One of the innovations instituted by my Deputy, Kirsty Taylor, after arriving here following her sojourn in NZ, was a regular ‘journals club’ meeting for the library team. These meetings have been going for over a year now and involve the dissemination of an article of professional relevance ahead of a free-for-all opinion sharing meeting at which we’re all equals (and for which we revolve the role of chair). This week’s meeting was chaired by Claudia, whose My Cam23 blog is well worth a read if you haven’t found it yet, and concentrated on a US article (‘Social software programs: student preferences of librarian use’ in New Library World, 110(7/8): p.366) which reported results of a survey of students by librarians which had essentially asked: ‘Do you want to be friends with librarians in the social media space?’
Now it seemed pretty obvious to all of us that this was a less than ideal way to approach the opportunities offered by social media. What?! Students said “No” when asked this? What really? Well of course they did. I guess this is rather like asking a teenager if they’d like their parents to go with them to the sixth form disco, not quite as extreme maybe, but not far off. Aside from this angle there was the fact that the librarians in question didn’t seem to be very clear why students should connect with them in the social space. In fact there was a definite feel emanating from the piece that these librarians felt that they needed to connect with students in this new medium but they didn’t really know why. Linking this to the 4 C’s model that I included in my marketing blog piece on the main Cam23 blog, I think the problem here was that they knew they wanted to make Connections and have Conversations in this new Context, but that they hadn’t thought enough about the Content they were offering. How would they actually go about marketing their service via this medium? (N.B. It is important to mention that the survey questions were not included in the article so it is entirely possible that their approach was less basic and aimless than it appeared to be.)
These observations naturally led to discussion about our adoption of social media tools here at Judge and specifically the approach to promoting them that we have taken thus far. Although we use Delicious, have a Library Twitter account, upload to SlideShare, provide a new books RSS Feed, offer a library induction podcast, update a Facebook Group etc. etc., it’s fair to say that despite the fact that we know what we’re here for and the sort of service we provide – an essential component of marketing, it is in fact the promotional side, the stuff that everyone erroneously thinks as ‘all marketing is about’ that has been rather lacking. Aside from our now defunct newsletter (we’re moving it to a blog), email signatures, a few links on our portal, the odd poster, and, most importantly, induction and teaching sessions, we simply haven’t promoted our embracing of social media systematically or strongly enough. This is something I’m keen to change and which requires some careful thought. The aforementioned moving of the bulk of of our online delivery to a blog should help matters, but what I think is just as important is getting the message right when we’re in front of our users in the classroom. In that forum we need to be able to demonstrate confidently how our social media presence will help them. How we’ll go about that, and what exactly we will say, I’m not sure as yet, however, what I am certain of is that we won’t be asking students to become our friends just for the sake of it.