Burbank Public Library Marketing Critique

Burbank Library logo

The Burbank Public Library services the over 100,000 inhabitants of the City of Burbank, within a 5,800 square mile area. (Wikipedia, “Burbank, CA”) Though technically a part of Los Angeles County, the City of Burbank has their own mayor, their own city council, and their own library system – all independent of the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Public Library organization. Burbank lists one central library “Burbank Central”, and two more branches, the “Buena Vista Branch”, and the “Northwest Branch”. All online media is centralized into one area; all three branches a part of one whole.

The Burbank Public Library’s (BPL) static website, http://www.burbank.lib.ca.us/, is in actuality a sub-site of the City of Burbank’s central website. However, when conducting an online search for BPL, the website address leads the searcher directly to the library. The site itself contains a vast amount of relevant and interesting information, such as a link to ‘Help Now!’  for live assistance in homework for people of all ages. Most unfortunately, there are several problems with the site. Firstly, it could use an interface revamping. Strangely, the site is relegated to the left half of the screen, despite the size of browser. This is an immediate turn off to any tech-savvy patron, and could perhaps turn away possible customers of the younger generations.  Secondly, there is a useful but uninteresting looking column on the left-hand side of the page. Its topic is wonderful – “What’s New?” – but the bullet point format loses the reader in a mess of information. Therefore, facts such as ‘The library can come to you! Check here for info on this FREE service for homebound borrowers’ gets lost completely. Lastly, there are too many categories and subcategories that are not arranged smartly. A couple of years ago, my mother and I worked together on a website she was creating for her new business. Thereby, I picked up a few pointers that a basic web designer should be aware of offhand. For instance, ‘locations and hours’ should be in more than one area. Or, the categories on the bar should be drop downs for easy discovery instead of necessitating the user to click on each one individually, having to then navigate several pages until the service required is located. Additionally, the homepage itself was too long and therefore patrons glancing at it may miss services mentioned towards the bottom, such as the fact BPL offers free Wi-Fi. BPL should hire a more intelligent and trendy web designer to remedy the many issues with the website, perhaps consider breaking off of the main City of Burbank portal, and utilize the potential found within to create a stronger brand.

One of the most glaring aspects of missing pieces on the website was the lack of social media icons.  The homepage notates a blog with the link ‘Library Blog: News & Reviews’, but that is the extent of what can be found easily in the social media arena. This was very disappointing. However, I was aware of the fact that the BPL also hosted the social media Twitter account, a discovery I made during my Twitter usage in exercise three.  The ‘Burbank Library Blog’, http://burbanklibrary.blogspot.com/, is hosted through the popular blogger.com and set up clearly and professionally. There is a prominent RSS feed icon entitled ‘subscribe to our blog’ on the upper right. The posts are consistently written every one to two days, most of them containing pictures, tags, and links related to the post or linked directly to BPL’s OPAC. The posts range on subjects regarding good reads, library events, freebies, and interesting topics related to reading – such as Dr. Seuss’s recent birthday.  As BPL unites all their information among their pages for all their libraries, it is difficult to determine where the events where taking place. This is especially true since no address was mentioned on the page itself, nor is there a profile to delineate the library’s location. Additionally, a reader is not able to tell which writers are contributing, though the writing styles seem to point in that direction with their diversity. Therefore, I would suggest adding a profile, authors names, and clear distinction of the library’s events locations.

