MLA Conference Recap part, the 3rd

I have been busy celebrating my pretty lady’s graduation that last couple of weeks, so I’ve not had the time to revisit this entry. Mehopes you’ll find it in your heart to forgive my putting a master’s degree before writing a blog entry.

Today I’ll wrap up my recap. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll be unsurprised that the final two talks I attended were of a technological bent. The first was some industry insiders’ opinions on how eBooks have changed, are changing, and will change, the book market. The second, and final, talk was a couple of examples of how social media is being used in libraries.

The Book in the Digital Age

This was much like the author’s panel. Here we had a writer, bookseller, publisher, and even a book binder giving their thoughts on how the Digital Age has changed the book industry. Since this was a Q & A session, the easiest way to fill you in would be a series of quotes.

The first question was what their general thoughts were.

I still go to the library to cut out the distractions that the Internet has created. My first draft is still on paper.

~The Writer

I get a chance to read manuscripts that wouldn’t have been available to me without the advent of email.

~The Publisher

Bookstores are more than just books.

~The Bookseller

With Amazon’s print-on-demand, books are laid out in pdf-form and then shipped to a binder. Often the first time a person gets involved is when the pdf is sent to the binder.

~The Book Binder

In looking over my notes, I honestly don’t remember what the next question was. But judging from what I wrote down, it very well may have been: What benefits do print book give you that eBooks can’t? So I’ll go with that.

A bookstore, or a library, is what’s commonly called ‘your third place.’ It’s not work and not home but is still a place you go to frequently.

~The Bookseller

According to an article in ‘Scientific American’ a physical book can anchor you to the idea presented in the story in a way that an eBook simply can’t.

~The Writer (She didn’t recall when the article was published, so if any of you out there in reader land know the article, please pass it along. I’d love to read it).

There was a study done in Princeton that revealed it was easier for folks to remember what they read if they read it in a print book.

~The Book Binder (again, I haven’t seen the study but would love to)

The ‘If you liked…’ recommendations on web sites are much more likely to give you a bestseller rather than a book you’d actually like. Physical bookstores, and libraries, would be able to refer you to a book you’d actually like.

~The Publisher

There were more question and answers but no real theme to easily shoehorn into a blog. So I’ll just wrap up this talk by saying the seems to be a general acceptance of the shift to more ephemeral forms of books. Each person seemed a little sad at the direction of the industry but one thing each of them said was that there was no reason that eBooks and print books can’t coexist. Each is a different experience and each has it’s own strengths as well as weaknesses.  So if we don’t have to chose just one form, why should we?

Social Media

   Pinterest

First up was Allison Babin and Ona Ridenour from the Beverly Public Library. Their social media tool of choice (well at least the tool they were talking about here) is Pinterest. I was surprised to learn that it is the 3rd largest social media site (with Facebook and Twitter holding the top two spots).

Pinterest is basically what you get when you marry a bulletin board with a web site. You create a board, you choose a category (you must choose from categories Pinterest has given you), and you pin things to that board. You can pin just about anything, but the predominant use is pictures. One thing Allison and Ona stressed was use of the descriptions. Those descriptions are searchable, the pictures are not. So if you have a picture of a monkey, you must include the word “monkey” in the description or else no one will be able to search for it. Another word of warning was you can’t reorder the pins. The newest ones are placed at the top of the board. The third note of interest was regarding copyright. Pinterest has a fair use agreement, because you’re usually linking to the source of the picture and not claiming the work as your own. But ’tis wise to keep copyright in mind as you pin.

So what are the fine folks at the Beverly Public Library using Pinterest for?

  • Virutal tour of the library with a pin per room.
  • Behind the scenes action
  • Meet the staff
  • Top 10 booklists
  • Picture of the day

The booklists contain a link to their catalog holdings for that book (Pinterest is Evergreen friendly). The meet the staff doesn’t have any links but doesn’t need it. That handy description field allows for each staff member to introduce themselves to their virtual patrons. It can be a very handy tool, if it’s used right.

   Twitter

Next up was Gina Perille of the Boston Public Library. Unlike some libraries in the state, the BPL is a massive organization with the ability to create a Communications and Strategy department of which Ms. Perille is the head. She stressed that just having a Twitter handle doesn’t mean that’s enough, you’re already engaged in the community. Libraries should have a strategy when using social media tools like Twitter and it should align nicely with the overall strategy of the library itself. As such, goals should be set and evaluated. For example if you want to use Twitter to announce events, you should survey your patrons to see how many of them found out about the event via Twitter. If a minuscule portion did, then perhaps your Twitter account should be used for other things.

One of the other things that the BPL uses Twitter for is to inject themselves in the community discussions. Tweets can be labeled, so to speak. By prefacing a word or phrase with a “#” all tweets with that word or phase can be gathered together. For instance, if I saw people talking about the Bruins playoff game tonight, I could sent a tweet like this: “The #BruinsPlayoffGame tonight reminds me of the time Bobby Orr dropped by our library.” Now anyone looking for tweets about the #BruinsPlayoffGame, will be shown my library’s tweet. Who knows, perhaps Mr. Orr himself would see it and it could lead to a visit by the great number 4!

She had plenty more to say, but the entry is growing long in the tooth. So I’ll close it off by providing an example of how Twitter can be leveraged in times of turmoil. After the heinous bombing of the Boston Marathon, the main branch of the BPL was closed as the authorities swept the area for clues and/or any further explosive devices. The BPL didn’t know when they were going to reopen. They would check in every 6 hours or so. They did this for days. Finally, word came down that it was OK for them to open the next day. The word came down during the evening after Ms. Perille was already at home. So she took to Twitter and sent out the good news. Within minutes, her tweet was spread ’round the world (well maybe not THAT far) and because of this the library was packed as usual bright and early the next morning.

One thing any social media tool has in common is the fact that it’s a tool, it’s a means to an end but not the end itself. Any organization, not just a library, can can build a better service with one. But it’s not going to magically happen. You’ve got to have a plan and you’ve got to put in some hard work to execute that plan. Technology is changing the library game and social media is just one of those changes.

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