Category Archives: Social Software & Sites

A Social Media Mindset

Dr. Troy Swanson’s post this morning has resonated with me. I have an assignment in the Hyperlinked Library course on creating a emerging technology plan or social media guidelines statement. Troy’s ideas fit well but also make me realize that so much is tied up in organizational mindset. Things move and change according to the climate at hand. Maybe part of the assignment should focus on less-tangible, less-predictible things. How can we plan for what we do not know to plan for?

This passage is the heart of Troy’s well-reasoned argument:

This isn’t to say that effective use of social media relies on anarchy. Far from it. Organizations still need a structure around social media. Organizations can encourage social media by defining policies, workflows, guidelines, and best practices. These broad documents offer an outline where experimentation and play can exist around social media tool. The goal is to create a safe environment to play around with social media. Unfortunately, plans often fit our organizational DNA better than playfulness. Plans feel better than experiments, because plans require us to come up with outcomes in advance. Thus, we’ll spend six months developing a plan instead of spending that time developing an online services that advances our mission.

I was honored to write the foreword for Troy’s book. Here’s a snippet of that piece that seems especially relevant in light of today’s post:

“The book you are holding is a reflection and critical analysis of the use of social media in libraries that rises above and beyond the typical tool of the month style tomes and provides something much more important: a detailed analysis of the whys of social media and the hows of getting staff and library users involved.

Let the technology fall away and what is left is a guide to facilitating and encouraging conversations – a way to tell a story. “Storytelling is a powerful tool,” Troy writes, “and social media represent a way to extend our own stories.” Moving the story beyond the physical place of the library so it exists online to be accessed and enhanced with multiple voices should be the goal of every information organization.

The road is best traveled with a thoughtful and experienced guide. Many helpful voices are found online, blogging, podcasting and Facebooking. Troy has synthesized and collected his own ongoing critical thinking and extensive experience with this work.  Among the questions he explores are how to involve staff in sharing the library’s story? Should individual librarians connect with individual users? How can a social media guidelines guide the use of the tools in an evolving and unrestricted manner?

He also addresses the challenges that occur as libraries shift some focus to emerging technologies. Many of these challenges are people-focused, not issues with the technologies themselves. “The challenge around effective social media implementation is get library staff to see social media as an integral part of their jobs so that they choose to participate.” This challenge can be solved with transparency and a clearly defined, yet evolving mission: “If people are fearful of participation or do not see the value of participation, they will not participate.”

Troy writes: “Libraries that have not dabbled in social media may wonder where they should start. The answer may sound straight out of 2004, but it remains true: start a good blog. Blogs remain the most flexible social media tool.” I’ve written extensively about blogging and published my own research on the perceptions and experience of the LIS blogger. I wholeheartedly agree that the blog as platform can be a powerful content management system for telling your library’s story. Combine that tool and the others explored in this work with Dr. Swanson’s insights and critically-focused big picture thinking, and you have a solid path toward engaging your community and encouraging the heart of the user.”

Your Library Does not Need a Social Media Plan By TTW Contributor Dr. Troy Swanson

Last month, someone contacted me about creating social media plans in libraries. From our email exchange, I think she was a bit surprised when I said that I think social media plans often get in the way and are a waste of resources. I told her that I could not send her a sample social media plan or a list of best practices for writing a social media plan. I told her that my suggested best practice was to not write a plan at all.

When I think about a “plan”, I mean a systematized set of steps that guide an organization through a process in order to achieve a goal. Plans are coordination tools. They layout steps, and they help people understand how they will work together. They are really useful in guaranteeing a course of action and preventing the group from deviating from that course. Plans work best when actions and goals are fairly well understood. Moving a library collection from an old facility to a new facility is a problem where a plan is absolutely vital. Having a technology plan for server upgrades or computer cascades is often important.

For a social media plan to be really useful, the planners would need to anticipate things they do not know as well as lessons they will learn along the way. They also need to anticipate new technologies that have not been invented. The plan will be in need of constant update.

We often overlook the fact that plans are not overly helpful when the goal is to learn, innovate, and adapt. As we know, social media are a set of technologies that are evolving constantly. They thrive in environments that are highly adaptive where organizational members can use technology to meet ever-changing needs. The decision about applying social media to needs should be located as closely to the ground as possible and not up at the top of the organizational chart.

This isn’t to say that effective use of social media relies on anarchy. Far from it. Organizations still need a structure around social media. Organizations can encourage social media by defining policies, workflows, guidelines, and best practices. These broad documents offer an outline where experimentation and play can exist around social media tool. The goal is to create a safe environment to play around with social media. Unfortunately, plans often fit our organizational DNA better than playfulness. Plans feel better than experiments, because plans require us to come up with outcomes in advance. Thus, we’ll spend six months developing a plan instead of spending that time developing an online services that advances our mission.

