Thursday, 23 July 2015

Useful social media,the myth of the Digital Native, and a much better alternative


Visitors and Residents (or V&R) is a really useful way of thinking about how people interact online and use social media. In short, people in Visitor mode come online to complete a particular task, and then leave - with very little trace of their activity remaining. People in Residents mode are more likely to identify as themselves and use the web as a social space, sharing as well as obtaining information.
Visitors and Residents is a continuum which all of us are on, moving between the two according to our needs at any given time. It was first proposed by Le Cornu and White, and (David) White has a very useful section of his site to introduce the topic in more detail.

As libraries, it's really useful to think about how we go about catering for users in both modes. Social media isn't all about social networks - we can use social media platforms to provide easy entry points for Visitors seeking information (a lot of the platforms I've set up at York should provide utility even for students and staff who don't use social media at all), AND we can use it to add our voice to a more Residential space and provide help and information as part of a community. Led very much by Donna Lanclos's views on the subject, I now see V&R as a far more constructive lens through which to view peoples' online behaviour than the 'Digital Natives' idea, which is extremely prevalent and asks us to make assumptions about our users based on their date of birth.

I was invited to give a keynote at the Interlend conference, and asked specifically to talk about social media. As I've mentioned before I think a keynote is a very specific thing, and has different requirements to a regular conference presentation where I could, for example, just report back on what my institution is doing to engage users online. A keynote needs an overarching theme which gives people a way of looking at the world, as well as specific ideas and things for people to try out. With this in mind, my #Interlend2015 talk was entitled Visitors and Residents: Useful Social Media in Libraries.

The Presentation

The actual slides I used will be available on the FiL website shortly, but they won't make that much sense without me talking over the top of them so I've redone them to stand alone online. Here they are. (I get really excited about slide design. It's the one part of me that is remotely visually artistic, and I loved using a slightly different style for this slide-deck and learning new tricks. I found new sources of images - listed on the final slides - and a couple of new fonts, used a lot of darkening and blurring of images so I could write directly onto them, and generally tried REALLY hard with these!)

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Marketing the Library through annual reports

In academic libraries we're all seeking ways to deepen our relationships with the Departments we look after, and at York we've found a really valuable tool for doing this. Each year we come up with an Action Plan for each Department, and we discuss and modify this at a meeting with each Head of Department and Library Rep. Then over the following year we carry out the actions we agreed. It doesn't sound like that revelatory an idea, but the point is it's a genuine and meaningful piece of progress we've made - we get a lot done via this method.

For this year's Action Plans we made a change to the format and turned them into more of an annual report. The slides above are an adapted version of a presentation I gave at #BLA15, the Business Librarians Association Conference in Liverpool last month. It's only a brief overview, but it covers a process we've found really valuable, and which the academic Departments have found useful too.

The conference itself was great! As ever. I could only go to the first day but I enjoyed all the presentations I saw, and Jess has put together a really nice write-up of all the presentations which you can read on her blog here.

I particularly got a lot out of Emma Thompson's talk, which is worth checking out on Slideshare. Her idea about providing the library as a 'business' for PGT students doing their Market Research module to do actual market research about, is one I'm really interested in trying out here. The students get real experience and the library gets useful feedback - brilliant.

Monday, 20 July 2015

In Australian librarianship there's room to breathe

Earlier this yeaer I ran some library marketing workshops in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. I was invited over to do this by PiCS, who were wonderful to work with and really looked after me. I don't normally write 'this is what I did' type blog posts, but working in Australia was one of the most amazing things I've ever done! So it seems silly not to write a little about it.

Australian librarians are ace. Engaged, reflective, getting things done. The marketing workshop relies on people being happy and able to discuss what they're doing and thrash out ideas in small groups, and every one of the delegates did this brilliantly.

I've now run a lot of workshops in my freelance career, so I hopefully have a good feel for the level at which to pitch them. What struck doing these was what a high level Australian info pros are working at. I had to adjust the tone of the training as I went along because everyone already doing a lot of things I was suggesting. To take one example - there's a section on marketing with video, and using nice animation tools to move away from tired talking-head or screen-capture videos. In every single workshop in Australia, participants were already using these tools at their own institutions. In the UK I'm used to maybe one or two institutions in a group of delegates who have used these tools already.

I don't mean this is a slight on UK librarians - I think what it comes down to is that there is room to breathe in the Australian library system. Although they are facing financial cuts there is nothing like the crisis facing libraries in the UK. They aren't being attacked by their own Government the whole time. And when you don't spend all your time fighting for survival, that frees you up to experiment, to prioritise, to innovate. It seems to really make a huge difference. (I also spoke to Australians who put their libraries being ahead of the curve down to the fact that they're an island who traditionally had to find answers by doing, rather than waiting to hear about the rest of the world was up to...)

The other main difference to my eyes - and I was only there for six days so I'm sure there are plenty of nuances I missed - is how integrated the libraries are with the rest of a city's public buildings. For example in Brisbane, a Library is part of the City Council regional business centre. And the the State Library of Queensland, also in Brisbane, sits right in the middle of the cultural quarter on the south bank of the river, within the Queensland Cultural Centre, in between the Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art. It's a destination - not just somewhere a council can save money by slashing services.
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