*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:

I have always been mildly fascinated by the simple ability to see what people really like.  I love the macro and the micro–everything from looking at bestseller lists to celebrity playlists on iTunes.

Image from Flickr user Cathyse97

So when I was asked to help out on a weeding project at the library I volunteer at, tasked with gathering circulation stats on the library’s collection, I was actually quite excited.  I have been continuously surprised by these numbers, and as I look at the books, I wonder why the numbers skew the way they do.  The 80/20 rule–the generalization that about 20 percent of the books in a collection will account for about 80 percent of the circulation–really does come out when looking at our collection.

On my third or fourth session working on the project, I came across my first books that were marked as donations to the library.  In all that day, there were three of these books, and of those three, two of them had never circulated.  I found this positively shocking!  Now, it’s not unheard of for a book to never circulate–I have indeed come across a few of these poor forgotten souls.  But they are are rarities, and to have two of these three suffer this fate seemed conspicuous.  So I began to think about why this might have happened, and while my conclusion might not be completely accurate (yes, it could just be a coincidence), I cannot help but to feel I’ve hit on something.

Perhaps, despite these donors’ very gracious generosity, they have taken on a job that is not theirs.  In library school, we constantly talk about the necessity of knowing our community’s wants and needs.  That and the ability to properly cater to these needs, is the true job of a librarian.  In my collection management course, we even touched on the idea of outsourcing collection development, an idea that seems so potentially damaging.  If you are literally not in touch with the community you are trying to serve, this seems like a recipe for disaster.  As possibly illustrated by these poor uncirculated books, the selection and maintenance of a collection can only be successful with careful attention and dedication to the community of users and potential users.

Passes/Tags

It’s official–I now have actual library work experience!  A few weeks ago, I began volunteering at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, my hometown.  Even though I’ve only gone a few times, it’s been great.  The first project I worked on involved transcribing, organizing, and even somewhat analyzing data about reference transactions at the library.  It was really interesting to see what kinds of questions people are actually asking and especially interesting to see how these librarians answered them.

The second tag you see above is my ID for my new contractor job at the Kraft Foods Research and Development Corporate Library.  Through the end of the year, I’ll be working on an indexing project–adding keywords and brand names to countless past reports that have recently been scanned for electronic access in a database.  Let’s just say that I now know more about cheese than I ever even thought possible.