Many administrators like plans because they provide the illusion of making the unknown into something known. To me, this desire for a plan hearkens back to Michael Stephen’s warning from 2006, “Warning: failure to innovate while overthinking & underplanning library services may cause loss of library users & library staff.“. Social media plans too often fall into the category of failure to innovate due to “overthinking.”

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the author of the book, Managing Social Media in Libraries. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Survey: American libraries using Social Media tools for PR/Marketing

Curtis R. Rogers, Ed.D., Communications Director at the South Carolina State Library, has posted the annual survey on American libraries using Social Media tools for PR/Marketing. Please consider participation and share the link:
The survey will close on Wednesday, November 21, 2012, 5:00pm EST.

Please forward this survey to library colleagues, state library association listservs, Facebook pages, or others who may be interested.

If you have any questions, please contact me at [email protected]

Curtis R. Rogers, Ed.D.
Communications Director, SC State Library

Expanding The Conversation (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

Have you ever found yourself inside the library echo chamber? I think we all have.  You’ve got something great to share or say about libraries and you put it out there…and it’s only talked about by librarians and libraries.  Some great presentations and pieces have been written about the echo chamber (some of my  faves are from Ned Potter, Sally Pewhairangi, and Steven V. Kaszynski).    These have got me thinking…how can we avoid the echo chamber?  My thought is this…expand the conversation and try, try, try your best to include those outside of the library world.  But how can we do this?  Here’s one way that I’ve found to be quite effective over the past few weeks.

I’ve fallen in love with a new service called Branch.  What is Branch?  It’s a new site that allows you to take ideas, tweets, and more and expand on them with anyone.  Wanna talk beyond the 140 characters of Twitter or not get involved in a messy comment thread?  Take it to Branch and have a conversation.

That’s exactly what I did when I started reading a series of posts on Read Write Web by Richard Macmanus titled Social Books.  I saw that the posts had an audience.  The article that caught my eye was this piece on GoodReads.  Specifically, I noticed that 183 people have shared/liked it on Facebook and a whopping 583 shares on Twitter. I also noticed a lack of librarians in on the conversation.  I wanted to see if I could expand the conversation and  get some library perspective into the mix.  So I took it to Branch:

As of the time of the writing of this post, the Branch conversation has led to some cool things that have expanded the conversation. Richard Macmanus, the author of the Social Book series Read Write Web joined the discussion on Branch and shortly thereafter wrote a post entitled The Social Library: How Public Libraries are Using Social Media which explores such topics as libraries using social media to connect with community, social catalog enhancements from LibraryThing, Candide 2.0.  I know that numbers are not everything, but there’s been a lot of sharing of the piece going on.  Look at the sharing stats below:

 What strikes me most are the number Facebook and Twitter shares.  To me, that’s a lot of people who have checked out the article…and then shared it.  Who knows how many people have actually read the article, but it’s likely that there’s even more.

And this is where I get most excited about this piece: think about how there are people out there today who are not involved in libraries reading about libraries, what libraries do, and how libraries improve community.  That’s the cool part about expanding the conversation.

Web 2.0 & Libraries Parts 1 & 2 Available Free on Hyperlinked Library Site

I am happy to announce the full text of both of my ALA Library Technology Reports are available now at the new TTW companion site The Hyperlinked Library.

The rest of the site is currently under construction, but for now you’ll find:

Web 2.0 & Libraries: Best Practices for Social Software (2006) –

Web 2.0 & Libraries: Trends & Technologies (2007) –

Special thanks to my SJSU SLIS grad assistant Patrick Siebold who worked very hard the past few weeks inputting the content. I know the examples from ’06 and ’07 may seem out of date and quaint in some ways, but I’m very proud of the framework we used for the works back then. Conversations, Community, Connections, Collaborations – all those great C words Jenny Levine and I used throughout our early social software roadshows in 2005 & 2006 provide a useful context for looking at Web 2.0. I hope these works are still useful to some of you. Comments are open for adding more to the chapters and I plan on doing some types of updating as time permits.

The site will also serve my course Web sites and other items related to my teaching. 


I got an iPhone this past month, and I’ve been slowly digging into the vast library or apps that the phone offers.  A lot of things have grabbed my attention, but nothing perhaps so much as Historypin.  From Wikipedia:

Historypin is an online, user-generated archive of historical photos and personal recollections. Users are able to use the location and date of an image to ‘pin’ it to Google Maps Where Google Street View is available, users can overlay the historical photograph and compare it with the contemporary location. 

When I use Historypin, all that I can think about is how libraries should be jumping all over this and using it to create a unique glimpse into their community.  I’ve talked before about how I believe the path forward for public libraries is in encouraging our communities to create unique content (1, 2, and 3) and here is a tool that allows us to do this.