As I was browsing the blog’s right-hand column of links and recommendations, I discovered a few things. Firstly, unrelated to the library per se, were two widgets. One was regarding the flu, and the other was a ‘get involved – make a difference, volunteer’ link. This reminds me of big companies donating money to charitable causes to create a better brand and image. The BPL website also had the volunteer widget on it, and as a visitor, these links made me feel more comfortable about the Burbank Public Library system. Next, I chanced upon a Flickr image, which seemed to be linked to a random patron’s account. However, when clicking on the Flickr account link, http://www.flickr.com/photos/burbanklibrary, the fact that it’s hosted by BPL is suddenly revealed. Though not consistently updated, the Flickr pictures were varied and interesting. There should definitely be a more identifiable link to BPL’s Flickr account. Lastly, the blog has a list of nine ‘library links’ and another list of ‘follow the BPL on Facebook’ with three links. One of the library links was broken, although I was able to open BPL’s wiki from this column at http://burbank.wikidot.com/. The wiki was also advertised on BPL’s static website. The wiki was an interesting site with a lot of informative topics, such as ‘free e-books’, ‘tutor linker’, and ‘easybib’ to assist students with bibliographies and citations. Annoyingly, the wiki is arranged haphazardly, though it seems that an attempt has been made at organizing the confusion. I would suggest a moderator to keep the site organized, so that the useful information could be accessed and found easily.

The Facebook field was also somewhat bewildering. There are three links to Facebook pages related to the Burbank Public Library system;  BPL main page, BPL – Children’s Page, and Burbank Literacy. BPL’s main Facebook account, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Burbank-Public-Library/142463984316, is a group site with 103 likes, and postings every few days. Knowing the other two linked Facebook accounts, I was surprised to find no link to them on this particular group site other than in random posts. Furthermore, with over 100,000 potential patrons and only 103 likes, I realized that this site required more publicity. The posts themselves were succinct and informative, yet somewhat dry. On a positive note, it was clear which posts correlated to which branch. Other than the similar quality of being a group page, the BPL’s Children’s Page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Burbank-Public-Library-Childrens-Page/176658949020335, seemed almost entirely opposite of the main BPL account. The postings were personable, interesting, colorful, and published often. There were links to BPL’s Facebook page, and ‘Tumblebooks’, which is also promoted on BPL’s static website. The purpose of this group separated out of the main BPL Facebook page was to promote children’s activities specifically; a clever concept, yet not popular or promoted as it has only 25 likes. Lastly, the Burbank Literacy account, http://www.facebook.com/burbank.literacy, is a Facebook page with 46 friends. This site posts once every week or so, with interesting links and information regarding literacy and library funding. Their page consists of links to both BPL Facebook group pages on their info page. Overall, the Facebook forum is consistent, but requires some reorganization – at the very least plainly ensuring users are aware of the alternate sites, and their corresponding purposes. Additionally, all three sites need promoting, perhaps with flyers or stickers in the computer section in the actual Burbank libraries.

There were a few blogs associated with BPL, or endorsed by them, that I discovered on the homepage of BPL and from the side links on the main BPL blog page. One such blog was “Death in the Stacks” blog, http://deathinthestacks.blogspot.com/, an entertaining site for mystery fans, written by ‘Aunt Agatha’. Next, was a blog called “Burbank Green Pages”, http://burbankgreenpages.blogspot.com/, which essentially had nothing to do with the Burbank Public Library system, but did have a similar effect as the volunteer and flu widgets on BPL’s main blog site. Lastly, “Burbank Reads Blog” is a blog all about books and activities in an engaging site at http://burbankreads.blogspot.com/. However, this blog has not been updated since October 2010, and there is no notation as to the cause.

Lastly, though I found this only by doing a search for ‘Burbank’ and ‘library’ within the Twitter framework, is “burbankliteracy” twitter account, http://twitter.com/#!/burbankliteracy. There is about a tweet or more a day, with wonderful information related to a copious amount of sectors, including BPL, general literacy, and great book reads. The posts are interesting and written professionally, making for a great promotion area. However, it does not relate solely to the Burbank Public Library system, and therefore I would institute a Twitter account specifically for BPL.

In conclusion, the Burbank Public Library system has a very strong online presence. However, the entire framework of their social media requires vast amounts of upgrading. For the most part, sites need to be reorganized for easy access, and needs to contain hyperlinked icons of all social media, and concepts to promote their online existence.  Thus far, the Burbank Public Library simply has the potential to gain a strong and consistent brand online, a latent treasure trove of social networking and online presence.

Facebook Frenzy

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Do you think libraries should be building presence and providing services in MySpace and/or Facebook? Why or why not?

