DIY library projects, too, like learning Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Continue reading

Nancy Pearl Admits She Plays Angry Birds

Our guest speaker at my library’s Staff Development Day yesterday was none other than world-famous librarian Nancy Pearl!  You may already know her from the “Shushing Librarian Action Figure.”  Or, for you more literary types, NPR’s Morning Edition. Yep, my library’s pretty hip.

At our staff day, Nancy described herself as a “reader” who comes at books from both a library and a bookstore background.  But public librarianship is near to her heart — she calls it one of the only two democratic institutions left in our communities, the other being public schools. They remain places where people from all walks of life and all ages can come get the information they need.

And Nancy is all about her readers.  When I was first initiated into the field of librarianship, I really loathed the idea of “Readers’ Advisory.” Too prescriptive and authoritative, gross!  But Nancy and her peers call it “Readers’ Services,” and she describes her work as collaborative: a conversation and a relationship between readers.  Ooh, I like that — sounds a little more Freireian!  And, argues Pearl, “people are desperate for ANY kind of direction about what to read… and that’s the role librarians can fill.”  Consider me a convert.

The heart of Nancy’s talk was the so-called Three-Legged Stool of Librarianship. She identifies three functions that are so important the stool will wobble unless they’re balanced: Continue reading

Captain Ahab’s Fine Seafood & Other Library Marketing Tips

I recently attended a Mid-America Library Alliance (MALA) workshop called Marketing at the Point of Contact.  The class was taught by Kasey Riley, who is Communications Manager at the award-winning Johnson County Library and was previously faculty at Avila University.  You may already know her work from JoCo’s new book truck campaign:

Always a sucker for a good Moby Dick joke, I came away from the workshop with a refreshed outlook and focus.  Kasey made several chewy points that are worth pondering — and maybe even debating:

  • Libraries often try to be all things for all people… but can that dilute our message and confuse our patrons about what we can offer them?  Focusing your message (and your overall goals & strategy) can help.
  • “AIDA” is a gold standard of the marketing industry: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.  Patrons probably won’t “act” unless you’ve gotten them past the other 3 phases, first.
  • Use quantifiable goals and objectives to plan your promotional strategy.  If you want 5 more people to join your regular monthly group,  plan a strategy that will help you accomplish that specific goal.
  • “Shoot ’em Straight!” Kasey recommended using simple, positive, more customer-centric language when we communicate with our patrons, such as “Questions?” instead of “Reference,” and “Teen” instead of “YA.”
  • Another simple, positive patron communication: name tags! Aliases can be used if staff safety is a concern.

My biggest takeaway of the morning was Kasey’s multi-faceted approach to moving patrons to action, including:

  • professional & consistent signage
  • a website presence
  • social media posts (e.g. library and personal facebook & twitter pages)
  • blog posts (library and personal blogs)
  • targeted emails
  • word-of-mouth

One trick she uses is to formulate 3 bullet points about the service or event she’s promoting, and then she asks her colleagues, friends, and family to share those 3 bullet points throughout their networks, to create a ripple effect of awareness.  This is so easy to do, and I’ve already started including “please share this with your friends and family” in all of my promotional communications.

Kasey’s workshop inspired me to remain focused in my work goals and planning, and to avoid spreading myself so thin that I can’t adequately promote each special event.  I’m also excited to be developing a “promotions toolkit” for anyone at my library who hosts a special event for adults, to help demystify the process of promoting it.

Library folks: if you ever have the chance to take a workshop with Kasey Riley, I recommend it!

Library Camp Was Great!

Two thumbs up to my first Unconference!  Library Camp Kansas was a great experience, and I feel a lovely sense of professional (re)invigoration.  I am feeling a little under the weather this week and so not up to my usual exhaustive recap 😉 … but wanted to share a few highlights.

Being an Unconference, we didn’t determine the topics for discussion until the morning of — and, little surprise here, the topics trended towards the techie — Google +, what’s going to happen with ebooks, augmented reality & QR codes, mobile reference, etc.  There were also a sprinkling of sessions on advocacy and (my fav topic ever) library programs show & tell.

I think it’s neat, and telling, that a fluid format like the unconference drew a lot of creative and tech savvy types, more so than I’ve perhaps seen at other recent librarian gatherings.  I saw a lot of iPads!  And smartphones, and a very active #libcampks11 twitter feed.  And yes — even more important than the toys & gadgets — lots of great ideas & energy.

