I’m not a library director. Heck, who knows if I’ll ever be a library director. But spend some time working in a public library and you’ll see a common theme: most employees and the public have no clue what a library director does. There’s this belief that the library director is some person way high up in the sky making all these decisions and pulling all these strings to make the library work. With such little information known about the day to day happenings of a library director, employees and patrons end up getting confused about the direction of the library. In turn, that can sometimes lean towards anger, poor morale, and communication breakdown. The victims here? It’s always the patrons. When the library staff doesn’t know what the hell is going on, the patron’s suffer. They lose out on valuable materials, services, and more.
Social media allows us to be more transparent than ever. We can check in at every place we visit, we can tweet quotes from conversations we’re having, we can share pictures at the tap of our screen. Blogging/Video blogging makes it super easy and quick just to share your thoughts/actions for the day. To some folks, this transparency is scary. Most everything you say or do can be found on the web. Here’s where I burst your fun bubble. THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU. I’m just as guilty of this as you are, so I’m not pointing fingers. We have to remember that when we’re working in a public library that we are public employees. Our salaries and benefits are graciously paid for by public taxes paid by the people we serve. Living in the era of the Tea Party and slashed library budgets, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that our country is pretty darn upset about taxes and will do anything to get rid of what they consider unnecessary spending.
Have a UStream feed running in your office all day as well as during meetings. What have you got to hide in these day to day meetings? If you’re talking about people behind their back, you probably shouldn’t be doing that anyway.
Opening up your office and your meetings to the public will give your community the primary resource they will need to understand your direction and vision. Instead of hearing half true rumours from other employees and around your town you’ll be giving the information to the public as it was meant to be heard.
*Yes, I understand that some meetings are meant to be private. These meetings should totally stay that way.
Check into every place you’re visiting in the community. Give us a little info about why you’re there.
I don’t have a solid example for this recommendation, so instead I’ll point you to my Foursquare account (http://foursquare.com/justinlibrarian). Just imagine that all those restaurants I checked into are different meetings and locations I’m out scouting for possible collaborations.
In my own opinion, this is the perfect tool for the director who is on the go to use. Tweet quotes from meetings you’re attending. Give your followers a brief 140 character synopsis about what’s going on.
Don’t think you have enough time to tweet? That’s a lame and outdated excuse that everyone uses. Look at Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker’s Twitter stream for inspiration. He’s running a whole city and he can still tweet! http://twitter.com/corybooker
Fire up your webcam (chances are that your laptop already has one. If not, get this one) and start talking. If you’re a director, you should be well spoken and ready for the cameras. A quick 1-3 minute videoblog about your day that can then be uploaded to your library YouTube account will give your staff and patrons always valuable face time.
I couldn’t find any specific library directors already doing this (although I clearly remember seeing one out there a few years ago) so instead I turn your attention to teen author John Green and his brother Hank. They run the Vlogbrothers channel on YouTube where they just talk about…stuff! It keeps them connected to their rabid fan fan base and provides quick and easy updates to keep them relevant and interesting.
Jenny Levin’s blog is a beautiful example of how a lifestream can be used to keep people up to date with what you’re tweeting/blogging/sharing. It’s easy to set up and use once you get the ball rolling and it will provide your community with more than enough information about what you’re doing while you work.
There shouldn’t be this communication breakdown in libraries anymore. Starting at the top and leading by example, directors who embrace social media can show their staff and the public they serve just what they’re doing to keep their libraries relevant.
For further reading, I highly suggest you check out these awesome articles by Michael Casey & Michael Stephens: