Bibliosaurus Rex signing off!

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In this final post we’ll take a look at a fun method of social outreach that has been around for a while but is growing in popularity in the library world: the podcast. Think your library doesn’t have what it takes to create a series of its own? Well, you’re wrong! All you need is the right equipment, one (but preferably two or more) brave soles to be the voice of your broadcast, and a few tips on how to launch.

Podcasts are audio files of themed episodes that subscribers can stream or download, usually free of charge. One popular theme seen used by libraries today is obviously book discussions. Just read a great book or acquired something for your collection that you think your patrons should hear about? Your show can focus on a conversation about the text – important themes, symbolism, fan theories (if there are any), and more. Want to make things interesting? Invite guests to be interviewed on your “show” who may be authorities on the subject matter you wish to discuss. For instance, if you’re talking about the book Game of Thrones, perhaps you could have local professors on the show to discuss whatever issues you might choose to focus on: the treatment of women in Medieval times, language creation in works of literature, cartography in fantasy works, etc! Be as silly or as serious as you want in the interviews, but have fun with the banter and develop a good rapport with other members of the show and your guests! Listeners will hear it in your tone.

Still unsure of how to make it work? See what these libraries are doing!

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So, what do you need to get started? According to the creators of the “In the Stacks” podcast, here are the basics:

Quality podcasts have music to add interest. This may be in the introduction to make it catchy, or during book passages, which Radio Westeros does quite effectively. Scared by the thought of having to create your own audio files? Don’t be! Music can be found free (or cheaply on sites such as MelodyLoops.

Podcasts can be edited on Mac devices or using online hosting services such as blubrry – a site that the In the Stacks crew uses. The benefit of such a site is that it allows you to check downloads to see how many people are listening to your broadcasts – and we all know how important statistics are to measuring the estimated effectiveness of our social media reach! Once you have it edited the way you want it and uploaded, be sure to upload the feed to iTunes to maximize the reach of availability.

Of course, be sure to market your goings on in other social media platforms and on your library’s webpage, which will not only draw attention to your podcast, but also give you the opportunity to attach visuals to the topic being discussed and add more information that may not have been covered in the conversation or interview.

Now go out there and create some audio magic! This is Bibliosaurus Rex signing off, It’s been fun!

Druda, E., Kretz, C., Muhr, C. (2017). Who’s Afraid of Podcasting? One Public Library’s Leap Into the Realm of Media Production. Long Island Library Conference Presentation.

 

Why My Favorite Library Book of the Week is Facebook

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I’ve addressed the various ways in which libraries can embrace social media and use the tools to their advantage. Little did I know that someone perhaps much like me but with a higher salary elsewhere in the world was telling Facebook staff that they should embrace libraries and use them to their advantage. Therefor, let’s take a break from talking about how you can use various social media tools and give a shout out to the ways in which they are borrowing from our field to make their platforms that much more epic. At least Facebook.

On the heels of the big “fake news” fiasco that surfaced in the political arena, Facebook has developed a temporary feature that mimics an information specialist’s role by allowing users to analyze sources and weed out the fake news in their feed. This handy add-on may have been added as many users began shunning social media due to the inundation of untrustworthy news stories during and after the election, and as governments look to the site as a problematic source of misinformation that sways elections based on false truths.

So, what are some of the ways, you might be wondering, that Facebook says you can determine if your Uncle Jim is spreading rubbish news versus legitimate information? Let’s take a look.

  1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.
  2. Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.
  3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.
  4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.
  5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.
  6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.
  7. Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.
  8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.
  9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.
  10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

 

Take from Facebook’s Help Center https://www.facebook.com/help/188118808357379?_fb_noscript=1

Those these are simplified versions of criteria that librarians might suggest when analyzing the the credibility of sources, it is still admirable that Facebook is taking some action to prevent the spread of fake news on their site. While freedom of speech is definitely of value on social media, rampant deception is also a problem that no company wants their brand to be known for.

Unfortunately, these guidelines are tricky to find and not something that most users are likely to read all the way through. But not to worry, the company is still working to keep their users informed about ways to spot trustworthy sources. Theringer.com reports that The News Literacy Project is working on creating more engaging content and videos to educate users. This content should be more eye catching and will hopefully grab the attention of more users. It will be released in a few weeks.

And For Today’s Trick, We’re Going to Make Your Content…DISAPPEAR!

Today we’re going to look at a somewhat newer trend.

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No, sorry dabbing dinosaur, I mean dabasaur, a social media trend. We’re going to look at the popularity behind disappearing content. What began as a feature unique to Snapchat has now been adopted by Instagram, and you can bet you’ll soon see it elsewhere as well. Now, it may seem counterintuitive to pour time into creating something that will soon vanish, sometimes within 24 hours, but as any dinosaur can attest to, sometimes being gone forever gives something an added cool factor.

