INFO SKILLS: Essential social media skills for librarians (and others)

6175154545_79fc17d7e8_bIn all my years in local government I’ve not come across anyone so Militantly passionate about the job they do than librarians.

So, it was great to be able to sit down with 12 of them and talk to them about social media and how it could work for them. Walsall Council countryside ranger Morgan Bowers came along too and I’ve hardly finished a training session over the past few years without pointing to her as an excellent example of what a frontline officer can do with social media.

For those that don’t know she blogs, she tweets, she Facebooks and she posts images to Flickr. She’s also written an e-book entitled with great confidence and surity ‘The Bees of Walsall Vol: 1.’ Almost 2,000 people have downloaded the e-book which for me redefines how you should approach an audience.

Firstly, here are some links which show what is possible. It’s vital to look outside of the sector that you work in which is what we did here.

Some basic principles

‘Organisations Don’t Tweet People Do’ is a book by Euan Semple. Even if you don’t buy the book – and you should it’s great – then think of the clear advice that sentance gives. Human beings respond to human beings and not logos.

345712329_f1375f13c0_o‘Be human.’ is good advice on how to engage with people over the social web. In fact it’s good advice for life.

‘The 80/20 principle’ is a good way of looking at a great many things. On the social web it works out as 80 per cent conversational and 20 per cent the stuff you really want people to know. So be sparing with your library events and talk – and share – about other things.

Good social media

Appliances Online Facebook – because they have more than a million Facebook likes by good online customer service done in a human voice:

Sandwell Council Facebook – because there isn’t a Facebook page anywhere in the public sector that is done better than this West Midlands council

DVLA’s I Can’t Wait To Pass My Driving Test Facebook page – because it shows that putting aside thr logo and even the name of the organisation works if you get the people to pay attention to pay attention:

PC Stanley on Twitter – because it shows a human face in an organisation from a West Midlands Police officer:

PC Stanley blog – because it shows a human face and talks about anonymised aspects of police procedure that most people don’t know about

8146367606_dae8e82d70_oStorify Streetly floods – because it shows how social media reacts in a crisis and how a trusted voice from police, fire and council online can fill the news vacuum

Facebook in libraries

Facebook works best updated two or three times a day with sharable content. Pictures work well. So does video. Be engaging and informal.

100 Libraries to follow on Facebook – blog

British Library

Library of Congress

New York Public Library

Halifax Public Library

Birmingham Library


Realtime updates work well. Pictures too.

Author Amanda Eyereward

Author Carin Berger

100 Authors

Birmingham Library


Orkney library

Waterstones Oxford Street

Essex libraries

Just for you here are a few examples of tweets:

Images are powerful

Images work really well and there are a couple of resources. You can link to images you find anywhere. It’s the neighbourly thing to do and you are driving traffic to their website so people will be fine about that.

You can link to Flickr which is a depository of more than five billion images. See the Libraries Flickr group here:

But remember not to abuse copyright. Don’t ever right click and save an image hoping you won’t get found out. There’s a Google app for just that. But what you can use are images which have been released with a creative commons licence. Basically, creative commons allows the re-use of pictures so long as you meet basic criteria. There are several types of licence so check to see which licence has been attached. Often people will be fine for re-use so long as you attribute the author and link back to the original image.

1140607337_e05a4b2a4a_oSearch the Compfight website ticking the creative commons search button

Have a look at Wikimedia which has a lot of specific content. If you are after a creative commons image of Jack Nicholson or The British Library search here:


You can brighten up book discussions amongst reader groups, or author visits, or bounce and rhyme stories by recording them with people’s permission and post them to Audioboo or Soundcloud. These are applications that gives you three minutes of audio that you can share with the web or embed in a webpage.

Here is author WHJ Auden readingh one of his poems:


Blogging is made for libraries and librarians. You can host discussions here and allow for comments on different aspects of the library.

Author reading:

Literary blog


Video works great. You can make your own or maybe there is some content around a theme you are looking for. The First World War, for example. Create your own channel or search and share what is there. Look out for the comments section here. They can be a bit ripe.

Birmingham Library

Southend library reading group

But where will I get the content from?

It’s amazing how once you take a few doggy paddle strokes in the shallow end that all this makes sense and you start over time to get a return on the time you put in. There are no quick fixes. A few minutes a day will help you and as with anything what you get out is what you put in.

Here are 11 things you could do as librarians

1. Record an interview with an author on Audioboo or Soundcloud and post to your Facebook, Twitter or email list.

2. Post details of events to your social media accounts. Use something like hootsuite to schedule when the messages appear so if needs be repeat the message at a time when more people are likely to be around. Lunchtime, first thing in the morning and evening are times when people tend to be online more. Don’t forget though, if you are cancelling the event, to unschedule any queued content.

3. Share things that other people have posted. If it is in your geographical area and a public sector or third sector organisation have posted something share it or retweet it. You’ll find that they’ll be more inclined to do the same.

4. Use a popular hashtag on Twitter around a TV programme. Check the schedules. A link to a book or DVD on dancing or dress making with sequins may work with the hashtag #strictly while Strictly Come Dancing is being shown on a Saturday night.

4993073773_09ef5a6093_o5. Connect with other librarians so you can build a network of other people doing a smilar job to you. This works especially well with Twitter.

6.  Use an image of a cat from compfight that has a creative commons licence – see the above – to illustrate a campaign on cats and other animals. What you have on your display shelf or window can be repeated online too.

7. Create a Facebook group or a Google group – which works with email – for a reading group.

8. Post book reviews from librarians on your website and onto the social web.

9. Take a picture – with people’s permission – of people using the library or people taking part in an activity.

10. Be creative. Ignore all the above and use your imagination. Make your own case studies.

11. Install WiFi.

Picture credits

Who needs books?

Sitting reading

US poster

Library search engine

7 Comments on “INFO SKILLS: Essential social media skills for librarians (and others)”

  1. Nick Booth says:

    The first people outside the uk to run a social media surgery was the Mosman Library in Australia – be helpful, be useful.

  2. hellojon says:

    Libraries are the original, analogue social media network – VHS, vinyl, CDs, DVDs – I’ve borrowed them all from a library; as well as and the occasional book!

    I was fortunate to work with libraries in Fife last year. They are at the beginning of their Social Media journey but so, so open to the possibilities.

    I made this video for them to to use in talks to the public about the connections between SM and libraries:

    So, to add to your ’11 things…’ list I would add Pinterest. I think there’s loads of potential with libraries doing boards for recommendations, staff favourites, New releases, etc
    But also collaborative boards that could include the favourites of your customers – build on that ready made community!

    Links to Amazon give you the ISBN number which could be tweeted to your local library for ordering in or reserving. Or add QR Codes inside the plastic jackets that link to reviews on AudioBoo…

    Of course, the conventions that currently rule social media have been ruling libraries for centuries! Great post and great resource, thanks Dan.

  3. Lots of great ideas here. We’re using lots of these, and keep playing with the idea of embracing Google plus, but are yet to do so.

    Lots to think about!

    – Dyfrig

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