Libraries and Policies on Social Media. Or – You’re Safe From Trolls When You’re Hanging Out at a Library Site.

“Computers are no more your friends, and no more increasers of your brainpower, than slot machines…”

So said the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, who passed away in 2006, thereby just missing the social media juggernaut released by Facebook, which though founded in 2004, only really hit the popularity jackpot in 2007. What would Kurt have made of the world we live in today? It’s not often that I disagree with Mr Vonnegut, but computers are indeed our friends, they do increase our brainpower. One of Kurt’s biggest themes in his books was that all the trouble we humans make for ourselves, is because humans are lonely, now we’ve lost our tribe, our village of family, of like-minded people. In this century, computers and in particular social networking, enable us to be connected – all day, all night even, if we want – to people all around the world. Are we still lonely sometimes? Guaranteed. But we now have the ability to connect. And if that isn’t nice, I don’t know what is! (another KV quote, lovely isn’t it?).

If you are lucky enough to live in a country with a steady supply of electricity, you probably have some form of social media. Or you’ve looked at it, have heard about it, or know plenty of people who can’t live without it. It’s pervasive, addictive and all encompassing. The 21st century plague. The reason optometrists grow wealthy (all that staring at computer screens and smartphones is making us blind, my optometrist tells me this every time I visit for a stronger prescription, and he says this with a wickedly gleeful smile on his face). Oh, and the most important thing about social media, it is SO. MUCH. FUN. 

Libraries are no longer just about borrowing books, and they haven’t been for years. You will be hard pressed to find a library in the first world without computers, free wifi, a dedicated and up-to-date DVD collection and notices up all over the place letting patrons know that, yes, you can indeed eat and drink here, just please not near the computers! Libraries are information centres, not just about books. We live in the Age of Information; libraries, being all about information way before it was cool and fashionable, have kept up. Researching social media use by libraries has been a lovely adventure, I consider myself both a book and information lover, and a social media maven, yet I had no idea how many libraries were tapping into social media. Until I looked. And here is where the problem lies for libraries – unless you are really, REALLY interested, you will not even think to search, to find that which you weren’t even looking for. It’s a shame, these pages, links, blurbs and clips are so interesting. In an internet full of dotsam and netsam, where do we begin to look?

I’ve found Facebook to be the most relevant social media source for libraries to reach out to the public and garner new patrons, mainly because almost everyone has it! I won’t quote statistics in this blog, I’ll just note that I only know of two people in my life who do not have it, one is over 70 years old and doesn’t have a computer, the other is incredibly stubborn and terribly private, even the thought of ‘sharing’ on Facebook gives her conniptions. I still love them both though. So if I average that out, that is only 2% of my family, friends, colleagues and associates who don’t have social media in some form or another. Wow! How fast things change?

Twitter is the next best way for libraries to connect with the public. The infamous “Twitter Trolls” seem to avoid causing controversy on library sites. Or maybe their pages are just well moderated… Whatever the reason, libraries do it and do it well, keeping their message succinct and to the point (well, that is what micro-blogging is all about!). A quick post containing 140 characters or less, an interesting picture, hit tweet and it’s out there. People notice the tweet, comment on it on Twitter, or even better, comment in real life and the message begins to flow through the ether and into your mind – follow this library on Twitter/let’s go to the author reading/see their latest exhibition/read ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ before we see the movie. Not too hard at all, is it?

YouTube, Instagram and Flickr seem to be the hardest social mediums for libraries to crack. As someone who’s only ever used YouTube to watch music videos, I couldn’t believe how many libraries and library related clips came up every time I searched. I had a blast watching singing librarians, time-lapsed behind the scenes videos, educational clips…I’m pretty sure my kids thought I’d gone bonkers, with all my giggles and snorts of laughter (yes, actual snorts, there is some very funny stuff library related stuff out there!) floating out of our study at all hours of the day and night. Although I’m pretty sure my kids think I’m bonkers, full stop. Instagram and Flickr have a much smaller audience, perhaps because of demographics? Instagram appears to be where the youngin’s hang out, far away from their Facebook loving older relatives. Flickr seems to be for people who take their photography seriously, and highly esteemed major libraries, and parents of young children with relatives who don’t live close enough to visit often. Though I could be pigeon-holing, Flickr just didn’t grab me like I hoped it would?

