Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Outreach never ends...

This is the third post in a series celebrating National Library Week.

Today is National Bookmobile Day! While I have never had personal experience with bookmobiles - I grew up in a pretty compact town, with little need for one - I have always been in awe of them. I think they're amazing services, especially for rural libraries, with excellent outreach and marketing capabilities. And they don't even have to be motorized.

In the 21st century, there are two ways for users to interact with their libraries: physically and virtually. Bookmobiles are just one amazing example of physical outreach to our communities - but how do we outreach to our virtual communities? By utilizing the same technology that has made so many of our users deem libraries irrelevant: social media.

Murray Library (UT) has incorporated an amazing blog feature right on their homepage, creating virtual reader's advisory. Initiated by a senior librarian who wanted to really encourage all library workers to become involved with readers advisory, the feature is simple but well implemented. Each post includes a well written review, clicking on the image takes the user straight to the catalog record and if the user enjoys the staff member's review, they can click on the reviewer's name and see what else they recommend. And it's not just books that are reviewed - the blog offers music reviews with YouTube videos of the featured artist. Even if their users are never interacting with librarians in the library, this is a great way for them to interact with the organization when they log on to check out books.

And then there are the "traditional" social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter, etc. While libraries are still figuring out the bast way to put them to use (with some having better results than others), individual librarians are certainly all over social media. I was having a conversation with a classmate this weekend (@overgeeked for those of you on twitter) about how twitter seemed pretty irrelevant before we were in library school. But now it seems necessary. We have these tools whose primary purpose is to share information - how can we, as information professionals, not be a part of that?

Bookmobiles have always seemed to be a part of libraries - reaching patrons outside of libraries certainly has. Now that librarianship and information services are becoming much more nebulous, its time to start adapting and start realizing that adaptations are going to be a regular part of the game.

photo credit: New York Public Library, 1938, via The Commons

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