Here’s what I’m imagining from my point of view as a teen librarian: what if I got a handful of teens interested in photography, a few digital cameras or iPod touches, and we had a program where we headed out into the city for a half hour taking pictures.  We could then come back into the library and, using the library’s wifi and the Historypin app, upload the photos and catalog our city at that moment in time.  What’s even better is that Historypin encourages users to snap pictures of old photographs and upload them to Historypine (see the above image for an example).  Say that your library has an extensive local history collection (sort of like the one at my library).  Wouldn’t it be great to mobilize some volunteers to digitize photos and upload them to Historypin?  The library could even partner with local tourism organizations to give people with mobile phones a walking history tour of the city.

You can download Historypin for iOs and Android devices here:
Or try it online here:


(many thanks to Nate Hill for turning me onto this awesome site)

-Post by Justin Hoenke,Tame the Web Contributor



Your “Library” Doesn’t Participate in Social Media, But Your People Do – A TTW Guest Post by Dr. Troy Swanson

Much discussion has been made about librarians reaching out through social media to our communities and our patrons and rightly so. But, we often overlook the role that social media offers for us internally as a means to strengthen our organizations.

One thing to remember is that libraries really do not participate in social networks. People do.

In fact, your “library” doesn’t exist. You may have a building. You may have items on your shelves. You may have people who show up to do work. But, there is no “library.” Often, we speak of our libraries as if they are these living entities outside of the people who make them up.

“The library prohibits the use of cell phones in all public areas.”

Actually, the library doesn’t prohibit anything. Only people can prohibit.

Our libraries are groups of people who come together to do a job. Together, we make rules, systems, policies, and procedures in order to coordinate our work. We need to understand how the individuals fit together to get a job done. We need some predictability. If we had to remake the rules everyday, we’d never accomplish anything.

There are two important challenges that come from this. First, it is easy to fall into a rut and make things so predictable that nothing ever changes. There are many people who talk about breaking out of ruts, so I am will not focus on this in this post.

The second challenge, which is my focus, is much more interesting. This is that it is impossible to create rules for most situations. Most of the time, when faced with a decision, organizational members take their understanding (based on past experience) and apply it as best as possible to the task at hand. Sometimes this is a very rote task, and other times, this is a once-in-a-career opportunity.  It can take months or years of working in an organization to really understand the unwritten participation rules. Empowering people to act can be even trickier.

In an ideal, magical world, all of our organizational members would know about all of the actions ever taken by our colleagues. We would build up our knowledge and have that in our heads. Then, when faced with a decision, we would have the ultimate point of reference to use in acting.

But, as we know, that’s not how the real world works. In the real world, we are always making and remaking meaning within our organizations. Each person has limited knowledge and imperfect information. We react to our environment, observe results, and decide if our actions worked. Importantly, we decide together. Sometimes this takes the form of formal policies, evaluations, or procedures. Sometimes, this happens more informally through friendships, gossip, and frowning faces. In all cases, organizational members are bumping around, making sense of the world. Together, we make meaning through doing work. Talking to someone about working is never the same as actually working with that person.

My library is open seven days a week, day and night. Our staff members are never all together at one time. There are many staff members who will never meet each other. Yet, we hope that our staff members will make similar decisions when presented with similar situations. But, there is no way we can capture every rule, every practice, or every approach. There is no handbook that will ever be complete. There is no workshop that will ever be long enough.

But, with social media, we can connect. We can share our days via Twitter or Facebook. We can document via shared wikis. We can demonstrate via YouTube. Of course, social media will not solve all problems, but they offer an affordable way to overcome space and time limitations. They are one more tool in our tool box. Most importantly, it offers an avenue to work together, which is the most powerful way to build meaning.

The question becomes how? First, those with knowledge must contribute. Some of the most vital organizational information will come from managers, so they must commit to using these tools. Simply put, organizational members will follow their organizational managers. If they put needed information and direction in these tools, then staff members will need to access these tools to do their jobs. Second, organizational members must understand how the tools are used and what they can do. Most importantly, they must understand how they should contribute and how their contribution will forward the goals of the organization. Finally, participation must become part of everyday work. It cannot be seen as an optional fun activity, but as actual work.

Troy A. Swanson is Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Please Take Lori Reed’s Facebook Survey

Lori Reed writes:

For my capstone project at East Carolina University I am conducting research on best practices and current trends on using Facebook for work and personal use.

Please help me by completing this short survey on how you use Facebook:

This survey is completely anonymous but I am looking for statements that can be attributed back to a source. If you would like to be interviewed for this project please contact me ASAP at [email protected] Look for the final report to be published here in April.

More here: