INF506 is an unusual subject in that it offers students an opportunity to develop a real-world project allowing practical application in an academic course. I learnt theory that is vital when trying to implement new programs in schools, and I gained practical knowledge when I used social media to promote and enhance my project. Together the theory and practice have ensured I am more appreciative of, and confident when, using social media in my professional life. Of course there are still issues to grapple to ensure our complicated messy on-line world leaves a safe, productive space for our young digital citizens.
The theory presented in the course can be used to support a social media plan for a school library. I learnt that no matter how and when libraries embark on the journey, there should be a plan and a purpose. The clear, evidence-based arguments justifying why social media can and should be part of a marketing and promotional initiative were exciting to read. When implementing any new program, or introducing a radical plan which may be dismissed by leadership, it’s crucial to specify the goals and targets. Include evidence of the increased reach libraries can create by building networks in spaces that young people frequent, add a collaborative approach by all library members, so the tone of delivery is consistent and appropriate, and a realistic and workable process is now in place.
I also learned about the role of the participatory Web 2.0 tools in an effective Library 2.0 plan. Not only does a social media plan reach out to students, it also permits them to participate and comment. Feedback provides library staff an opportunity to listen to the needs of users, and encourages users to feel a positive part of the evolution of the space. Social media builds trust because both parties feel included as they work together. Entering a dialogue with users leverages social media in an exciting and immediate way. I look back at my first post where I voiced concern regarding the unrestrained access students allow to their on-line personas, and now realise libraries need to operate in a similar way—presenting an open, transparent persona of their own to support their educational agenda.
One challenge is that school networks filter out Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. However, a primary goal of the social networking plan is to reach students outside the physical school space, so it is not as large a problem as it might seem. Another issue is the way students interact on their personal social sites is often inappropriate in a school context. I experienced this with my year seven classes when I asked them to join a social network site to record their reading journey. Their habit of banal and irrelevant chatter was difficult to break.
The social media project also provided many insights about promoting and connecting. There should be an appropriate number of posts, neither too few nor too many, when asking people to join an activity or attend a function. Unless there is a clear understanding about how the experience can benefit the patrons, they are unlikely to engage. While it’s a good idea to vary the content and the language of posts, it remains important to link parallel content back to the main promotion, otherwise the message is weakened. Another important consideration is choosing the most effective social media platform. When an audience already exists for one platform, it is not clever to start a new platform, ‘just to try it out’. It takes time to build a trusting audience, and a week before the promotion starts it not enough time to get that audience set up.
Using networks and connections more effectively was another lesson. Megan Daley, from Children’s Books Daily, is a well-connected teacher librarian and presenter. Not only does she tap into the librarian and publishing world, she has also a strong link to the parenting world. These three groups would have been ideal targets for the project, and not getting her on board meant its reach was limited. Networkers must be prepared to take advantage of every connection, and not be concerned about bothering others. Her involvement would benefited many parties. While I am disappointed in the lack of interest in my project, just last week end four excited volunteers visited four satisfied bookshops and spoke to enthusiastic community members about books and reading for children and young adults. Generally, the day was a success.
The only new platform I joined was Instagram, which I am loving. And I do feel more confident and excited about being more active on the ones I already use. My twitter feed is filled with more original content, my library Facebook page has a more relaxed tone, with more ‘fun’ posts, and I have really enjoyed sharing relevant posts from my personal Facebook feed with the INF506 group. It really is all about the sharing, isn’t it?