Taking the manager’s chair of a library that has had many managers over the last few years is like trying to sit in a perpetually spinning chair, inside a revolving door. I expected to encounter resistance to change, lack of confidence, and a general ambivalence that comes from a staff who has had to fend for itself more often than not. My expectations proved flawed. The library staff members were more than ready to roll up their sleeves and not only support, but embrace my ideas for change!
What I hadn’t expected was to encounter the massive, yet weak online presence of my library branch. As I sat pondering this post, I wondered what colloquialism to use. “Herding cats” and “keeping puppies in a box” came to mind. Then I remembered the first time I encountered (was sucked into) the King online game of Papa Pear Saga.
The basic premise is that there is a little character, Papa Pear, who has a goal of reaching buckets as he is shot out of a cannon. He has to either purposefully touch items or bounce off obstacles on his path to his target. How he gets there determines how many points the player is awarded. (This online game will probably provide fodder for several posts…) Somewhere along the way, our little friend encounters pea pods. These seemingly easy-to-get-past obstacles are a mixed blessing. As Papa bounces off the pod, the peas burst out of their pods–creating a minefield of peas. How you help him navigate the minefield is up to you, and will either help or hinder the player as he tries to earn points, and successfully complete the level. The minefield of little green peas is what I have encountered as I am endeavoring to use the world wide web to promote services and manage the public’s view of the library.
I began with the basics. I knew we had a Facebook account, a Twitter account, and that review sites such as Yelp referenced the library. A little investigation uncovered that while social media sites are probably the most obvious, they comprise the smallest portion of the library’s online presence. How should I clean up and enhance this virtual persona? How can a manager make the most professional statements about services offered, mission statements, and wonderful library resources?
Step one: Log on and update the known sites. This step took a bit of doing. First, one had to track down the user name and password. Note to self: Keep a spreadsheet and pass it on to the next manager. After successfully updating and gaining access to the official library social media sites, I began to tackle the review sites. This involved a process called claiming your business. After checking with the county library policies and appropriate upper level management, I was given the green light to claim the business. This was relatively simple, and I am eager to be in a position to respond to both positive and negative reviews.
Step two: Work from the known to the unknown. I conducted a Google search to see how many, and what kind of hyperlinks, referenced the library. Making note of general directory sites that are based on standard telephone book formats, I began clicking on links that hit on any reference of the library name. This yielded various local news websites, news articles, other agencies that support the library’s efforts, as well as obsolete web pages created by former library employees. As I did this, the pea pods began to burst and fill my to do list with tiny green peas.
Step three: Prioritize and tackle the pea pod explosion. My thought was to tackle the obsolete web pages first, because they provided outdated or incorrect information. Not being proficient at hacking web sites, this has been a real education in contacting large online corporations, convincing them that I am legitimate, and working with them to change ownership of the websites. This has not been easy because these web site platforms are very careful to maintain the privacy and access to the dashboards of their sites. Once access is granted, the decision to delete the page, or incorporate it into the current online presence of the library can be made.
Step four: Visit the directory based listings and update them by either anonymously posting correct hours of operation, uploading current photos of the library, and commenting on how wonderful the place is to visit; or by claiming the business and take a professional approach of updating the information by including a bio blurb, mission statement, or other official information. The decision on which directory services to claim was based on whether it was fee-paid advertising, or a free service.
Step five: Check back once every couple of weeks. Like the pea pods of Papa Pear, each time you conduct a search, or click on a web page, the explosion of information begins anew. Keeping the most prolific sites such as Facebook and Twitter updated and engaging, interacting with the public on review sites such as Yelp and Foursquare, and developing awareness of which directory sites point to your library can feel like a full-time job. Absent the payroll dollars for a full time technology librarian, I have decided to play this game once a week. Like playing Papa Pear Saga, getting to the next level is very important, but I can’t let it be all-consuming.
Now it’s time to get back to work weeding, merchandising, managing, personally connecting with my staff and patrons, and perhaps even reading a book for my next review.