In my opinion, it would be antiquated of a library to not consider an online presence in either MySpace or Facebook. Though, by the year 2012, MySpace may not be the direction for a library to follow. It seems that MySpace is becoming outdated. However, when perusing the examples of MySpace pages given in the weekly readings, I found them to be more interesting, customized, and varied, than the Facebook counterparts. Simultaneously, I have found that most businesses prefer to create an online presence in the Facebook arena over the MySpace domain. Perhaps, one reason attributed to this trend is the more sophisticated feel to the Facebook forum, and another may be because of the constant news feed. Recently, I ‘fanned’ or ‘liked’ Kohl’s, and now I see advertising-like postings in my news feed from them. It’s a great marketing ploy within Facebook.

Whenever I visit an online site and notice their efforts at social networking, I am impressed. It tells me that the company wishes to present themselves as a ‘with-it’ and trendy business, and as a customer I appreciate that effort. This concept would play out similarly for a library creating an online presence in the social media forum. Part of ‘Library 2.0’ is taking the library to the users. Therefore, by setting up a Facebook page, the library is in essence divulging their desire to be a part of this new Web 2.0 process. Most users nowadays spend a tremendous amount of time online; some would even posit that our entire lives are online. We pay our bills online, look up our banking online, socialize online, get invited to events via online e-vites, and retrieve a lot of our everyday information online. Thereby, it would only be logical for a library to utilize that marketing corner and join its users online. Facebook assists the library in engaging its patrons, essentially joining the library goers in their commonly used cyberspace.

Ideally, a library may want to email their patrons every day with information of booklists, new items among their holding, and new events being held. However, this is not a possibility. A library would require their patrons to submit their email addresses, and then send out a mass emailing. However, many patrons may be unwilling to provide the library with their email. Facebook conquers these issues in one swoop by posting all this information on their page, and allowing anyone who is a Facebook user to access that information. Furthermore a sense of belonging to a group is produced, a tiny online community within the library’s confines, where users can interact socially. This is the beauty of Facebook.

Tweet-errific!

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I found Twitter to be a very interesting medium. When I initially learned about Twitter a few years back, I thought that the concept had no merit. Why would I want to spend my time letting people know what I had for breakfast, or what I bought at the store? It seemed too time consuming without much return. More recently, I’ve been noticing that many sites are including the Twitter icon. Does this mean that Twitter is more popular and actually has uses that would warrant busy companies and busy people to bother with it? After reading the numerous articles on the benefits and uses of a Twitter account for libraries alone, I discovered that there is certainly a large return for this communicative medium. How interesting! That information coupled with my own experience for Exercise 3’s Twitter usage, convinced me. When I work in a library, I will definitely be implementing Tweets as a medium of communication to the library users.

There were various ideas that I thought would be beneficial to a library. Firstly, the obvious concepts of tweeting library events and new material in the library’s holdings are perfect for the quick and short tweets. Additionally, tweets are not very time consuming for every librarian within one library to contribute to regularly or at least on a rotation. This way, the information would be varied, and would cover all parts of the library – the children’s department, the young adult area, reference services, etc. Secondly, giving out information that’s not necessary for the patron to actually visit the library in person, I found to be a great point. Some of the tweets I’ve been reading this week are library or information relevant, but did not necessitate the user to come into the library. Thirdly, one article mentioned that people like to read about information related to the news. For instance, the iPad2 came out today – announced by Steve Jobs. Jobs has recently taken an indefinite medical absence, but made an appearance for the announcement. If a library were to get on board with that information, and tweet the book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo, people would be interested. Furthermore, those libraries linking a pathway to request a hold of that book on their OPAC would be successful in promoting the information and the library. Lastly, I like the idea that it’s not just about advertising a library’s holdings and disseminating information successfully, but creating a positive image for itself. If people associate positivity to a library, then they will be more likely to utilize its services.

RSS Rocks!

