Wednesday, June 29, 2016

And in the end....

Social media seems to me to be a natural tool for librarians to use. At its crux, librarianship is about connecting people with the information they need and the tools they need to use it. Since a tremendous majority of Americans are connected to the internet and engage in social media on one platform or another it is clear that librarians need to be prepared to use those same tools.
The ways that librarians use them will vary from institution to institution. For public libraries social media is a great way for them to announce programs and services, answer simple questions, and generally share the mission of the library. Academic libraries can use social media to reach out to students to let them know what resources are available, what their hours are and when they might change (especially around finals), and connect with other parts of the library and school communities. 

At private, closed research libraries like my own, there are very few opportunities for the public to see what we are doing and what kind of treasures we hold. The Huntington has a social media coordinator who runs all of our social media accounts, and she is able to offer people a view behind the scenes, with weekly picks by staff members. The major drawback of the Huntington’s social media strategy is that the Communications department maintains a very tight grip on what can be posted and who can post it. Through the major grant project that I have been working on in the past year, we have launched a crowdsourcing site with Zooniverse, and it was a delicate maneuver to convince Communications that we should have independent Twitter and Instagram, rather than piggybacking on the Huntington’s accounts. In the end we were able to explain that we weren’t just looking to promote the project, but to actively engage with the public and users of the site.

The lectures for this class and the associated reading that I have done prepared me for the role of social media coordinator for the crowdsourcing project by forcing me to think more deeply about the process. I needed to decide what my goals were in using these accounts and how I should interact with others. With my personal Instagram account I like and follow all kinds of people, some more political or controversial in nature. For the project account I am more discerning in the statements that I make and the people I interact with. This class, combined with the experience that I have gained while working on this project, makes me feel confident about including social media knowledge on my resume, and perhaps even on my LinkedIn page.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Social Media for a Small Business

I had the good fortune this semester to have a group project with three of my fellow 10th cohort members and a UA undergrad. When I first started library school online I was concerned about the group project aspect of the curriculum because I thought it would be hard connecting with my classmates and coordinating our schedules. I was grossly underestimating the focus and determination of my cohort, though, and it was nice to have one last reminder of what a great group this has been to work with.

Meredith, Julia, Kristina, Darcy, and I were tasked with helping a Tuscaloosa business owner decide which social media platforms she should use to promote her brand. Each of us worked on a different platform (I had Instagram), and then I combined all of our sections into a final report. We decided that she could benefit from employing all of the platforms we had investigated, so we assembled a schedule for her to roll them out, so that she would not be overwhelmed by all of them at once. Our final report is posted on Julia's blog, and Meredith will be submitting it to the business owner, who will hopefully not be too overwhelmed by its length.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Part of what I find most interesting about folksonomies is the way that they are an organic version of the controlled vocabularies that we catalogers use on a regular basis. They are far more decentralized, and don't have authoritative bodies ensuring quality control, like the Library of Congress or the Getty, but they are also much more flexible and open to evolution. Anyone who has seen a heading from LC and thought, that's not quite right, knows that getting the heading changed is a challenge. I work at a NACO contributing institution, and it's still an enormous pain to try to get corrections made. Folksonomies are generally much easier to alter and are also generally not held captive by groups of control freaks, I mean, catalogers.

Unfortunately, the lack of oversight also means that there is a serious lack of quality control. Spelling errors abound, and there are variations on many words, with singulars and plurals each being employed - a problem that is solved definitively in the name authority rules for various authorized vocabularies. The tags that people use for folksonomies can also be highly individualized, which might contribute to a single user's experience, but doesn't necessarily help other users who might have the same interests.

I think that as a cataloger I struggle with the idea of folksonomies more than others might. I like controlled vocabulary, because even if it doesn't use plain language, or the words that I would choose, there is a consistency across the board. I recognize, though, that controlled vocabularies are not terribly helpful for the average reader, who probably doesn't even know they exist. This is my way of saying that I'm not entirely sure how I feel about folksonomies.


Wikipedia has become such an integral part of our everyday lives (or at least of mine), that it is easy to lose track of the fact that there are wikis besides it. The concept is a relatively simple one: create a way for many people to create and edit webpages in one central location. It removes the need for every user to learn HTML, and get straight to the business of creating content. There are plenty of people with expertise in a particular field who are willing to share their knowledge, but if you put the barrier of learning hand tagging in front of them, they'll just walk away. Wikis allow users to compose content in a platform reminiscent of a Word document, which is far easier and more intuitive for most of us than HTML. For a business or organization, wikis allow their documents to be organized without the rabbit warren of folders that you will often find on a company's servers. The structure of document organization becomes less opaque, making it easier for users to find the documents they are looking for.

One of the major problems of wikis is that it can be very hard to control the quality of the sites' content. A prime example of this occurred in 2006 when Stephen Colbert pointed out to viewers of The Colbert Report that they could go into Wikipedia and change articles to reflect their own idea of the truth. Fans crashed the Wikipedia servers and caused 20 articles on elephants to be locked down because people were changing those pages to say that the African elephant population had tripled in the past 6 months. He also changed the page on George Washington to say that he hadn't owned slaves, because he didn't like that unpleasant truth. This is, of course, an extreme example of the democracy of wikis getting out of hand, but it reflects the need by wikis to maintain a degree of editorial control. Users of wikis need to examine the credibility of wiki content creators before they accept the accuracy of their information. For some wikis, contributors have to be vetted before they are allowed to participate. There has to be a fine balance between how open a wiki is to participants and how reliable those participants are. This moves away from the pure democracy of the early days of wiki towards something more akin to representative democracy - a few voices speaking for the many - which is not the worst thing in the world.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Bookmarks for June 12-18

This week I was looking at articles and posts about Instagram, since that is the platform that I will be writing about for the group project.

