This morning I listened to the archived recording of Marketing with Images and Video: Engage, Inspire and Tell your Story a WebJunction webinar broadcast yesterday. It featured my good friend and engaging raconteur, Michael Porter (a.k.a. Libraryman), co-presenting with Jeff Dawson, director of Lester Public Library in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
I've heard Michael talk about social media several times, but his important message deserves frequent reinforcement. For me, the revelation was listening to Jeff Dawson talk about his immersion in digital photography and social media over the past three years. He's living proof that all this newfangled technology really does have potential to deepen the engagement, communication and interconnection between libraries and their communities.
Moreover, Jeff offered some powerful insights into the general mindset and specific techniques that are making social media a success for him and his library:
- Go in Deep: "We take pride in where and who we are." Investigate every aspect of your community. Pretend you're a tourist, and go to the festivals, celebrations with an open mind, as if you were visiting them for the first time, and take lots of pictures. Jeff didn't have to pretend, because when he accepted the job of library director, he was a newcomer to Two Rivers. As a result this approach, Jeff has learned to love and appreciate his new home, while also making the library more visible in the community, and providing the town with a vibrant, lasting addition to its historical record.
- Network, Engage, and Listen Carefully: While you're at community events, talk to other engaged citizens and community leaders. Listen to their ideas about social media, and look for opportunities to volunteer. After only three years serving as the director of Lester Public Library, Jeff seems to be on every business and economic development board in his home town (Two Rivers) and county (Manitowoc). By listening to someone he met at his town's annual kite festival, Jeff obtained national TV exposure for his town and library. He also listens to his library staff, one of whom suggested taking a picture of the view from youth services department every morning for a year and posting it to Flickr. I love this idea, because it's simple, easy-to-implement, and universally-applicable (see Good Morning Two Rivers). Jeff and his staff have also put their Flip video cam to good use, asking patrons and libraryland peers, "What Is Youir Favorite Thing about the Lester Public Library" and posting the results to their web site and their YouTube account.
- Have fun with it!: Michael made the point that you'll learn digital photography and social media by making them fun; an extension of your recreational and social activities. Take pictures of co-workers goofing around in the break room, then post them (with permission of course) to the Libraries and Librarians group on Flickr. This is a quicker path to learning than sitting down with a manual and a mission to learn more about digital photography.
In conclusion, one of Jeff's observations struck me as especially relevant to this moment in time: "A totally incredible thing was happening: traditional networking tools, television, newspaper and radio, were referring people back to Lester Public Library's online social networks." In other words, traditional media outlets and online social media are complementary pieces in an continuous, inclusive public conversation.