RSS MRG5.COM

1. Why should libraries care about RSS?

When I explained to my husband the concept of RSS, he was pleasantly surprised that such a ‘gadget’ existed. “Well, now that makes sense”, was his initial comment. The ability for a user to be selective in their choices of content and material, and then aggregate that useful knowledge into one site, is a key component to the success of the blogosphere and information portals. I personally enjoy the television show Bones with Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz. There is a great spoiler and extras blog for that particular show, which I would open and read from time to time. However, each instance I wanted to read some Bones content I would do a Google search and then click on the blog’s site. This became tedious and time-consuming, as my stone-age’esque information gathering played out in a similar fashion across the board. Then, I discovered Google Reader, an aggregator. Oh, praise be!  How much simpler life became, as I was able to contain all my information in a single realm, be selective about which items I wished to read, and actually subscribe to more feeds and thereby glean more knowledge. This is the beauty of RSS feeds and a corresponding aggregator.

As a library in the Web 2.0 world, I would imagine that disseminating relevant and updated information in this fashion would be vital to the library’s success. As this new revenue is the way many receive their information, it would only behoove the library to have a site that allows for RSS feeds subscriptions, and thereby allowing their patrons access to their information. One of the goals of a library is to administer knowledge to people, and there are some fantastic social media software and Web 2.0 concepts that allow for that. Thus, creating blogs, sending out tweets, forming LibGuides, and other modes of announcing information, would only be of assistance if users have easy access to that information. Once that easy access is accomplished, the information is disseminated to a large audience using RSS feeds, then the library becomes a more useful and helpful institution.

As a side point, I believe that it would be beneficial for a library to somehow market the RSS concept to their users. It’s so simple to use, and for patrons like my husband who are unfamiliar with the RSS concept, it could assist in relaying pivotal library information to them. Perhaps, by teaching the RSS idea and its benefits to library users, the additional belief that the library is familiar with helpful ways to receive knowledge, would only be a good thing for the library’s reputation.

Exercise 2 – Blog Characteristics

My first assignment was to subscribe to five required blogs to my Google Reader site, which I find to be extremely helpful. My next assignment was to pick and subscribe to three more blogs, which I chose from the broad Blogging Libraries Wiki. As I read through several posts from each blog, I came to some conclusions vis-a-vis the components that create a successful blog. Firstly, I found that the title does make a difference. True, everyone knows the age-old saying of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. And, truthfully, I have found many books with awful titles but intriguing and well-written narration. However, when choosing a book in the library, I tend to be drawn by the more interesting titles first. The title of a blog is no different. Blog readers are drawn to clever titles, with thoughts of a promising read, and are willing to subscribe to those blogs. My favorite blog title had to be “In the Library with a Lead Pipe”. How clever! A reference to the classic game of Clue, with a twist of humor as its byline. Secondly, I found that visuals were extremely important. When I utilize the internet for my ubiquitous shopping needs, I find that I would rather pay a dollar more, and navigate a well-run and user-friendly interface. The ‘look’ of the website makes a huge difference! Within the past six months, the Los Angeles Public Library system instituted a new OPAC. Not only is it more comprehensive, but it’s nicer looking, clearer, and much easier to use. A blog should mirror these attributes. Nicely set up page, with good graphics, and appealing pictures in each post, adds a whole new layer to the blog. Thirdly, and in my opinion most importantly, is the personal touch. While reading what items makes for a great blog, I noticed that many writers mention adding a personal touch. I found myself more interested and more involved with the posts that spoke more intimately – almost as if they trusted me to read their personal words. This would mean that I could now write back some personal thoughts, or at least connect to a human being instead of a written piece on the internet.

The five blogs that I was required to post to were the following: Librarian’s Commute, In the Library with a Lead Pipe, Librarian by the Day, David Lee King, and the Distant Librarian. I found them to each be unique in their own way, and analyzed them individually.