Among my fav. tools & ideas shared on Friday:

My favorite discussion of the day might have been the last on mobile reference.  I shared a few examples from Lawrence Public Library’s social media team, where we sometimes offer guerrilla-style twitter reference, tweeting reading recommendations, catalog links, and database suggestions to tweeters with random, “hey, I wonder…” style tweets; we also heard some fun stories from librarians who’ve used iPads and smartphones to “blow up” the reference desk.

Looking forward to next year’s Library Camp — thanks again to the fabulous organizers for a job well done, and their MANY great online resources housed in the Library Camp KS wiki.

Library Camp

I’m going to Library Camp!

Wet Hot American Summer

This Friday I’m headed to Manhattan, KS, for the very first time to meet up with librarians around the state for an “unconference.”  According to the Library Camp Kansas wiki, this event is for “anyone who is interested in […] customer-friendly libraries, library 2.0 and how we can all improve our services and organizations to meet the needs of our communities.”  Great!  I’ve been spending a LOT of time thinking about library usability lately, so this is going to be right up my alley.  More on that in a very near-future post…

Among the things I’m excited about for Friday:

  • QR code name badges (I just loaded my Android with a shiny new QR app)
  • “Battledecks: Competitive Blind PowerPoint Improv” (What?)
  • Conference tweeting.  Or, I guess, unconference tweeting.  I might be a bad tweeter, but I really love tweeting at un/conferences!

See you there ~ I’ll be the one in the Bananasuit.

Hey, KLA

Things have been busy for my real-life alter-ego, Rachel Smalter Hall.  Last week I squeezed in a few hours to go to Topeka for the annual Kansas Library Association conference.  I absolutely loved Johnson County Library’s talk on “Free Range Librarians,” aka blowing up the reference desk!  Hilariously, they spent a lot of time discussing health and personal safety concerns for librarians who have to spend up to 90 minutes at a time not sitting at a desk.  I think it speaks volumes that this is even a legitimate conversation for our profession to be having.  Kudos to JoCo Libraries for going renegade!

In other news, author Charles Shields came and went last Thursday (the same day as KLA…), leaving a packed auditorium full of happy Lawrence Public Library patrons in his wake.  A few twitter friends even stopped by, including @larryvillelife!  Verdict? Our Read Across Lawrence Kickoff was pretty awesome.  The Lawrence Journal World even published a nice little article about it the next morning.

Remixing the Library

Last Friday, Angela Murillo and I had a fantastic time presenting our keynote at the University of Iowa B Sides Conference, “Unpacking the ‘Library’: Exploring Works in Progress Across the Fields of LIS.” And although I’m having trouble embedding the ol’ Prezi presentation in WordPress… I hope you’ll check it out here.  Here’s a screenshot to entice you:

Remixing The Library presentation screenshot

And here are our presentation notes.  You can click on any of these headings to go straight to that portion of the keynote:

I. Overview
II. Introductions
III. An Innovating Profession

a. Classification
b. Catalogs
c. Open Source Tools
d. Open Access Journals
e. Institutional Repositories
f. Creative Commons

IV. Building B Sides
V. Building Tools in the Future
VI. And B Sides is Still Innovating…

Or, just continue to view notes from the entire presentation: Continue reading

Librarians Taking Charge

This month, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on what I’d like to say to a room full of aspiring librarians.  B Sides Co-Founder Angela Murillo and I were invited to give a keynote at the Unpacking the “Library” conference at the University of Iowa on March 25th, which is literally just a few days away.

Deweyfree PolaroidWe immediately knew we wanted to talk about the importance of innovation and creativity in our field.  These were the driving forces behind the birth of B Sides, and ideas we’re both very passionate about.  As we started collecting our thoughts, we realized we wanted to dig up the “creation stories” of some of our favorite library innovators — from Melvil Dewey to the Maricopa County Deweyless Library; from Charles Folsom’s hole-punched card catalog to Oakville Ontario’s BiblioCommons Social OPAC — and share those inspiring stories with our peers.

But it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally recognized what’s at the core of what I want to share on Friday, which is the advice to: Take ownership — realize that no one else is going to fix this for you or give you a break.  You are your institution’s best advocate.

I think my profession tends to defer to those whom we view as “authorities” — database vendors, product distributors, city council members — and trust them to act benignly in our best interests, making things better for us.  But that’s not how it really works, usually, and we don’t have to buy into that fiction.  We can make our own decisions and advocate for ourselves.  I remember feeling so professionally empowered and liberated when Angela and I realized that we could take ownership of our ideas and choose to make things really happen for ourselves last year, and that epiphany has become a driving force in my career.

I’m looking forward to sharing the rest with you on Friday.  Stay tuned for our presentation notes and slides!