Librarians are the Ultimate Community Managers

I had breakfast with Meg Canada last weekend, while finishing my teaching duties in St. Paul. She shared with me a post she wrote at her blog called “How Librarians can be the Ultimate Community Managers.”

Meg writes:

What is a Community Manager? My friend, Connie Bensen introduced me to the concept at my first social media gathering. I know she has collaborated on the wikipedia definition, and as a librarian herself, and I hope she agrees with my assertion. Community managers help shape online spaces by representing organizations through starting and/or contributing to discussions. They are social media mavens and power users. Community managers solve problems, offer the best customer service, and give organizations a human face.

I’ll be adding this to the list of emerging LIS jobs. How are we training new librarians to be Community Managers? Did you ever think that might be a role you’d play?

Later she tape into that important bit about the ongoing conversation:

Not enough of us tweet outside our community or seek out our users in other social media. Some success with MySpace and Facebook is promising, but we can’t just friend and fan eachother. We need to connect with our patrons, customers and users in online communities. Historically we may not be known for savvy communication skills, but here’s another opportunity.

Gathering community input is also a key role of librarians. As we plan services, build new facilities, and evolve into our 21st century selves, libraries have to listen to what our community needs. Let’s face it Gen x and y aren’t attending community meetings at the library. The meetings are happening online. Do you Google alerts point to blogs, microblogs, or comments that reflect how patrons feel about the library? Are you listening and responding?

This so ties in to what Cliff Landis and I discussed over on ALA TechSource this summer:

MS: That brings up something that has been on my mind for the past few months as I watch more libraries diving into creating Facebook pages and other sites. What do you think about the Facebook pages for libraries that have a bunch of other librarians as fans? Frankly, it disappoints me. I’ve actually curtailed some of my “fan-ing” of pages lately. I’d rather leave the fandom to the users and watch to see how it goes from outside. How do the users find and adopt the page. What are the patterns of use and what types of outreach builds the community. Tapping into that is most important for understanding user needs.

CL: This is another symptom of librarians talking to each other, saying “Hey! Look at this neat thing I did!” and never involving the users. What do you suppose would happen if the person managing the library page wasn’t a librarian, but a student? (I can already hear the gasps of thousands of librarians.) Let’s face it–we’re control freaks.

And what David Lee King blogged about here.

Wouldn’t you rather be a community manager instead of a control freak? :-)

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3 thoughts on “Librarians are the Ultimate Community Managers”

  1. Thanks Michael & Meg for highlighting the Community Manager role. It is an emerging role that is going to be imperative for non-profits (libraries, churches, healthcare, etc) as much as for the corporate level. And every small business owner is a community manager.

    It’s great to be here on your blog Michael as you introduced me to Web 2.0! I have been working full time online for a year with a focus on Community Building. My background in library work & supervising 7 library branches/sites gave me experience in a number of ways: building community thru PR, marketing, programming, etc. Ultimately the goal was to create a community living room. Granted we weren’t focused on the digital space it provided me much practice.

    Now I work remotely from northern Minnesota & the precepts of excellent library service are the same – provide resources & excellent customer service. And I know that you blog about breaking down barriers for customers, improving services, etc – those are all things that every company should focus on!

    It’s exciting for me to be providing leadership in this space. I am launching http://www.communitystrategist.com & providing community manager training courses virtually. A huge thank you for introducing me to a new career to explore. I am still connected to great librarians like Meg Canada & Connie Crosby.

    Meg mentioned ‘listening’ – the company that I’m working with offers a freemium service to get libraries started http://www.sm2.techrigy.com Feel free to let me know if anyone would like assistance. I’m totally supportive of librarians!

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