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* Tuesday, October 24, 2006

20061023 03 IL - Reaching Patrons: Online Outreach for Public Libraries

Sarah Houghton-Jan
will post her slides on her blog at

where your users are online might not be where the library down the streets’ users are online

can’t pay lip service to online outreach – must devote staff time to it

your users are out there – where the heck are you?
arrogance of the worst kind to expect them to come to us
online, everyone’s patrons are your patrons
we need to put ourselves out where they already are
otherwise we lose and libraries become quaint mockeries of our former glory

everything in today’s presentation is free, although do have to devote staff time on an ongoing basis

1. make sure you are findable in the major search engines
search for variations and misspellings of your library name in Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, AOLsearch
are you the first hit? why not? figure out why and fix it; ask the engines to crawl your site (have they not crawled it lately because you haven’t updated your content lately?)
then expand to more minor or metasearch engines
has found that 20somethings use Dogpile a lot as a backup for Google

2. make sure you’re listed in library directories like LibDex, MapMuse, Libraries411,, and Libraries on the Web
make sure your information is accurate!
do this on a 2–3 year rotation

3. list your library in Wikipedia on the appropriate town or county entries
put how great your library is – it’s Wikipedia – if someone doesn’t like that, they can change it  :-p
do it on non-English Wikipedias, too
mention if you have free wifi

4. make sure you’re in Wikimapia –

5. list your library events and services in local community websites and calendars,, eventful, craigslist
these sites will get much more traffic than your library site will so you can reach new users
look for other local calendars where you can add your events
don’t advertise events that are already at capacity – that’s bad customer service; might need to add more times for that event if you still want to advertise it

6. ensure that your library has a presence on local government, school, and community websites
if they don’t want to link to you, find out why
don’t tell them to just link to your home page – have them link to useful pages or services you offer for their audience
find out what existing listings say about your library, and if they’re not the image you want to put forth, talk to the site’s webmaster
ask for link love – it’s ok (it’s not prostitution!)

7. monitor local blogs, technology boards, continuing education boards, and other forums
not just about the library, but about what’s going on in your community as well
get a sense of what your community cares about
offer your expert research advice and assistance wherever appropriate (job hunting, etc.)
don’t intrude, but be available

8. create a profile for your library in social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook
MySpace gets more hits each day than Google does
create a swanky profile on MySpace (public libraries) or Facebook (academic libraries)
be sincere and schmaltz-free; have a voice that’s authentic and avoid the techno-jargon of libraries
use informal voice and say “we” instead of “the library” (JL: yay!)
act as a positive influence in this space, as a model in your community

9. offer assistance (reference and circulation help) via instant messaging
email is for talking to old people – apparently the phone is for talking to dead people :-p
for many users, not being available via IM is like not having a phone
huge ROI

10. list your library in free wifi directories if you offer this service
wififreespot, wifihotspotlist, wifi411, etc.
advertising your wifi on little tent cards within your library just isn’t going to cut it

11. check reviews of your library on social review sites
decide up front if you want to participate and reply, and how
citysearch, insiderpages, judysbook, yelp (most popular)
when people take time to comment, it’s probably because of something negative, so be prepared
it’s important to address those complaints and to not be defensive
get on the forum with your individual voice and be there in a positive way

12. list your library’s blog on geographic blog search engines
people look for blogs based on their region
frappr, feedmap, blogwise, gfeedmap

13. are your items listed in WorldCat?
because of what OCLC is doing with WorldCat, it’s important to have your current holdings in there
have to update your holdings if they’re in there; otherwise it’s a bad customer experience

14. make sure you’re listed in Google Local
search for “yourlibrary, yourcity, yourstate”
school and public libraries are poorly represented in GL

15. push newsletters out via email and RSS feeds
harvest users’ email addresses from your ILS if you can (per the terms of your library card agreement) and start sending email newsletters
make the same newsletter available in HTML with an RSS feed
*push the information out to them*

16. consider being present in Second Life and other online game environments
mentioned Second Life Library 2.0 on Info Island (yay!)
get some experience with this because in 15–20 years, we’re all going to be working to serve these virtual users
we have to be ready to serve each others’ users and have to change our attitudes about this

17. list your staff as experts in various free expert-finding tools, ziki, illumio, qunu, faqqly (ask questions of your network of friends), otavo (where users create a “quest” and other users suggest resources that will help)

18. make your audio and video content findable
it’s getting easier and easier to do this now
upload videos to youtube, Google Video, blinkx, singingfish (get indexed there – submit your pages there whenever you post something new)
upload to sites like yahoo podcasts,, podcast alley, digital podcast, podscope, itunes, odeo, singingfish
transcribe your audio content in podzinger

19. make sure your library blog is listed in blog search engines
feed submitter, robin good’s list of where to submit your blog and feed, and RSS specifications list of where to submit your feed

20. subscribe to feeds to find discussions/content about your library
google news, yahoo news, ice rocket, technorati, feedster, bloglines
search for variations of your library’s name, too
to find videos taken in/of your library – youtube (
subscribe to feed of your library’s name in flickr

instead of asking them to come to us, let’s put ourselves out there where they are

audience question: how sell administration on serving other libraries’ users
Sarah: we’re already doing this some areas, like in virtual reference; this is where things are going; there are no political or jurisdictional boundaries online, so we can decide to serve everyone or no one; not being online is not an attractive alternative

audience: recommendation for IM software
Sarah: Trillian for AIM, Yahoo, and MSN; could also use GAIM

audience: if our holdings are in WorldCat, does that imply that we’re willing to ILL with any library
Sarah: not necessarily, but putting your information out there you’re letting people know you own it; what message does it send, though, when you won’t lend that book out?

audience: rural libraries can’t do IM and MySpace because of filters
Sarah: why are you filtering? the amount of money get out of erate is not as much as they put into it for mainintaing the software, staff time, etc.; it’s no longer a responsible thing to do because it’s bad service; if you’re stuck with it, need to talk to people about IM being another communication mechanism; blocking it is blocking out an entire audience, which is inappropriate

audience: how much additional staff time is needed for IM reference for a population of 100,000
Sarah: depends if you staff it from the reference desk or the back room; can do either; if you do it from the desk, probably only get one or two questions per hour and it shouldn’t be overwhelming

audience: concerns about comments made to librarians via IM?
Sarah: came up with scripts for someone who is suicidal; can block a user if they are repetitively abusive; only blocked about 10 people over 3 years, but don’t let staff take abuse

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