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So wait…I’m working hard on content that will be gone tomorrow? Yup, sorry!

So what is disappearing content and what makes it so popular? Snapchat is made up entirely of temporary content whereas Instagram uses images and animations to tell a “story”, as a sort of digital blog of what’s happening in your life at one moment in time. It may not have the same quality of permanent pictures that you choose to archive in your profile, but it’s rawness is what makes it special in its own way. Snapchat and Instagram even allow you to draw on your content and add stickers to give it a less refined look that serves more to entertain than to impress visually. It’s lack of permanency is also what gives it its exciting exclusive feel, which is why libraries and other businesses should care about its potential for interacting with their audience. People want to feel like they’re an exclusive member and they hate missing out on interesting things, so posting creative images or videos as disappearing content can encourage more frequent viewing habits from your followers and win more likes. They will want to check your page more frequently to see if there’s anything new going on.

So how could your library use this feature? You might do special sneak peaks into the best study spaces or some remarkable items in your collection, to start with. Got an event coming up? Perhaps you could interview people involved and provide a “behind the scene” look at what’s to come. Or, if you want to get more crazy, try offering sporadic contests with prizes in this disappearing content messages to produce some desired behavior from your followers: locate a certain branch and get the code from the librarian, find a piece of information on the website and email it to the address provided, etc. It really is a great opportunity to inject a bit of fun into your social media campaign.

The flip side of this is that you will be doing work that many will miss out on if they fail to see it on time. For this reason, it should by no means be your only means for conveying important information that you wish the most number of viewers to see! Choose carefully what content is supplementary. Think of bonus features on a DVD. It is not essential to using the library, but it might make for a much more enjoyable experience!

Game On! Playing Around with Gamification Techniques in Social Media

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Games aren’t just for kids. We all love a little healthy competition here and there, and marketing experts are finding that consumers are drawn to social media tools that offer some of their favorite aspects of gaming. How can information professionals get in on this action? Let’s find out!

Defined simply, gamification is adding aspects of games such as challenges, points, rankings, badges, etc to an everyday activity. Companies such as Nike have famously done this with the Nike+ app that, if you can believe it, actually helps people find enjoyment in walking and running! Gamifying an activity motivates and engages users, if done properly, and gives them incentive to complete a task that they might otherwise not complete because the gaming aspect makes it more fun or compelling. Even something as minimal as the point and badge system helped Foursquare become a success.

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Some libraries have tip-toed into the gaming arena by adding their destination to Foursquare, a search and find app that allows people to find nearby places of interest based on their current location. This app allows you to check-in to participating locations (you can also add one if it is not included already) and earn badges as they play. More check-ins equal more points, with leaders being declared the Mayor while they’re ahead. Players can learn tips about that location in the app, so libraries could populate it with useful tips that they wish players to learn who might be utilizing the app on their mobile device. For instance, highlighting that you carry new releases of DVDs on the 3rd floor, or mentioning that New Books are highlighted in a separate location. Anything that might be exciting, interesting, or just essential for users to know can be added to your tips. Foursquare used to connect directly to social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter, but the newest version has done away with this feature.

Pro: You can highlight important facts and events for your library and patrons may have incentive to come because they want points.

Cons: Anyone can add tips, so if you have poor customer service or shoddy wi-fi, it could show up on this list!

Badges

Some libraries have used sites such as Mozilla Open Badge to create virtual icons called badges to award students or patrons who have attained certain achievements or goals. These badges can typically be shared on social media sites as a mark of one’s credentials and accomplishments. The following is a brief list of possible ways that libraries might award badges to increase patron participation, just as examples:

  • Scholar! (attending 3 instruction workshops)
  • Avid Reader! (checking out more than 25 books in a given period)
  • Rebel! (supporting the right to read if checking out a banned book during Banned Book Month)
  • Library enthusiast (attending a special library event)

etc… Marketing your badging system would then be essential so users know what they must do in order to earn these tokens. Some libraries may also choose to provide perks if certain goals are achieved, such as a gift card to a local business or the campus bookstore if a certain number of badges are accumulated in a given period of time. Very important events might also have their own collectors badges to further encourage attendance and participation.

Pros: Easy to create and fun to collect.

Cons: May not interest all user groups.