Social Media Policies are essential to maintaining library sites – public, scholastic and private. Maintaining the integrity of libraries has no doubt made many a library and information worker go grey – trying to work out protocol, guidelines and explaining to teenagers just why dropping the ‘f’ bomb on a social media site isn’t really the greatest idea. Most humans have caught on fast – what you write on the internet today, will most definitely come back to haunt you. Within the next 10 years. For sure. It is out there, just waiting for a future employer/potential partner/your parents to discover. “Keep it clean, jelly bean” is a motto well worth sticking to!

The link below is to the State Library of Queensland’s Social Networking Policy. After reviewing a few different library’s social media policies, it does well to cover all bases- protecting the library from comments posted by others, the definitions of terms used regarding social media policies and acceptable use of social media by staff and site visitors. My kids may think I’m bonkers, but it all seems like common decency to me!


Picture This – The Benefits of Libraries Using Instagram

First, a disclaimer – I LOVE Instagram. It gets me. And I get it. Since joining Instagram a few years ago I find myself looking at everything with the eye of a wannabe amateur photographer. There is just so much beauty and information in our world that needs to be recorded and shared. Photo sharing sites such as Instagram and Flickr allow us to turn our smart phones into top quality cameras – just snap, crop and choose a filter – and almost any photo can look like a shot worthy of a Time magazine cover.

So, enough of my gush fest. Libraries and Instagram, is it a beneficial relationship? Absolutely! Libraries are all about the visual, and so is Instagram. Instagram also has the market cornered amongst the younger demographic; according to Yellow (TM) Social Media Report from May 2013, 71% of Australians aged between 14 and 29 have an Instagram account. The other 29% must be grounded.

While Facebook slowly becomes ‘boring’ and ‘uncool’ amongst the younger generation – as parents, relatives and grandparents join up to the social media giant, ‘get connected’ and post embarrassing comments all over the place (this is what my kids say, so it must be true!) – Instagram steadily holds its own with the tech-fad lovers that are Gen Why Y. Libraries seeking new members can use Instagram to their benefit, attracting the technologically inclined type of patron, people who may have only thought of libraries as places to go when doing assignments or projects for school. I can’t think of one teenager I know who doesn’t have a smart phone constantly attached to their hand, so it stands to reason that being a presence on ‘fun’ photo sharing sites such as Instagram – tapping into the hashtag phenomena, letting potential patrons know that libraries are more than just books in the 21st century – is a definite way to catch ’em while they’re young and keep ’em ’til they’re done.

I follow a number of libraries on Instagram, not just because of my Social Media studies, but because they are interesting, informative and post fascinating photos that often inspire me to seek out a particular book or Google an event or author. The State Library of New South Wales (follow them on Instagram at publiclibrariesnsw) suggest on their blog, available at that public libraries in NSW should hashtag pictures posted on Instagram and Flickr with #nswpubliclibraries to showcase libraries and link photos with this hashtag to a group, encouraging discussion and a flow of new followers. This was posted on the State Library blog in December 2013 and so far there are 99 pictures on Instagram with that particular hashtag. By clicking on any photo, you are taken to the page where the picture was originally published and from there you double tap on the image to ‘like’ it, then tap on the name at the top to view all pictures posted by that library, press ‘follow’ and voilà! You are now receiving pictures in your Instagram feed from your favourite libraries.

Bond University in Queensland, Australia, recently ran a “Join The Dots” competition on Instagram during its 25th Anniversary celebrations, which coincided with National Library and Information Week. The idea was to encourage students to use the library’s resources to “get untwisted” when preparing for assignments. The prize was the Twister game, of course! It was a very eye-catching and clever idea by the obviously very clever and tech-savvy library staff at Bond Uni. Each picture posted was of a letter in a circle and underneath, a short informative blurb containing tips for study and staying on top of assessments and assignments – J for journals; O for orientation, I for information, N for news – and so on. An absolute genius idea! And the library’s followers increased substantially during the competition!

