Social media for creative libraries

Phil Bradley's new book aims to help librarians maximise impact and reach.

Phil Bradley's new book aims to help librarians maximise impact and reach.

Sit back for a moment, and think about what you do in your job. If you're in the information industry in some form or another I don't think it's too much of a stretch to assume that some of your jobs are to answer questions for people, do some research, keep people up to date, scan the appropriate literature, promote your service, spend time communicating with colleagues and library members – you get the idea. If you went back in time say 10 years, or even 50 years, I’m guessing that you’d be doing pretty much the same thing – it’s just that you’d be using pen and paper instead of emails, you'd be using card catalogues and so on. It's fair to say that the activities that you do would be very familiar to a librarian from 2005 or 1965, it's just the tools that would be different.

I think it's exactly the same now – we have a whole raft of new tools available to us that we can use to do our jobs, and to enable us to do those same activities. Only now however these tools come under the general heading of 'social media'. However, it's all too easy to get confused, and to think that the tool IS the activity. We 'tweet' and we 'Facebook' but what we’re actually doing is 'communicating'. The communication may well be affected by the tool, but in overall terms the activity hasn't changed. When looking at using new tools, it doesn't really make sense to say "Let's use Twitter" just because it seems that everyone else is. That's like saying "Let's buy an edging tool for the garden" because your neighbour has one – unless you know what you plan to do with it, it's a pointless purchase.

Look first at what it is that you do – what are your key activities?

Do you want to do them quicker, cheaper, or more effectively? Are there new activities that you'd like to start undertaking? Once you can answer those questions, you can start to think which of the tools that are out there can assist you in your new endeavour. For example, if you wanted to improve your library guiding, perhaps you could create a YouTube tour of the library, or a podcast that people could listen to while they walk around. Maybe you could utilise an augmented reality app that people could use in conjunction with their smartphones? Once you're clear on the tool, then you can improve the activity; it doesn’t work the other way around!

Phil's new book, Social Media for Creative Libraries is published by Facet Publishing.  The book takes a practical look at the activities that librarians undertake to see how they can be better achieved – more quickly, more efficiently and with more impact – using social media tools.