Why Aren’t You Here?

In my travels this week, I noted that a certain north-suburban public library had not tweeted since June. Curious as to the reasons for the lapse, I decided I should contact the library and satisfy my professional curiosity. And I still might. Instead, I decided to blog about it.

It could be that the person who was tweeting took a position elsewhere and her position remains open. Perhaps delayed or slashed funds have left the library understaffed and short of time for social networking. Maybe the director has found that they simply have too few Tweeps to justify continual use of the network. Or maybe somebody decided the whole thing is just stupid.

Perhaps I should have my head examined, but I remain among those in LibraryLand who believe social networks are a great tool for not only contributing to professional discourse, but for seeking library ubiquity–for getting hyperlocal. Blah blah, yawn. I know. You’ve heard it all before. Still, one shouldn’t pooh-pooh the potential benefits of these simple cloud tools. They’re free. They’re fast. They’re reciprocal. They can be collaborative. They push programs, services, and your brand.

Yet many astute library professionals, particularly administrators, have yet to bring their libraries onboard the social media boat. Others have made brief appearances on social networks only to disappear soon after. Another suburban library, one whose director is notably proactive about marketing strategies, has no Facebook or other social network presence.

This is the part where I might write, Everybody else is already there, so shouldn’t your library be there too? But I know that everybody is not there. It may often seem like everybody is there, but the digital divide simply does not allow everybody that type of access. Many public libraries serve very small communities or communities comprised largely of poor and immigrant families who can’t afford daily computer and web access. Many of these people have little or no experience with computers or the Internet. Many others have no interest.

I’m not a library director. I don’t manage a staff of programming librarians, reference librarians, techies, clerks and pages. So I’m curious about the practical reasons why libraries don’t use social networks, particularly Twitter and Facebook.

Please share your thoughts and experiences.

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About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

5 Responses to Why Aren’t You Here?

  1. maryakem says:

    We are trying to get uptake on social media in our schools and school libraries’ system With a population over 60, 000 it seems to ‘over communicate’ is key to our needs… but we face vitrol and skepticism. In stressed and shortstaffed organizations the desire is there but the reality of quick buy in is not.

    Still many of us are doing it. I just expect it will take 2-3 years to get any good at it.

  2. Liblyn says:

    I used to work in a library where discussions about using social media as communication and learning tools were not even allowed on the agenda, let alone actually being allowed to access the tools for professional development. Attempts to engage managers about these possibilities were brushed off with suggestions that it would be unprofessional to use informal tools to promote the library & to communicate with clients. Requests to take time to research what social media could do for the library and how that could benefit the wider organization were also denied. Funnily enough, I left.

  3. Jake says:

    Twitter, and Facebook, make it hard for organizations to have stable accounts. In both those social medias, logins are tied to a name. If that name leaves, or gets bored… here we are. For the former, there’s not much an organization to do. For the latter, there could be a whole host of factors. Say you decide to tweet because “that’s where everyone is,” only they’re not, or there’s no interaction because your marketing and/or social media strategy was flawed,…
    As for the digital divide, I’m increasingly skeptical. I work with a user population that’s as poor as can be and still be in higher education… and everyone has a smartphone, or tweets via text messages. I’m not saying that people with comparatively lower incomes should be tweeting, just that the costs to entry are very low, and at least where I work patrons have recognized this. Perhaps libraries should be teaching people how to use Twitter as part of a social media strategy. My two cents.

    • Thanks for checking in, Jake. I would have to take exception to any library’s use of that login argument as a reason to abnegate Twitter and Facebook. Countless libraries of all types are using those outlets, as registration requires nothing more than a name or title and an email address. I’m sure some facilities have erred by associating their accounts with a specific user, but in the event that person is no longer responsible for its activity, we’re talking about a minimal fix.

      I’m not positive what you imply here about the digital divide, but I hope all librarians, educators, and policy-makers have begun grasp its legitimacy. Just today my wife and I were scouting a neighborhood on Chicago’s west side, where the city is building a new library branch in order to reach out to the decimated, gang-addled community. It’s a war zone and the public schools there rank in the country’s low 5th percentile. A deficit to both itself and the city’s neighborhoods, the Chicago Public Library doesn’t currently allow branches the autonomy to push information and services via social media. Although I’m sure any effect of social media on this particular community would be slow, times are changing, and at some point, even people in this crime- and poverty-ravaged area may be able to connect with its community centers online. It’s a tiny endeavor, but an endeavor just the same.

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