Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
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Serving Schools Through Social Media

Library Life Article: 09 Aug 13

Feature article by Anne Morgan, Dylan Owen and Paula Eskett

The National Library of New Zealand is a big fan of social media. These online channels are quick, adaptable tools that let us provide access to our collections, services, and programmes in ways that fit into New Zealanders’ lives. We in the Services to Schools division have been building up our social media presence to meet the changing needs of our clients.

Services to Schools have long supported literacy, learning and libraries in New Zealand schools.  Working with school library staff, teachers, school leaders and wider education stakeholders, our focus is on reading engagement, developing skilled users of information, and supporting the development of strong, future-focused school library services for all students in New Zealand. As the education environment changes and responds to the challenges and immense opportunities afforded through digital learning, so too has the role of Services to Schools. We advocate for the use of social media in school library and learning practice, and use social media to connect with our clients and stakeholders to deliver our key messages and services. And we were early adopters…

 

Blogging
One of the National Library’s first blogs, Create Readers was launched in 2007. Its aim was simple: to help create motivated and engaged young readers. To make that happen, the blog promotes New Zealand and overseas children's and YA literature to school librarians and teachers. From reviews, to best books for boys, to celebrating New Zealand Post Book Award winners, Create Readers actively promotes a love and enjoyment of reading while filling a gap in reviewing and profiling what is currently being published for children in New Zealand.

While Create Readers provides a channel for our focus on reading engagement, we saw a need to connect with our audience on wider issues surrounding school libraries and learning and the work we are doing to support future-focused school library practice in New Zealand. We launched a second blog, Libraries and Learning (L2) in 2010. This blog focuses on inspiring best practice, emerging trends, research, tools, ideas, activities and services, from apps that help curate and edit content, to personal learning networks. L2 is designed to inform those dedicated to preparing and supporting 21st-century learners.

 

Tweeting and scooping
At the same time, different individuals in Services to Schools were discovering the possibilities of Twitter as a way of extending our audience, amplifying key messages and initiating conversation with leading thinkers and other interested individuals in New Zealand and internationally. We consolidated our Twitter presence into a single L2 twitter account: @L2_S2S. With 850 followers, 4,550 tweets sent and L2 following 525 people, the service left its L-plates behind a while ago. By targeting specific followers and personalising tweets with their twitter handles, we can spread our libraries, literacies and 21st-century thinking messages further than just our immediate followers. Harnessing the power of hashtags gives each tweet the unique opportunity to tie into a current conversation or hot topic, or to develop a new one.

The latest addition to our suite of social media tools is the curation tool Scoop-it.  On L2_S2S, we bring together a range of current, online articles on futures thinking for school libraries, creating an incredibly useful resource, especially for school leaders who are beginning the process of reimagining their school libraries. Transforming our Practice – School Libraries provides a wealth of best practice ideas and inspiration for school library staff.

Our social media accounts are all linked to and from the Services to Schools website, which also has built-in community features that give teachers, school library staff and others an opportunity to participate in online networks of practice and professional interest.

 

Planning and measuring
Bringing all of our online tools and channels together in this way has strengthened and consolidated our overall online presence and purpose. Each tool has a specific purpose and strategy and each is able to leverage off the others, creating a virtuous circle and generating maximum traction with our audience. Through careful planning and selection of the right tools for the right purpose, we have avoided the opposite pitfall – diluting our approach by jumping into the absolute profusion of social media tools available and the temptation to dip in without due consideration to our overall strategy.

How do we know we are successful? We have on average 3600 visits to our blogs per month, our Twitter following is growing by the day and a quick scan of our followers’ profiles tells us that we are connecting to the right people. We also have stories like this:

A recent series of blog posts on L2 about EPIC mentioned the fact that EPIC usage statistics can be used as evidence in the school library to measure the impact of a promotion or initiative to increase EPIC use. Within one hour of this being posted and the post being tweeted, the EPIC manager had received requests from ten schools asking how they could access EPIC usage data – and overall requests for information about log-in details also increased.  Several days later, an education stakeholder remarked on the sudden buzz about EPIC and that she had heard it mentioned in several high profile (non-library!) presentations that she had attended.

 

Learning
Social media enables us to be responsive, to gauge the interest, need and mood of our clients and to respond accordingly to best meet their requirements right at the point they need it. We monitor metrics, we listen to what our clients tell us and we modify our approach accordingly. And we’ve learnt a few things:

  • It is important to understand your target audience’s needs and demands. The online world is saturated with blogs – what are your goals, and what makes you different?

  • Do your research and planning before you choose a tool. Be very clear about who your audience is, the purpose of your activity and your strategy for developing content.

  • You need a commitment from your blog writers/posters/tweeters and scoopers to provide regular content.

  • Social Media is not something extra that gets done on the side. It is a valuable and legitimate way to reach your users.  Reveal the passion you have for what you do.

  • Think long term – followers take time and effort to build.

  • Let users respond.  Having your latest post re-tweeted, an author commenting favourably on a review of their book, or followers responding enthusiastically to a great post – that’s priceless.

  • Take time to consider your voice – individual staff members may use social media as a professional tool, but how might this relate, support or detract from the overall voice of the business or organisation?

 

Careful planning is everything, and the Social Media in Government guide, part of the Government Web Toolkit, provides some exceptional help, from high level guides to understanding the risks and benefits of social media, to practical tools and templates for planning and developing process. Although developed for Government agencies, these can easily be applied to any organisation thinking about their overall social media strategy.

 

Feature article by: Anne Morgan, Dylan Owen and Paula Eskett
Services to Schools
National Library of New Zealand

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