I just did an informal survey with five participants using a single question, “What do you think of when I say library?” None of the participants knew each other, they were of different ages and backgrounds and they were from three different states. Although they all knew me and that I worked at a library, their answers were consistent in nature. “Old ladies with glasses, people going shhhh, book, more books, studying.”
The library I chose, Sacramento Public Library has been battling these images for some time. The library is well known in the county, with 28 branches and new branches opening or being revamped frequently. It has been a part of Sacramento for 154 years, even gathering funds for a new building in 1911. In addition I chose the Sacramento library because it is in my hometown, I’m familiar with it and have been influenced by its many iterations.
The problems facing the library in terms of public relations are that the library is not well known to people other than patrons. There are several reasons for this that I will address through the blog. The starting problem, oddly enough is that the buildings for the library, often beautifully designed are placed to blend in the local ambiance. There are signs of course but even they blend into the surroundings. The library has a wonderful logo, designed about a year ago which they also use on their website. Eye catching and interesting, the logo is kept on cards, on the bookmobile and book trucks so that they are a visible presence. However that kind of good public relations would be helpful in identifying the individual libraries as well.
The library has been developing a brand online with a presence on Facebook, twitter, and a blog although the blog was discontinued last year. However unless you knew what you’re looking for you won’t find it. I used several tools looking for the Sacramento library. Social mention and blogsearch took me to delicious.om where a search for Sacramento public library shows Sacramento public libraries bookmarks. Sever articles were there about the libraries service and they were easy to use and interesting. I went to Twitter as well and looked for Sacramento public library and variations on the theme. I mention that because with saclibr I was frequently sent to a San Antoine library of the same name. Blogpulse offered me a couple of tidbits on the library, although I generally got more information on the county than the public library. I also did a you tube search for Sacramento public library which gave me the greatest success in hits. I was able to find more about the library and their presence in other social media and some entertaining videos as well. The shaky egg song was a particular favorite.
The library has been making inroads in social media. They did have a blog, see splcen.blogspot.com although they have since closed it and moved to twitter and Facebook. The blog was entertaining although a bit dreary in color and the format wasn’t enticing. The blog was in Spanish and English which. The content however was good. Several authors wrote the site and led into different books or collections. My favorite was a mild mannered rant against the practice of spending huge amounts of money on funerals. It was entertaining, listing all sorts of things to do instead of funerals and included a video from Michael Jackson’s funeral, complete with Jenifer Hudson singing. It was a great lead in to books about funerals. There were only fourteen followers for the site although almost five hundred posts. I was sorry to see it discontinued, as it was readable and interesting although it was probably wise of the library to go to twitter and Facebook. I think I’d make a suggestion here that the blog be related to twitter and Facebook in order to gain a more rounded option.
The twitter account http://twitter.com/saclib_Central was active with 357 followers and over a thousand tweets. It looked like the library was responding to questions immediately. Must add here that the library addresses mostly the Central library population and there are 27 other branches, some with social media accounts. However the Central library is the most populated. It has become what twitter is, a question and answer service. The library also has a Facebook presence http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/saclibra which is another source of information. The site doesn’t look particularly well used and could have gained by having the relationship to the blog. There was a connection to Flicker though, which provided photos of Sacramento’s past.
The library has a number of items to offer its members. There is fregal, a service that downloads music for free. There are also free downloadable eBooks and audio books and videos. In a smart marketing move, many of the libraries have invited Barnes and Noble to go on site to demonstrate downloading free eBooks to their popular nooks. The library also has a very attractive phone app which connects users to the library and individual accounts, you tube videos, links to Facebook and twitter, book and media searching, a library locater, lists of new items and library events and a very cool text a librarian feature. In the mail library there is what is known as a premiere entertainment spot in Sacramento, The Tuskopolas Galleria. The galleria was recently chosen as the top pick for wedding venues locally. The library also has the Sacramento Room, which is a deposit for historical documents and ephemera of Sacramento. It is connected to The Sacramento State library and shares an online presence for historical photos but I have yet to see a link from the library other than on it’s website.
So essentially what would I do as an informal social media consultant? I’d encourage the library to go in the direction it is going with social media. They have a presence on Facebook, Flicker, and Twitter. I’d return the blog and keep a connection there as the blog draws in a slightly different audience. I would keep contact with newspapers and magazine, as the library has in order to publish articles about library events. I would also find a way to make the library physically well known too.