Friday 25 January 2013

Measuring the Impact of Social Media Marketing in Libraries

One of the reasons that this blog has been so quiet recently is that I've been working on my MSc dissertation. I'm pleased to say that barring a few last minute tweaks it's complete! 

The topic of my dissertation is the title of this post. I've been interested in social media use in libraries ever since I took part in Cam23 and I've come across a lot of institutions that use the tools. It came as a little bit of a shock then to find out that few places have an evaluation strategy in place when it comes to their social media initiatives. Some places make a token effort to count the number of 'likes' a post has on Facebook or the amount of times that something gets retweeted, but few look beyond this. My research was concerned with delving a little deeper and exploring whether social media use was having an impact on library users, good or bad.

I won't go into detail with the results here but below is an image of a poster that I presented at the recent libraries @ cambridge conference which summarieses the main findings:

Creative Commons Licence
Measuring the Impact of Social Media Marketing in Libraries by Claire Sewell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

I'm not claiming that my research is brilliant or foolproof (far from it!) but I think this an interesting area which more libraries need to explore. If you actually ask your users what they like/don't like about social media you might get some interesting answers. You might find out that your users really like your Twitter feed even if you don't get many retweeets, or that your Facebook 'likes' don't really count for much. If you rely on usage statistics alone then you could be misled.

It seems to me that a lot of librarians are having trouble convincing their managers that social media is really worth their time. Although impact is a notoriously tricky thing to measure, if you can come up with some user based evidence then you will have something concrete to show your managers next time they ask why you should be wasting time on social media!

Monday 14 January 2013

Libraries@Cambridge Conference 2013

The theme of this years conference was 'Making an Impact', something which I have been interested in since conducting research into impact for my MSc dissertation. I should add for anyone who read my blog on last years conference that this post will not be as controversial! I'm just going to focus on a few of the points that I found really relevant in the keynote sessions. For a full report of the day, see the official conference blog which has a report on each session.

Liz Jolly gave the first of the two keynote sessions. One of the points that she highlighted was that although as a sector we are good at measuring things, we need to make sure that we are doing this for the right reasons. This is something that I've come across a lot in my own research. Libraries tend to have all manner of usage statistics but do we actually use them effectively or do we just compile them for the sake of it? Liz talked about the importance of effective benchmarking and setting our measurements in context. This last point is particularly important as we should be measuring how we align our work with the goals of our institutions if we want to prove our worth.

This is something that I've often thought about with cataloguing. I know that to some we are a dying species but I think that a strong cataloguing department is essential to the smooth running of a library. The main problem is how to get this message across. There is lots of talk at the moment about how important the student experience is and I think that cataloguers need to make the point that even if we are in the back office, what we do is actually a very important user service. Without proper cataloguing our users will have trouble finding the resources that they need - isn't this one of the most important parts of serving library users?
Liz also talked about the importance of advocating what we do to our colleagues and users. She stressed that we need to make it clear that professional bodies such as CILIP are learning organisations and we are using membership to develop ourselves, hopefully leading to better service. This is something that was mentioned at the recent CILIP CIG conference where presentations highlighted the importance of getting involved with the library outside your own department. Liz talked about going to where our colleagues are and learning to speak their language, something which I think is important. We need to stop seeing our departments as isolated units and learn to work together and promoting ourselves to our colleagues is one way of doing this.

The second keynote presentation was given by Dave Patten and Graham Stone who talked about the Library Impact Data Project. The project is attempting to establish a link between library use and final degree level - something which is really interesting to a lot of librarians! Phase two of the project is more focused, looking at off campus resource usage, hours spent logged in and overnight use amongst other things. The results so far are really interesting, for example showing that mature students (anyone over 21!!) tend to use resources more than their younger counterparts. Dave and Graham have also broken down usage by ethnicity and country leading to some surprising results which need further investigation. The presenters made the point that even if some of the results that they are producing seem to be common sense, having actual evidence of the impact of the library should not be underestimated. Demonstrating the value for money that the library can bring to the student experience is vitally important - especially in the light of the current financial climate. This is an issue that I have seen raised many times in the course of my research on impact and I'm glad to see that someone has taken this further and is producing some quantifiable evidence.

Even though the issue of impact has been raised in the profession many times before I don't think that being reminded of it is a bad thing. It's important that we don't become complacent and continue to find new and innovative ways of demonstrating the difference that we make to our users and colleagues, whichever part of the library that we work in.

The conference was as usual really though provoking and provided the opportunity to meet up with colleagues who may work in the same city but don't always have time to get together. Roll on libraries @ Cambridge 2014!

photo credit: Vermin Inc via photopin cc

Thursday 10 January 2013

Public Speaking for the Terrified!

Anyone who knows me in real life will know that I am not what you would call a natural public speaker. The thought of standing up in front of more than two people terrifies me to my very core, never mind having to sound intelligent in front of a room full of every librarian in my organisation! So when I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at yesterday's libraries @ cambridge conference I said yes with more than a little trepidation. However if 2013 is going to be my Chartership year I had better learn how to push my boundaries and there's nothing like jumping in at the deep end!

Having never done anything like this before I did what any good librarian in this situation would do - I started to research tips on how to be part of a conference panel. I found a couple of reassuring resources but most focused on how to chair a panel discussion rather than how to be part of it, so I thought I would use this post to share a couple of tips for other first timers:

  • remember that you have been asked to contribute, so someone thinks you know what you're talking about even if you're less than confident. You must have done something to make them think this so try not to stress too much about how little you (think you) know about the topic
  • try not to over prepare (also advice I give to people attending job interviews). It's a must to do some preparation but don't over think it. Have a list of bullet points rather than a totally planned speech which can sound a bit robotic 
  • on the flip side, don't go in totally unprepared. Meet up with your fellow panelists and talk about areas you think might come up. You could even assign areas to talk about, giving you a chance to feel a bit more prepared on a smaller slice of the overall topic
  • remember to talk to the audience not just your fellow panelists, especially if you're responding to an audience question. And don't do that thing where you imagine the audience naked - never a pretty image!
  • at least attempt to look like you're enjoying yourself, even if you're not. Remember the conferences that you have attended where the presenter has looked totally bored and you have tuned out as a result? If you don't look interested in what's happening then the audience definitely won't be
  • be yourself, in terms of both personality and dressing. Dress smartly but comfortably rather than trying to 'dress to impress'. If you wear something you're not used to then you will feel uncomfortable, which means that you will look uncomfortable
  • don't give long-winded and technical answers. People will tune out. Remember a really bad panel session that you have been to where you understood nothing? Don't copy that
  • the audience is not out to get you or trip you up with horrible questions, they're probably just glad it's not them on that stage! If you do get asked a question it's because you made enough of an impact with that person that they felt they needed to respond. If you don't know the answer then say so, you can always look into it and follow it up later. No one is expecting you to have all the answers
  • if you have a last minute panic and end up rocking in a corner before the session remember that it's only an hour out of your life. Try to think of it as a conversation with other people interested in the topic rather than a scary experience (something else which works for me in job interviews). Audience members wouldn't be there in the first place if they weren't interested in what you have to say!

Being involved in a panel discussion is a way to ease yourself into public speaking. You're not up there on your own giving a paper and you can share the responsibility for questions with others meaning that you're not totally put on the spot. Taking part in a conference is a great opportunity and will look good on your CV in what is an increasingly competitive job market. It might take a lot of convincing (never mind a couple of stiff drinks) to get you up there but I promise that it will be worth it in the end. If all else fails remember that if I can do it, so can you!