Publishers and public libraries – sharing digital skills

Publishers and public libraries collaborated on six projects to develop new social media channels for readers.

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Nottinghamshire Libraries with support from Penguin and Hot Key Books ran a competition to promote a teenage book title, with the winning entries to be created and used on the libraries digital signage screens. This project illustrated how difficult it is to encourage involvement from library users, as they only had two entries (eight, once they got a school involved). However, the publisher illustrated that it's not just an issue for libraries, as they have had equally low numbers of responses to their own competitions.

North West Libraries with support from Faber and Faber wanted to reach families who were willing to share their love of reading via digital media. This included using Pinterest for the Reading-Families project.  Families recruited via Facebook were the most active users, possibly because they were already used to having an online presence.

Reader experiences in the library of the future

A number of interesting issues were raised during the panel discussion

  • The library hybrid focused on service delivery via both physical and digital space will continue to be important in the future.
  • Publishers create large amounts of content around writers and it would be of benefit to everyone if they released it for use by the library community.
  • Publishers recognised that libraries are a non-commercial space.
  • Libraries are seen as trustworthy sources of information and we should be emphasizing this when competing with other services.
  • Libraries should take the opportunity to be the Google of our local areas ie the first port of call.
  • We need a UK wide online portal for libraries that can act as a single place for people to go to for their information and library needs.
  • We need a UK wide development body for libraries.
  • Librarians should be involved in the development of online services, not just wait for the next big thing to come along and follow it.

A number of the projects will be continuing as libraries expand their use of social media tools.  The Reading Agency is developing a digital skills resource and is keen to receive feedback. 


This was an interesting event and it was really useful to hear how, with the support of publishers, libraries were using social media to engage with readers in different ways. The projects also helped illustrate the need to think carefully about which social media tools libraries should use for engagement and that there isn't necessarily a ‘one tool fits all' scenario.  For example, South Tyneside found that Twitter was more engaging for their Big Borough Read project, but Facebook was a better fit for their teenage reading group. Many of the projects echoed earlier comments around the importance of the physical as well as online interaction - it appears as if the face-to-face sessions in these digital projects were just as important as the online engagement with readers. It also seemed to be a great way to build the dialogue between libraries and publishers - helping develop links and understanding between both sectors, enabling each other to support our work and our audiences' love of reading.

This is a shorter version of a post published by Gary on his blog.

Gary Green is the Technical Librarian at Surrey County Council Library Service.

Image courtesy of eldh via Flickr. 

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