When @OrkneyLibrary came to Glasgow

1 May

Tweeters in the library world and beyond are in awe of the humorously outrageous online presence that is @OrkneyLibrary, aka Stewart Bain. MmMITS (Multi-media, Information and Technology Scotland) scored something of a coup by securing him to speak at their AGM in Glasgow on 24th April. Stewart recently received two Golden Twit Awards for his work in using Twitter to engage with and inform the public about library services, so there was a good turnout to hear how he does it.

Stewart began by saying that his organisation was very supportive of innovation and new ways of reaching people, such as social media. Orkney Library started with Twitter in 2009, then added a blog for the Archive, Facebook, Foursquare and Google+. He had no knowledge of Twitter when he started out and at first his tweets were relatively serious. He now has 5000 followers and these are increasingly local – in fact it could be that Twitter is taking off on Orkney because of @OrkneyLibrary. Other followers come from far and wide, including ex-pat Scots, and Stewart hopes that interaction with them will encourage use of their own public library service. Obviously @OrkneyLibrary has a very specific voice, and feedback to the style is usually positive. This may not work for all organisations, and Stewart feels it would be preferable to use a team of people – he is very much a one-man band.

Advantages of the use of social media to Orkney library and Archives have included:

  • Co-operation e.g. Orkney Radio mentions them and vice versa.
  • Awareness raising and stimulating interest – featuring books or archive materials which haven’t been used in a long time gives them a new lease of life. A blog post on shipwrecks was so popular that it was quickly followed by a display. This sort of instant reaction would not be possible without social media.
  • Creating a feeling of one service – as well as the Twitter feed and Archives blog, the branch library now blogs keeping everyone in the loop.
  • Engaging hard-to-reach groups such as young male readers who have been drawn into the library via Facebook.
  • Reacting to emergencies, e.g. reporting when the libraries are closed because of bad weather. Other than this, Stewart tries to avoid dull tweets about opening hours.
  • Increasing attendance at events, (and the flow of cake into the library).
  • Changing people’s perceptions of libraries and making them more approachable. Often, insignificant things get the best response. People comment on jokey items.
  • Increasing use of the library website and online subscriptions – from c 14000 in 2008 to c 26000  in 2010. Stewart reminds people about these at quiet times.
  • Dealing with geographical spread, e.g. an online reading group.
  • Generating interest in national events such as World Book Night and National Libraries Day. For the former, they created “Cold cases” – bags of crime fiction which hadn’t been borrowed in 10 years. Such initiatives had been tried before and didn’t work, but they did after tweeting.  For the latter, they live-tweeted The body in the library by Agatha Christie – cunningly cutting the story off before the end so that people had to join the library to borrow the book to read the ending!

While not all the tips would work in every library, the main message, it seemed to me, was to strike an informal tone, find an appropriate voice for your own library and stick to it. I was half way through this post last week when two others popped up so for other views on the event see the official MmITS write-up and Cathy’s report for Scottish Libraries.

PS now also on the MmITS blog, with added photos!

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2 Responses to “When @OrkneyLibrary came to Glasgow”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Goldentwits at MmITSCotland AGM! « Information & Libraries Scotland - May 3, 2012

    […] inform the public. @anabelmarsh has produced a storify of Stewart’s presentation. She has also blogged about the […]

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  2. MmITS AGM featuring @OrkneyLibrary « MmITS Blog - May 5, 2012

    […] When @OrkneyLibrary came to Glasgow by Anabel Marsh […]

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