Pictures from Instagram – Bond University Library @ bondlibrary

Hell, they certainly grabbed my attention and I live over 800 kilometres away!

Cool Media – The Benefits of YouTube to Libraries.

‘The purpose of the public library is the pursuit of happiness first, education next.’

So proclaimed American librarian John Cotton Dana in his 1896 book, ‘A Library Primer‘. Click forward a hundred odd years and we could say the something similar about YouTube. It’s all about 21st century style happiness on this video sharing social media site, though at first glimpse it would appear any educational value from the countless videos uploaded by users daily is purely unintentional. Cute cats, music and stupid hilarious pranks everywhere. It’s terribly easy to get distracted…oh look, a cute cat eating a cake that looks like a mouse….awww! Be right back, I need to share that on Facebook!

But seriously, feline cuteness aside, libraries are all about evolution. We live in a world where people no longer need to visit a library to find the information they are looking for. If Aunt Wikipedia doesn’t know the answer, Uncle Google surely will, right? It breaks my heart to even write it, but books are no longer the favoured way to learn. Sigh. Lucky for us all, libraries are the best type of early adapters. Show any Library and Information worker a video sharing site such as YouTube, and they will show you the path to the future of libraries and information. Ask them extra nicely and they may even break into song…




Librarians Do Gaga.
Courtesy of Athenasbanquet

What’s not to love?! There are at least five librarian myths shattered right there. And a little subliminal education thrown in for good measure.

But wait! There’s more! Libraries on YouTube offer everything we’ve come to expect from “the hub of the community”.

There are tutorials on how to use a library catalogue –

Experimenting with the catalogue.
Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Animations on why you should use library resources –

Why use library resources.
Courtesy of MandalVandal

Explanations of the Dewey Decimal Classification System –

Dewey Decimal Rap.
Courtesy of Chenoweth Library

And everyone’s favourite, behind the scenes videos –

Luminous World Exhibition Installation.
Courtesy of National Library of Australia

Who says librarians aren’t a whole lot of fun? And clever funny to boot!

There are many more (slightly more serious) videos on YouTube from libraries. Channels such as ‘Dolly Parton Imagination Library Australia’, Parramatta City Library, Library of Congress and universities all around the world are tapping into the next generation of library users via the visual medium. If they don’t get sidetracked by videos of cute cats pulling musical pranks…

A Little Birdy Told Me…Benefits for Libraries Using Twitter.


Tweet from @ALIANational

I had no idea it was Library and Information Services Week until I went on Twitter today. A WHS course for work means I missed my TAFE Monday, so I would’ve had no idea otherwise. There’s a pretty decent benefit right there!

I also read in my Twitter feed that today is Library Technicians Day. I have my fingers and toes crossed that I will one day soon be a real live Library Technician, so I will celebrate this soon to be special day for me heartily by reorganising my books into Dewey classification and turning our kitchen table into a circulation desk. The kids can be my book lovin’ customers. I may even bake cupcakes and leave them in the tearoom for the staff (me!). See, the benefits to libraries using Twitter get better and better!

Tweet from @TroveAustralia

And to liven things in my Twitter feed, I follow some not quite factual but nonetheless entertaining Tweeters such as this gem –

Tweet from @FakeLibStats
It may not present real statistics, but there’s gotta be some truth in there. Plus it’s a good giggle!

There you go. Without libraries using Twitter, I wouldn’t know how much hard work special this week is for Librarians. I wouldn’t be eating cupcakes for dinner. And I wouldn’t be wondering how many Librarians actually are concerned they will be replaced by 3D images of themselves. There is so much information that can be shared in 140 characters (plus a decent pic to catch the eye) or less. Tweet tweet.