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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Sharing skills and increasing reader engagement

The Reading Agency and Publishers Association held an event at Canada Water Library focusing on their Digital Skills Sharing initiative.  This initiative consisted of six teams of publishers and public library services working together in an attempt to develop digital marketing and communications channels between libraries, publishers and their readers.  The event included a keynote from technology commentator and journalist Bill Thompson and a run-through of the six projects.

After an introduction by Richard Mollett, Chief executive of the Publishers Association, Nicky Morgan, Director of Libraries, Arts Council England (ACE) spoke about the forthcoming publication of Envisioning the library of the future in spring 2013 - a follow up to the research and consultation programme of the same name, aimed at developing ACE's 'long-term vision for public libraries in England'. Nicky Morgan also encouraged libraries to tap into the funding streams available for libraries.

Libraries in society and 'the point of reading'

Bill Thompson's keynote provided an interesting perspective on libraries and the role they play in today's society. He suggested that even though we are surrounded by digital devices and information in a digital format, the physical is still just as important in our everyday lives.  The shift towards screen based consumption and engagement means a change in reading habits, including a focus on shorter pieces of text.  Thompson suggested that, rather than ask "How can we get people into libraries?" we should be thinking about questions like "What's the point of reading?"

The digital skills sharing initiative projects  lessons learned

Gloucestershire Libraries with support from Granta set up a Twitter book club focused on new authors. As well as discussions between book club members they also had Twitter interviews and a Skype event with authors. Twitter provides a more immediate interaction than, for example, Facebook, which is useful when running live and interactive sessions. They did however note that due to this immediacy Twitter needs more time dedicated to it.

Leeds and Wakefield Libraries with support from Random House were keen to develop their online presences via social media and focused on engagement with library users.  They viewed this engagement as a way to develop advocates for projects in library services - advocates will actively promote projects that interest them.

South Tyneside Libraries with support from Pan Macmillan focused on a teenage reading project and the Big Borough Read. The teenage project was built around a Facebook page.  Once a teenager liked the page, they were given a book to read and review on the Facebook page.  The reviewing aspect wasn't entirely successful, as some teenagers weren't keen on posting as themselves (so required some staff intervention). The Big Borough Read also had a dedicated Twitter and Facebook page. This project focused on a single book to be read by as many people in the borough as possible. They found that Twitter was the most successful method of engagement in this instance.

Kensington and Chelsea Libraries with support from Little Brown set up an online reading group ‘Text Tribe', using a blog backed up by Twitter, Facebook and publishers channels. The target audience was users who might not be able to get to the library to join a conventional reading group.  The publisher donated 120 books for those involved in the reading group.  Even though WordPress was the main focus for the reading group it didn't work perfectly for book discussions.

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