Games

Many libraries have also made an effort to create their own full-blown games and launched them on their websites and social media pages. These video games are perhaps the most time intensive and costly, requiring a great deal of skill and technical knowledge to create. Subjects cover a variety of topics, such as teaching proper citation to helping users understand the basics of library research. Success of this option depends on the difficulty level and playability of the game, meaning players needed to find it both challenging (but not too difficult) and also fun. Free alternatives to paid game design include MIT’s Scratch platform, but it is limited in capabilities and players who are not excited by the game may cease to continue playing.

Some games also take the form of digital novels or choose your own adventure stories. This can be done for free in places such as Google Apps, which then allows you to provide a link in social media sites. Google allows the option to save the user’s email address as their login to the game, so libraries would be able to track the success of the players and assess which answers were chosen correctly.

Pros: A creative way to help students learn material that they might not otherwise find engaging.

Cons: Can be costly and take a long time to develop with success not guaranteed.

 

Posting With Purpose

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When thinking of acquiring followers for your social media site, be like the t-rex. You don’t want to be too sedentary with your activity – he sees his prey through movement and lack of posts may cause current followers to lose interest and newcomers to view this as a sign that you will not provide the current information that might be seeking. In other words, you will fail to be seen as a web presence. Nor do you want to be to sporadic with posts, sharing memes and adorable pictures of LOLCats just because they’re popular and you think people will like them. The t-rex is not very agile and will not be able to follow that scattered pattern, and neither will your audience. Instead, determine what your brand is, what you wish your viewers to take from your site, and focus on creating interesting content that meets those goals. Anything else will distract them from your purpose and probably send them fleeing to an easier meal to digest.

This is not to say that you cannot post fun content when you want to. On the contrary, viewers will love you if you can find a way to marry fun and appropriate material in your posts. This may involve some creative thinking as you think of a way to tie a picture or a story into your library or museum and your holding and services. But always keep in mind what your goal is with a post and make sure that every message remains true to that mission!

As an example, let’s say that I really liked this image, which I do and thought my followers on Facebook might giggle when they saw it.

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It would not necessarily be appropriate for a library’s social media page, unless you find some way of connecting to your mission. If my mission is to highlight my library’s collection, facility, and services, I might include the following text with this image:

“Feeling like you’re falling just short of achieving excellence? Ask a Librarian how you can find the books you need to achieve your desired goal.”

Perhaps that’s not the best example per se, but you get the idea! Other ideas might be including the call number of a relevant book on the subject matter or directing students to an appropriate service area, like Academic Advising. Your page should be lean and mean without any fluff! Every post should be focused on your goal – even if it involves a little imagination to get it there!

Some social media platforms may be more limiting than others if you wish to explain the meaning behind your post and tie in its relevance. For instance, Facebook will allow you enter a lengthy text while Twitter is restricted to 140 characters. Instagram gets even worse because most followers only care about the visual itself and don’t pay as much attention to the caption. So consider your platform and your audience, and try your best to be focused in all you do to keep your readers interested in all the exciting things you surely have to tell them!

 

Choosy librarians choose GIFs

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The new trend in libraries is switching to online access for many journal and monograph titles. This not only addresses the issue of what to do when space is limited, but also offers information access to users who cannot make it to the physical building. However, many people have a devotion to print books and do not want them to become a thing of the past. Like it or not, nothing symbolizes a library more than a good old fashioned book! One reason this fact may not be more obvious is that patrons are not always aware of the richness of their own library’s collection. Throughout the next few months, I will explore various ways that librarians are creatively using social media to highlight unique works within their stacks to draw awareness to holdings and improve usage statistics.

Perhaps the simplest way is with the use of GIFs. A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, is a way of creating short animations at low resolution. These are easily made and make for catchy graphics on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Got an interesting book, map, score, or other item you would like your users to discover? Find a clever way to turn it into a GIF!

The University of Iowa created a series of GIFs to show off some hidden paintings on the edges of some of the books’ pages located in their Special Collections Department. Just a few stills looped together created an animation of the beautiful artwork that patrons might not otherwise have been aware of. Advertising these GIFs on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc would surely be of interest to art students, book lovers, historians, and more!

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This example shows how many monographs are unique works of art in themselves and have the ability to draw patrons in, which an e-book would not be able to do. Works like this should not be lost because it’s part of our history and something that lends itself well to a visual display on social media.

There are plenty of sites available that allow you to make free GIFs, though you may have to decide whether or not you wish to have a logo or watermark in one corner. Sites typically will remove this mark if you pay to create an account, and some even indicate that paid customers can have the option of having higher quality GIFs produced as part of their fee. A few free sites I’ve stumbled across include imgflip.com, makeagif.com, and giphy.com. It’s as easy as adding images or video clips, editing to size, then downloading the finished product to your computer. The file can then be uploaded to whichever social media site you wish to advertise on. Enjoy making engaging visuals for future posts!