Making a case for Social Networking at Lester PL, A TTW Guest Post by Jeff Dawson

I recently had a Facebook conversation with Jeff Dawson, director of the Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I realized in our back and forth that his experience with creating and extending online presense for his library was the makings for a HOT TTW guest post:

For example, the entire town knew I went to PLA (I think I left town as you were coming in… ). We are now running 2 blogs out of LPL, Blogging LPL is sustaining an average of roughly 3,000 hits a month and rising (I know my mom isn’t the only one looking at the blog). Flickr is the BEST marketing tool, I post photos daily and use them in our blogs, the local paper has used some of them, I’ve been interviewed on the radio because of flickr and now run a biweekly column in the Sunday edition of the Manitowoc Herald Times entitled Library News. The TR City Manager has noted the flickr account in his weekly newspaper column and during televised City Council Meetings. Taking those traditional networking tools – radio, television, and newspaper and aiming them at our Internet Networking devices – MySpace, flickr, etc. just sort of happened and is totally cool!

Jeff agreed and sent me this, culled from his talk at PLA:

In Two Rivers I immediately set up Lester Public Library accounts for Flickr, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, Ning, Facebook and YouTube. I also created a blog – Blogging LPL – for the library, they are free and I took responsibility for managing these online activities. We have a small dedicated staff and I didn’t want to add to their already full plates. I also wanted to brand Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, Wisconsin as quick as possible on these social networks because there are 3 Lester Public Libraries in the state of Wisconsin.

I presented our online existence to the Lester Public Library Board. The responses from the board varied from what a great way to get the library’s message to a new group of potential users and providing a safe place on MySpace – to – how can you validate this as a true library activity and when does it become a waste of your time. By making the board aware of these new services I was helping them understand the importance of these technologies as a marketing tool for our services and collections – not just for teens but for all our users. 

A significant change for Lester Public Library was re-writing our library mission. We moved from a four paragraph mission statement to four words: Read, Discover, Connect, Enrich (Read. Discover new things. Connect ideas and people. Enrich your life and community.). During my presentation of MySpace a board member asked why Lester Public Library is active on these sites, to which the President of the Board responded with – “It meets the requirements of our mission; we are connecting with our users.” 

Make a case for social networking from the library to your administration. Assure them it is not time wasted. From the marketing point of view alone, it is worth it. On our Lester Public Library flickr account we regularly post photos of library and community events. Our City Manager took notice and has mentioned our flickr photos in his weekly newspaper columns and during televised City Council meetings. Because of this exposure, I have been interviewed on local radio and now write a bi-weekly library column for the paper. By using standard networking tools, radio, television, and newspaper, we are directing people to a virtual library experience. 

We can help validate our virtual presence through their online tracking tools. For example, Blogging LPL is sustaining over an incredible 3000 hits a month since starting last June. And our flickr photos have been viewed over 49,400 times since last April (2007). 

For me it is a labor of love; it is fun, which is translating into fun for the entire community.