Creating a Library 2.0 program for a public library

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Updated.jpg This entry is out of date, and will not be updated, July 2017


See also Bibliography - Library 2.0 | Social media instruction how-to for public library librarians | Social media landscape

The purpose of this entry is to provide information on the creation and maintenance of library 2.0 programs in public libraries. The focus is on enabling library staff to effectively use social media and deploy tools in their library 2.0 programming, as well as utilizing social media tools to connect with and create dialogue with library users.

Overview of current use of social media in libraries

Many public libraries use social media to interact with patrons and staff such as blogs, RSS, instant messaging, wikis, Twitter and social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Librarians blog about children, teen and adult topics for reader's advisory, community services, upcoming events, staff updates, job searching, author news and anything library related. Microblogging platforms such as Twitter are used for publishing news bulletins; social networking platforms provide a way for patrons to interact with library staff, and wikis are ideal organizing and collaboration tools.


  • Blogging -
  • Microblogging -
  • Multimedia Sharing -
  • Social Networking -
  • Wikis -

Current library training programs for public librarians

The following are examples of online web 2.0 training programs for library staff.

This program was developed for the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (PLCMC) in 2006. Since then, it has become a staff training model for other library systems. Designed by Helene Blowers and based on Abram’s “43 Things I (or You) Might Want To Do This Year,” the program offers 23 activities to develop web 2.0 skills such as: blogging, using Flickr and photo mashups, online image generators, LibraryThing, Rollyo, RSS feeds, tagging, folksonomies, wikis, online applications, podcasts, and AV production and downloading. See PLCMC’s Learning 2.0 blog for the program and links to other libraries using the 23 Things program.

This is eight-week program was designed for a fictitious university library as an assignment at the University of British Columbia’s School of Library Archival and Information Studies in 2009. Aimed at academic libraries, the plan is also useful in public libraries. The modules include instruction and practice on blogs, micro-blogging, instant messaging, media sharing, social bookmarking/cataloging, social networking and wikis.

Upcoming technologies

Here are a few social media tool public libraries might consider incorporating into their Library 2.0 program:

  • Social Search

Example: Yaffle

Yaffle is a new search engine developed by Memorial University of Newfoundland that allows anyone to search for the university’s latest research, as well as post a call for research help. Its designers envision the site eventually including hundreds of universities from all over the world (Church, 2010).

  • Social Reference Management

Example: Mendeley

Marketed as similar to for research papers, Mendeley is a free research management software application that organizes and indexes PDFs and research papers in a digital bibliography. It allows users to collaborate with other researchers and share information through public collections.

  • Mobile Technologies

Example: Foursquare

Foursquare is a location-based social networking site that allows users to “check in” to various locations and view other users’ locations. It also allows users to write reviews and comments about places, as well as become the “mayor” of a certain location by checking in there more than anyone else (Guynn, 2010).

Example: Vancouver Public Library contest.

Guidelines for implementation

Suggestions from the literature to support the launch of a Web 2.0 program include:

Information gathering

  • Think about the services you offer. Can your users upload content? Tag items? Identify gaps and under-utilized tools.
  • For large-scale changes to your library website, get input from staff, patrons and other stakeholders
  • Do surveys and focus groups (Cahill, 2009).
  • Create incentives for input. Use web 2.0 to make the process collaborative
  • Do research to find out what web 2.0 platforms patrons use
  • When practical, choose established social networking tools that require minimal staff time and effort to set up and maintain (Cahill, 2009).
  • Identify key characteristics of your user group that implicate design and marketing.
  • For example, Vancouver Public Library addresses the multicultural population of Vancouver with content delivered in various languages (Cahill, 2009).

Marketing and instruction

  • Based on findings, clearly articulate the payoffs for staff and patrons (Stevens, & Lillevig, 2009).
  • Market your web 2.0 initiative in a variety of ways, including word of mouth, posters and emails
  • Offer personal tutorials to staff and patrons who express an interest in the new service
  • Ensure, when necessary, that this instruction is available in different languages (Cahill, 2009).
  • Use staff’s talents to augment the program. Example from VPL: promotional video
  • Use users’ talents for projects. Example: 365 Library Days Project
  • Feature the new service on the library homepage; don’t make users look for it (Cahill, 2009).

Guidelines for maintaining and updating

  • Promotion should be ongoing; if patrons don’t use the service regularly, it will atrophy (Stevens & Lillevig, 2009). In addition, find out who isn’t using the service but should be
  • Constantly experiment in order to keep the program vibrant (Stevens & Lillevig, 2009). Don’t be afraid to fail. Abandon initiatives that don’t work.
  • Supplement the program with ongoing training initiatives (Byrne, 2008).
  • Create and update FAQ resources, tutorials and other resources in response to user feedback and questions
  • Monitor its use. Where possible, gather statistics on followers and the number of visitors/hits. Other ways to assess effectiveness include surveys, usability tests and analyses of chat and IM transcripts (Bejune & Ronan, 2008).
  • Have procedures in place to flag and address inappropriate use of the media
  • Make sure comments to moderated platforms like blogs are posted and, if needed, answered quickly (Porter, & King, 2007).
  • Constantly ask and make use of user feedback in updating the service. Constantly reach out to users with RSS feeds (Porter, & King, 2007).
  • Publicize changes. Explain reasons for these changes.

Guidelines for privacy and behaviour

See also Social Media Policies

Prominent emerging technology librarian Ellyssa Kroski has identified ten goals for a social policy guide. Her recommendations include:

  • using a disclaimer
  • avoiding sharing secrets
  • using your real name
  • respecting copyright
  • respecting colleagues
  • consulting the employee manual
  • avoiding online fights
  • using good judgment
  • providing value
  • accepting responsibility.

Kroski's points have remained constant in later discussions such as Tame the Web's sample social media policy with the addition of a short section on privacy. Privacy remains a central concern of using third-party social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Libraries are well advised to clearly indicate to visitors that their online participation in external social media sites is a matter of public record on the open web. This can be accomplished by clearly linking to a library policy where the library website links to social media profiles and by using the "About" section of a social media profile to hyperlink to the library's policy on social media use.

Future planning for network obsolescence

As social media profiles are often cultivated over a number of years, they contain a huge wealth of information and media such as photos that remain important to corporate users. When using any social media platform, a user should ask some of the following questions:

  • Can I export my information?
  • Does this site use a proprietary file format?
  • Does this site downgrade file content from the original?

If the answer to any of these questions poses challenges, it should affect how an institution uploads content.

The simplest backup solution is to keep a separate copy from the time of the upload. Social media services such as blog and wikis pose particular challenges for backing up given their evolving information architecture. Many such as the popular blogging CMS Wordpress do allow users to back up their database and it is recommended that users do so regularly. Microblogging service Twitter has a built-in backup service in the Library of Congress. The advent of cloud computing has given rise to more third-party backup services such as Backupify, which allows users to backup several social media services including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Google services.

Considerations for training library users

One role of public libraries is to assist users in accessing information using new media. Knowing how to utilize social media effectively while protecting personal privacy involves important information literacy and media literacy skills. For these reasons, many libraries have begun to offer social media workshops and training programs for their users. In implementing these training programs, it is important for libraries to educate users about the different uses of social media technologies - many are used for social networking and communication, but can also serve as significant sources of information and tools for collaboration.



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