  1. Librarian’s Commute:  The woman who writes for this blog is a reference librarian who works for a junior college library, and discusses interesting discoveries or thoughts regarding librarianship. The blog is not connected in any way to her work, other than the fact that some blog posts are about happenstances that occurred while she was working. I enjoyed how the writer’s posts included a picture at the top, and the blog posting itself was neither too long nor too short – just the right length to hold a reader’s attention and present the relevant material. Her posts were written in a more personal and casual format, but were still informative and well-written; both areas necessary for a successful blog. The page itself was set up simply but with useful information, including bits relating her catchy title regarding her commute. There’s even a Google map routing her commute!
  2. In the Library with a Lead Pipe: This blog included several authors that seemed to alternate in submitting posts. The tone was more academic, and the length of the post reflected that intellectual feel. The blog’s purpose seemed to be directed at an academic audience searching for lengthy discussions on certain topics. There is even a page that delineates submission guidelines for a guest author, and they are quite formidable! As a subscriber, I would find it too tedious to read through every post, but as an academic, I would be interested in certain posts relevant to what I may be studying at the time. My favorite part of this site was that Flickr pictures played a big part in expressing the ideas of the authors, which made the post all that more interesting.
  3. Librarian by the Day: I think this blog was my least favorite. The postings were varied, which is something I normally appreciate in a blog, but in this instance they seemed to be all over the place. The page hurt my eyes in the sense that I felt like I had to concentrate on the writing and not the two columns of widgets, something I discovered being very frustrating. I did like how the author incorporated many different visuals and even social media pieces like YouTube videos into her postings. To me, these types of things only enhance the writing. Another part of this blog that I appreciated was that the single author, a woman librarian, had an overall relevant topic that she was presenting and seemed passionate about.
  4. David Lee King: Though the least interesting title, I found this to be my favorite of the five required blogs. David King’s postings are just long enough to capture the reader’s attention and interest, and I like how they are related to hot topics or the library he works at. He writes in an engaging style, which I found appealing, and adds his personal touch. One item in particular that I really thought was a good idea was the fact that he will put related links or posts at the bottom of the daily blog piece. I also liked how he took a ten step idea, and made it into a series of ten postings. Very clever site. King utilizes the social media very well, adding tweets, posts, etc on the side of his blog, in an unobtrusive yet informative way.
  5. The Distant Librarian: The idea of creating a mobile blog was inventive and great for this Web 2.0 age. The male author has compelling snippets, each catchy and interesting. He writes in an extremely casual tone, which can be somewhat offensive if one is into the intellectual verse, but I thought it to be refreshing. The pieces incorporate great visuals, which makes them even more readable and attractive. What bothered me most about this blog was the ‘ads by Google’ on the left hand side of the screen. Though I’m sure it’s there to help offset costs and bring in a little money, they still are a put off for me as a reader and I didn’t appreciate them.

The three blogs I chose from the special libraries section, and the state libraries section. I was interested in discovering a little bit more information about special libraries in general, and I chose a Texas library because the state of Texas intrigues me.

  1. Smithsonian Libraries: A wonderfully masterful library blog, the author of ‘Smithsonian Libraries’ incorporates many features and a variety of topics to lure her readers into the world of the Smithsonian. Each blog post has pictures of the item being described, complete with corresponding explanations, and other items of similar interest. The blog also contains links to popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. Links on the side of the blog page bring the reader to more informative pages. All in all, in relation to disseminating information, a librarians’ ultimate job, this blog fulfills that goal perfectly. This was my favorite of the three blogs I chose.
  2. Resource Center Blog: The Lincoln Center Institute’s Resource Center’s Blog is a compilation of postings; each related to a resource that the Lincoln Center holds. The blog describes the resource in great detail, thus allowing the reader a complete feel for the item. The writings are professional with a casual and personal tone sprinkled amidst the piece, and are co-authored by the staff and teaching artists of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc. The blogs include pictures, testimonials, and comments, to best serve the curiosity of the reader. I found this site to be well assembled and extremely informative.
  3. Inside the Gates: The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo, or the DRT, puts out a blog that details a variety of information in relation to the library. Some posts discuss the fascinating resources that a part of the library’s collections, while others will be short blurbs of news related to the library. Each posting is professionally written and presented, and provides visual images to interest the reader. The site has an old Western feel befitting a Texas library at the Alamo, and is maintained by a female archivist. This was the most fascinating blog as it presented more of an archive library, and the materials imparted were very interesting.

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