4 tips to use Instagram to promote your business
There's nothing earth-shattering in this post about marketing via Instagram, but it provides a basic introduction for people who are either new to Instagram or new to advertising on Instagram. Some of this advice could be applied to other platforms as well, like the reminder to engage with your followers and provide them with benefits that people who don't follow the page don't get.

5 ways to use Instagram to promote ecommerce
This article moves past the obvious observations of the first one to look at the types of images that are most effective for business accounts on Instagram. Besides the unsurprising advice that marketers should make sure they are posting good photographs, the author points out that users aren't looking for the highly edited and airbrushed images that they see in magazines - they like seeing real people, rather than polished models. The author also emphasizes the importance of hashtags, which are the primary method through which people find new accounts.

Getting started
This advice is coming straight from the horse's mouth - Instagram knows that people are using their site to promote their businesses and has provided advice based on what they have seen in successful accounts and campaigns. Perhaps the most important take-away from this page is how beneficial it is to have a clear vision and deliberate plan when launching on Instagram. My account is not for a business, but I confess that I had little direction when I joined, and probably could have benefited from a more thorough evaluation of my goals and intentions. Fortunately my livelihood is not dependent on maintaining a successful account (only my pride).

Instant algorithm: How marketers should alter their strategies
The biggest kerfuffle in the Instagram community recently was a change in the way that peoples' feeds are organized. Previously, the default view was chronological, so the user knew they would see every post if they just scrolled back far enough. In Spring of this year, Instagram rolled out an algorithm which organizes posts using a calculation of how interested the user will be in them, based on previous actions. The author seems to be advocating a stay-calm attitude (there was a lot of panic at the time, and calls for people to turn on post-notifications), but some of the advice seems cheesy. That may be because I'm coming from a non-business point of view, though.

The 5 biggest misconceptions about using Instagram for business
Finally, this post provides a good response to all the haters out there who think that their business isn't big enough, or visually interesting enough, to benefit from Instagram accounts. The author does a good job of demonstrating the benefits that even small, service-based businesses can gain from promotion on Instagram. The article is undated, but it seems to be from 2012 or 2013, so it may unfortunately not super up-to-date. I know that I have struggled to track statistics, as is mentioned in the final section, so I will be looking into some of the stat-tracking apps that are mentioned.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Oh Newsvine, what an adventure you have proven to be. After I signed up for the site I spent a few days looking at the different nations, getting the lay of the land. Some of them were of passing interest, inasmuch as I enjoy satire and odd stories, but there wasn't really anything relevant to libraries or information science. I applied to join five or six nations and received no responses. I seeded two articles related to technology in libraries with a couple of sentences describing them. Finally I joined one of the two open nations. I looked around a bit, saw what kind of stories were being posted, and decided to post one on the Stanford rape case. A few other articles on the subject had been seeded, and people generally seemed to have the same reactions that I had (horror, disgust, anger), so it seemed like a safe choice. And yet, when I checked back a few hours later, my account had been suspended :|
Fortunately, this put me in good company, as some of my other classmates had also been suspended. We were all given boilerplate language about posts for self-promotion and links to promotional sites being forbidden, but it seems like they probably send it out to every new poster who seems even a little suspicious. The whole site seems like a direct reaction against communities like Reddit where vitriol and personal attacks are part of daily interactions. They've created a closed community, and the moderators err on the side of caution when it comes to new users.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bookmarks for June 5-11

Like some of my classmates, I'm struggling with Newsvine, so in the meantime I'm going to post my weekly posts here.

How libraries are using social media
This article is a pretty good survey of various successful social media campaigns across the U.S. In additional to the broad efforts at the New York Public Library, the author describes campaigns conducted by Charlotte Mecklenberg Library in North Carolina, who used live-tweeting to draw attention to major budget shortfalls, and Central Rappahannock Regional Library, who created a morale-boosting video which was posted to You Tube and earned thousands of likes, drawing more patrons into the library.

10 social media marketing tips for libraries
It can be daunting to develop and maintain a social media presence, so these tips provide good guidelines for new users and people who are feeling overwhelmed.

The social library: How public libraries are using social media
Reporting on a survey of social media usage in libraries, this article shares the findings that almost 90% of libraries use Facebook, while about 47% use Twitter. The author considers how libraries may use Web 2.0 technology to improve their patrons' experience, such as enhanced catalogs and mobile apps, providing examples like LibraryThing and Candide 2.0.

30 social media activities for libraries
When I saw the number 30 I was dubious about the quality of those suggestions, because it just seems like too many. And yet, they are all pretty helpful. Some of the information is out of date (I was amused to see delicious on the list of sites), but this seems like a great list for people trying to brainstorm new ideas for their social media presence. Everyone has Facebook and lots of people have Twitter, so these alternatives allow libraries to tailor their plan to the library's strengths and interests.

University of Alabama social media
Reading about all of the different platforms that libraries can use made me wonder what the University of Alabama libraries use. Turns out, most of the libraries use at least two social media tools, and there are nine different blogs. I like the way this page brings all of them together in a clear and concise way.