*This post is also from my LIS768 blog.  I was really pleasantly surprised by the great response my social media guidelines received from my classmates and Professor Stephens.  If I am ever in a position to make a policy such as this, I really hope that I can bring in ideas I developed with this assignment.

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One thing I dislike about a lot of policy-related information at libraries is how impersonal they sound.  Legal-speak, I think, makes people uncomfortable and fails to be really effective in getting people on board.  When I read through the articles and examples about social media policies, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible and personal they were.  What these kinds of policies come down to is how people represent their companies on their own time, in their own places and how to establish trust between employer and employee.  One line from the Headset Bros. policy found at Mashable stuck out to me:  “You’re representing us, and we’re trusting you.  Act accordingly.”

I wrote this policy with that in mind.  Actually, I am consciously using the term “guidelines” rather than “policy” because I think that by nature, this type of document is fluid:  I left out a lot of particulars and acknowledge that it will indeed evolve in the future.  The guidelines are meant for employees at a public library.

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Our mission at Everytown Public Library is to serve district residents in the pursuit of educational, informational, recreational, and professional needs by providing a wide range of materials and services.  In accordance with this mission, we recognize the importance of a web-based presence for the library as well as the right of its employees to express themselves and engage with others using social media.  The following are our guidelines for employees’ use of the social web.  This includes such things as blogs, blog/website comments, message board and listserve activity, and profiles at social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, Youtube, and others.

Represent the library well. If you are identifying yourself as someone associated with the library, please present yourself in a way that would be suitable at work and in person.  Be courteous, respectful, and helpful.  While you are always representing the library, also remember to speak for yourself and make it clear that you are doing so; the library as a whole will speak for itself using official accounts.

Share your knowledge and skills. The whole point of engaging online is to make connections and share.  Don’t be afraid to add value with your posts and comments.

Be responsive. Every comment is an opportunity to make a connection.  If someone complains or asks a question, be timely and accommodating in your response to them.  At the same time, however, recognize flamers looking to pick a fight.  Do not engage people looking to fight, and please avoid instigating arguments.

Be mindful of privacy. Make sure to protect the privacy of patrons, coworkers, and any sensitive information having to do with the organization.  Also always be mindful of protecting your own privacy.

Respect copyright laws. Always cite and link when using others’ ideas or words.  This is important for legal reasons, but it also helps us build good and respect-filled connections across the web.

Be kind. Let’s not make the internet a place for complaints and attacks.  Instead, let’s use it at its best, for conversation, enjoyment, and information sharing.  Be polite and respectful, and always remember to represent yourself and the library in a way that would make you proud.

Above all, we simply expect employees to use their own discretion.  We already trust you in representing the library; please keep up the good work.  As social media sites and their use evolve, we expect this set of guidelines to also evolve.  If you have any questions about these guidelines, please feel free to contact me:

Elizabeth Ludemann

ludeeliz@my.dom.edu

*Note: this post originally appeared on my LIS768 class blog, and I will be migrating those materials over here over the next few weeks.

For my brand monitoring project, I really wanted to work with a library I was familiar with.  Unfortunately this was quite limiting, and while my home library of Gail Borden Public in Elgin is not huge, I thought its size might be enough to sustain a search like this.  There was not a large amount of online chatter surrounding the library, but my searches and finds were valuable nonetheless.

Twitter

Since Twitter has become one of my favorite social sites and is quite a craze at the moment, I thought I would start there.  To begin with, Gail Borden has its own Twitter account, @gailbrdnlibrary, and they are quite active.  The library’s tweets range from reminders about programs, to links to their blogs, to musings on interesting titles, to links to community job postings.  The account has 236 followers, which for a service area of 123,000 is not too bad.

I found that a great deal of the online chatter surrounding Gail Borden came from the library itself.  In a way this is good–the library is definitely putting itself out there, reaching out to its community and prioritizing transparency.  I continued my Twitter investigation with searches of “Gail Borden” and “Elgin Library.”  I was surprised to find that there was about as much mention of Gail Borden the person (19th century Texas dairy magnate and inventor of condensed milk) as there was about the library.  The following screencap was quite a typical finding:

Tweets
At times, though, these searches yielded great results, including people’s thoughts on the library’s programs and book clubs, as well as people checking in on Foursquare.  In addition to searches about the library, I tried to search for people’s tweets to the library.  Searching “@gailbrdnlibrary” I found only a single Follow Friday meme.  I tried mentioning Gail Borden with an @ in a tweet of mine, to see if I would get a response.  I haven’t yet, but the library has begun following me!

News and Blogs

I am a long-time Google News and Google Blogs searcher, so I used these tools for the next step in my project.  First, Gail Borden has recently been in the news for winning a national award, and this has generated a great deal of publicity for the library.  The best part about this publicity, though, was getting to read the public’s feedback to news articles.  For example, this article from Courier News has a pair of comments that would make any librarian beam with pride:

Comments
Blog searching was surprisingly unhelpful.  The vast majority of hits on “Gail Borden” were again, about the dairy man.  The only library-related ones of note involved the institution’s involvement with the 2010 census.  This census project’s presence is actually felt strongly in every avenue associated with the library–Twitter, Facebook, the library website, Flickr, blogs, etc.

It is also interesting to note that the library itself runs a number of blogs.  The ones I was able to find are Good Reads; Movies, Music, and More; and Off the Shelf.  I actually ended up stumbling upon these blogs, and even as I look closely at the library’s website and online profiles, I still have a hard time finding them.  Ultimately, I think a stronger integration of all these online identities is needed.  It is fantastic that they are out there, but they need to be easy to find in order for patrons to really use them.  I combed through myriad posts on each blog and have yet to find any comments.  People are looking at them, however.  I was able to find the stats for the MMM blog, and the site averages 61 page views per day.

Facebook

Gail Borden’s Facebook profile is where I found the most significant online dialogue between the library and its community.  This is, of course, where a lot of people air their grievances or frustrations, and the library is (for the most part) pretty responsive:

Facebook Responses
The library also announces a number of things on its Facebook wall, one of which was an honor received by a particular Gail Borden librarian.  One of the best perks of showing off honors is the feedback received; here, you can see a few people “liked” this post, and one offered congratulations:

Facebook interaction
One of the coolest things about the dialogue I saw on Facebook was how simply it came about.  Sometimes, just posing a simple question can get people to open up to you.  As we’ve no doubt learned from Twitter in recent months, people love to share little nuggets from their life.

Facebook Dialogue
Youtube

From Facebook, I was lead to Gail Borden Library’s Youtube Channel.  Every video posted is announced via Facebook, and the library has over 100 videos.  Many are snippets of librarians recommending books and about different initiatives going on at the library at a given time.  The videos I found most fascinating, though, were ones of community members simply answering the question, “What are you doing at the library today?”  With their answers, they have added to the public chatter surrounding Gail Borden, and with a video like this, it is obvious what the library means to the community: