by Jeff Bond, Science Librarian, Texas Christian University
Perhaps your library is dipping its foot in the proverbial Web 2.0 waters for the first time, or your library is already using Web 2.0 tools and wants to expand its online presence. Either way, a solid technology plan can enhance your chances of success.
It is important for libraries to strike a balance in adopting new Web 2.0 technologies. On one extreme are libraries and individuals eager to adopt every new piece of technology. For libraries with unlimited resources and staff time, this might be feasible, but for most of our libraries, this simply is not a realistic plan. On the other end of the spectrum are libraries that are resistant to adopt any such technologies. This might be for a variety of reasons, including organizational culture, lack of training, or blocks put in place by a parent organization, such as school districts preventing access to Facebook. In my opinion, neither of these extremes allows a library to best serve the needs of end users. Fortunately, most libraries fall between these two extremes.
What are your end goals for your use of Web 2.0 tools? Example goals would be to increase program attendance or to increase circulation or gate count. Other possible goals would be to simply increase library awareness or use among a specific demographic group. Once you have an idea of what your goal is, you can start building a plan to achieve that goal.
As an example, perhaps your goal is to build awareness of young adult programming at your public library. The next step is to identify possible Web 2.0 tools that will help you meet your goal--there are so many social media to consider! I would venture that you have a library staff member who is using a variety of Web 2.0 tools in his/her personal life, and would be glad to help you find the answer or answers as to which tools to choose—the ones that will best reach your users. This is also a perfect situation to involve any student workers in your decision-making process, and to involve these same persons in developing the Web 2.0 tools that you want to employ.
What if you have no staff members who are comfortable with a Web 2.0 tool of interest? This is a good training opportunity. There are many good sources for continuing education, including providers such as Amigos, or North Texas Library Partners, or persons in your local community. Also, many libraries and library associations have created more informal training programs, such as the popular “23 Things” programs that encourage library staff to experience a wide variety of Web 2.0 technologies. I encourage you to include as many staff as possible in any training opportunity.
Now that you have decided upon a Web 2.0 tool to try, and have staff members to develop the tool, you also will want to market your Web 2.0 presence. If no one knows you have a Twitter account, for example, then very few persons will be able to find it. Include your Web 2.0 presence information in your other marketing that you currently do, including but not limited to posters, flyers, press releases, your website, and in your personal interactions with patrons. If you are using more than one Web 2.0 tool, cross-promote the tools heavily. If other organizations in your community are using Web 2.0 tools for marketing, then cross-promote between your organizations.
Another aspect of Web 2.0 is that any such tool is a two-way communication medium. For example, if you build a blog, your users will comment on posts. You will want to develop a policy to guide your staff members when such comments are offensive. For additional guidance on this issue, I refer you to the NTLP featured article “Create a Social Software Policy for Your Library” by Tami Haskell.
Fast forward to a year after you introduced a Web 2.0 tool. How effective were your efforts? Did you meet your goals that you originally set for your library or department? Did you build a community with your Web 2.0 tool? Be honest and consider whether you need to continue, or try a new tool. Have your goals, staff, or users changed? This will affect which tools you choose next, in order to best meet your users’ needs.