Oh, Seekonk Public Library, what are we going to do with you? Let’s start with the positives. For a small public library, it is encouraging that they provide a clear link to the mobile version of their site, as bloggers such as the Anna Laura at Social NetworkingLibrarian predict that mobile-friendly sites will increase in the future. Links to both the Facebook and Twitter pages are easily found on the Seekonk Public Library’s homepage…sadly, the Facebook link is no longer active. This is pretty deceiving, and it would be easy enough to remove the link from the homepage if the Facebook page was no longer being updated. It’s not exactly encouraging user interaction, a reason that Eugene Barsky and Michelle Purdon cited for the adoption of social media in libraries in their 2007 article, “Introducing Web 2.0: Social Networking and Social Bookmarking for Health Librarians.” If a patron had never used Facebook before, they might wonder what they were doing wrong when clicking on the link didn’t work. Visitors get the distinct impression that much of the social media is there almost gratuitously; unlike the British Library, Seekonk doesn’t seem to be doing much with its social media networks and as such, it doesn’t really integrate into the rest of the library’s services, and I got the impression that they were there because a librarian read about the advent of Library 2.0 and felt they should participate in it. It has a strange feeling of being ‘tacked on’ as an afterthought. As Social Networking Librarian‘s Anna Laura notes, most libraries aren’t using social media as effectively as they could be, and Seekonk provides a clear example of this. However, it is admirable that Seekonk is trying to reach out to its users; it should just be making more of an effort and perhaps narrow its focus to either Twitter, RSS feeds or Facebook, rather than trying to focus on all three.
Seeing as the Facebook link doesn’t even work, I probably wouldn’t use this method of connecting with the library if I were a Seekonk patron. In the interests of fair reporting, I did my best to actually track down the errant Facebook page through Facebook itself, trying to give Seekonk the benefit of the doubt. At first glance, it seems that most of Seekonk’s patrons have sided with me, and aren’t using social media either. Upon further examination, I realized that there appear to be two Facebook pages; one of them has no profile photograph, no customization and only 12 “likes”. Sarah Houghton-Jan at Librarian in Black would probably have a fit, as this first Facebook page basically breaks all ten of her social networking tips. The second page has substantially more followers (394, to be exact), although how these patrons have discovered this page is unclear. This Facebook page has been updated more frequently and is quite current, which begs the question: Why does the library have two pages when they clearly only use one? As a librarian, I would be concerned that patrons were finding only the inactive page, and not digging deeper to find the active one. If Seekonk does one thing only, it should be to delete the inactive page. The active one has quite a bit of useful information, from event reminders to trivia about Bruce Willis. However, Seekonk must remember that just because they are using the internet as an outlet, they can’t forget general conventions of spelling and style. Having their “about us” section written entirely in capital letters reflects poorly on the institution and is quite unprofessional.
Seekonk’s Twitter feed is in a similar position as its first Facebook page. With only 74 followers and no new tweets since October 2011, this is one Twitter feed that should be updated more frequently. Over at Social Media Butterfly Librarian, they note that content is like produce – it should be fresh! Let’s just say if Seekonk’s Twitter feed was a produce market, the vendors would have shut up shop and the remaining produce would be so old that it would probably have started to sprout legs. The library account is only following one other Tweeter – perhaps if they followed more people, more people would follow them. As Andy Burkhardt notes, Twitter should be about creating dialogue and interaction and engaging in conversations. Right now, Seekonk is teetering on the verge of talking to itself. A quick glance at previous tweets reveals that Seekonk was tweeting only about once a month, which is not enough to keep patrons engaged. With a clear, easy-to-find link from Seekonk’s homepage, it seems that only a handful of people are interested in using this medium, and with a Twitter feed as rarely updated as this one, I wouldn’t be interested in it either.
That’s fine; not every library is a grand national library with a budget and staffing levels to match, and even Librarian In Black’s Houghton-Jann tells libraries that it is fine to delete your account if it’s not working for you. Institutions should recognize this, and direct their efforts into initiatives that will captivate their users, and not spread their resources too thin and bring down the library’s web presence. Meredith Farkas summed it up nicely in her 2011 lecture, “Going Where Your Patrons Are“: “Make sure that you are creating a site that will be useful to your users; your only goal should not be to make the library look cool.” Rather than trying to keep up with institutions like the British Library, Seekonk should find something that works for it and go with it. If the library focused on maintaining one social media outlet instead of two (two and a half?), they would be quite engaging and have a page worth following. However, at the moment, the library’s web presence seems drab and tired, and quite frankly, more than a little Seekonk-ed out.