People are talking about your library in both the physical and virtual world. It is difficult to know what is being said in private conversations without being omnipresent, but it’s easy to discover what’s being said online. You just need to work on your listening skills. Using tools like RSS, alerts, and saved searches it is possible to hear most of what is being said about your library online.
To find out what users are saying about your library on Twitter, first go to Twitter advanced search. From there you can run any number of searches for your library using either exact phrases or including certain words. Use your librarian chops to run searches that might be about your library. For example at my institution our building is called the Miller Information Commons, but people may just refer to it as the Champlain Library. So some searches may include: “miller information commons,” “mic,” “champlain college library,” and “champlain library.” After you run each of these searches you’ll see a link on the right that says “feed for this query.”
You can then grab this feed and save it to Google Reader or your feedreader of choice as a saved search. Whenever someone says something using those words you’ll be notified.
You can also set up searches by location. For example, I have set up a search for the word “library” within 25 miles of my city. I get some unrelated hits (which are still pretty interesting), but I also get many that I may have missed otherwise.
Another useful tool to know what is being said is Google Alerts. This tool gives you “updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.” Once again, you can set up variations of searches for your library. These alerts can be delivered once a week, once a day, or as they happen. You can then get them sent either to your email or again create a feed for them and have them go to your feedreader. I actually have a folder in Google Reader that is all saved searches and alerts for my library.
It’s also possible to set up alerts for what is being said in the blogosphere about your library. If you go to Google Blog Search you can run the same searches as above and find blog posts about your library. After you run a search there is once again the option on the left side of the results screen to subscribe either via email or feed.
In addition to these searches, both Bing and Google will be adding social searching capabilities within the coming weeks. This will make it even easier to find out what people are saying on Twitter, Facebook and possibly other social networks. Once these features are rolled out try setting up alerts on these services as well. I know I’ll try it.
Once you know what is being said you can address people’s concerns, respond to compliments, and ultimately understand your users better.