I Rate Books (and Irate Books get 0 Stars!)

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One does not typically think of the library when the term e-commerce is used. After all, the wonderful thing about libraries – at least public libraries – is that they are free to members of their community! However, we information professionals know a thing or two about lending and borrowing, and we can certainly borrow a thing or two from our for-profit competitors to enhance our users’ experience by providing social commerce tools to improve engagement with our collections.

Consumers can get just about anything on Amazon.com, including print and digital books. Before purchase, would-be buyers can read reviews provided by others who have purchased the item. Researching goods is a wonderful way to help spread knowledge (as the rater/review writer) and make a more informed purchasing decision (as the consumer). However, this feature can benefit individuals who are not about to exchange funds for merchandise. Think of the process of looking for your next book to read in your public or academic library. How helpful would it be if you could see a brief synopsis and reviews from others who have read the book before you? Would not it be more beneficial to you to have the option of making a more informed decision even when you’re only paying with the time and energy to read a book as opposed to monetary funds? After all, time is money. Perhaps it might be helpful to patrons if libraries considered creating a new type of app – one that marries the catalog with the conveniences of social commerce that businesses have been successfully utilizing for years.

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I can easily imagine an app such as this sample I’ve created above that allows users to read and write reviews, rate a title, and hear what an expert librarian has to say about a book of possible interest. And the reviews don’t have to just be for the benefit patrons – surely library staff could make use of the ratings gathered when making future selecting (and de-selecting) determinations.

While we’re at it, let’s go one step further and make the library experience even more social. Let’s get some free marketing out of our patrons’ reading enjoyment. Some online stores allow consumers to post announcements through social media when they’ve purchased an item, and this could work for libraries too! Did you love that book you just finished? Tell your friends all about it and perhaps even more people will become aware of the hot titles found in the library’s collection. It’s like a virtual display case that staff don’t have to design or devote space to maintaining!

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While creating apps to provide essential library information for users on the go is important, there are other exciting ways that libraries can try to engage their patrons with their collections. These are just a few ways – as you can see by the other buttons on this imaginary app, there are others! Just because we do not charge for our services does not mean we shouldn’t work to adopt some of the strategies used in the commercial world that turn consumers on to products and services. It’s all about selling what you’ve got, even if only in a figurative sense.

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You, too, can YouTube!

In class, I’ve noticed a lot of people automatically think of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram when considering social media sites that information professionals should be taking most advantage of, but YouTube has plenty to offer too. Libraries and Museums are using the video hosting site in a variety of ways, from web tutorials to general outreach. So if you’re feeling a little ancient when someone mentions staring a YouTube channel for your library, don’t worry. I’ve curated some samples below from various institutions that are using it effectively!

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Don’t look so worried – let’s learn this together!

Promoting the Importance of Libraries

New York Public Library started a great series called Library Stories in which some of their patrons and staff shared what the library means to them and why it’s such an important place in their lives. According to their site, “The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. Through the pursuit of this mission, the Library touches the lives of thousands of New Yorkers every day, and every interaction creates a story.” Library stories explores the way each story is relevant to the library’s mission.

Highlighting the Collection

The Natural History Museum in NYC took to YouTube to share an audio slideshow of the book Rare Treasures from their Special Collections Department. Other libraries have used the site for a similar purpose, showing off interesting holdings, such as a collection of tiny books and other oddities that patrons might not otherwise know existed in the Stacks.

Training Purposes

Departments within the library itself sometimes create videos, such as this creative effort by Columbia University to add interest to subject matter that students might not otherwise find very engaging. Other libraries have created tutorials for patrons to easily navigate standard library services, such as a new website, popular databases, proper citation, renewing books online, and more.

Book Reviews

Some librarians have taken their expertise and love of books and reading to the Web and have started their own Youtube channels on behalf of their libraries, where they review books from their collection and recommend their top choices. These videos often involve brief plot summaries, ratings, and personal critiques.

Other Options?

What other options are available to libraries or museums looking for a creative way to utilize YouTube? Some users have begun posting interactive “choose your own” adventure games that link a series of videos that share a narrative and proceed depending on the viewers choice of action. Though I have not seen any library related stories so far, I can easily imagine an education library adventure that involves students attempting to navigate their way through the stacks and encountering various storybook-inspired adventures along the way! This option would, of course, require staff who are proficient at writing and a crew interested in acting out the roles assigned, but it seems a promising and engaging addition to any library or museum’s YouTube channel! I look forward to seeing one in the future!