Last but not least, I’ve decided to review the Vancouver Public Library.  In the middle of their page, they have a “Connect With VPL” section, featuring links to the mobile version of their services, their Facebook, Flick and Twitter accounts, and the VPL’s newsletter. Easy to find, the links provide quick and easy access for even the most novice users of social media.

The VPL’s Facebook page is well-maintained, and the sense of humour of the social media librarian shows through.  With everything from postings of bizarre lost-and-found items, to the placement of the VPL on a list of the world’s 12 coolest libraries, the Facebook page serves as a showcase for the weird and wonderful.

However, it’s not all crazy and irrelevant to libraries.  They post event information and questions that both engage their patrons and provide them with valuable feedback, such as “What keeps you coming back to your library”? This is a perfect use of Facebook, as it allows the library to connect with its users and get useful information.  As Hilary Davis noted on the blog InTheLibraryWithTheLeadPipe, Facebook is “a low cost, minimal effort venue for engaging with current and potential library users. ” It’s not only a good way of answering patron questions, but of answering the library’s questions as well.  It doesn’t take long for a patron to hit “comment” and type up a quick sentence while they reply to other Facebook posts from their friends, and is probably quicker and easier than asking them to fill out a form in the library, when they may be in a rush to go somewhere or have their hands full of books. The Facebook page is also used as a way of showcasing patrons, as they have a special section for photos of patrons.  This is a great way of engaging with the community, and showing that they are an active part of it. The Facebook page is maintained well, and the social media coordinator takes time to reply to comments in places other than on the wall.  At the announcement of the newest version of their catalogue, a patron commented on a photograph, saying that they didn’t like the new version and didn’t understand it.  Within an hour, the library had responded, saying, “we’d love to know what your specific issues are. Send a note to info@vpl.ca and we’ll try to help!”  The patron explained her problem on the Facebook page, and the VPL attempted to teach her how to remedy the problem.  Overall, I’d say the VPL uses their social media outlets quite well, as they clearly monitor the posts and respond in a timely fashion.  They care for their patrons, and this is evident on their Facebook page.

The Twitter page appears to be maintained in a similar fashion.  It’s highly customized, and it seems as if the VPL has put a great deal of effort into it. Unfortunately, their “about us” blurb should be changed slightly, as they promise to tweet daily, but don’t quite follow through, usually posting every couple of days. Unlike the Library of Congress’ Twitter account, the VPL posts mainly library-related material to their followers.  However, much like their Facebook page, they let their sense of humour and personality shine, posting links to book parodies such as Game of Groans and Hunger Pains. They respond to their patrons’ questions, concerns and queries, and retweet patrons’ messages if they pertain to the VPL.  This is another institution that uses HootSuite, and it’s nice to see that they’re utilizing its potential by replying to tweets that are hashtagged #VPL but are not tweeted directly at the library itself. HootSuite was actually discussed at the 2011 British Columbia Library Association’s conference, and it was recommended that libraries use it in order to see what people are saying about the institution.

Overall, both the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the VPL harness the power of social media effectively.  They allow the VPL to communicate to and engage with their patrons, and they remain fairly involved with the process. They make it easy and straight-forward for patrons to engage with the library in a stress-free environment, and even patrons who are social media novices will find these outlets easy to use. These are definitely tools that I will look into using in the future.

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