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.