Puppies In The Library And Social Media

Photo by Stephen Mease

It all started with a tweet. At the start of the month a student made an off-hand comment on Twitter about renting puppies to deal with stress. Last week several of us were chatting at an event about finals coming up and I mentioned the idea of pet therapy for helping with stress. Gloria, one of our awesome circulation assistants is also a dog-sitter/walker,  and she was thrilled with the idea. She knew the perfect fun and relaxed dogs to bring (Thea and Pippin).

We floated the idea by our director Janet and she asked a lot of good questions about things like noise, safety and logistics. She also believes in the value of experimentation and trying new things, so together we devised a plan to have a puppy VIP room that kept people, dogs, and noise contained. We decided we would offer dog-therapy on Monday and Tuesday from 5-8:30 (we had to work around the dogs schedules).

Since it was a fairly last minute idea, I began promoting it with signs Friday and more importantly via social media. The posts on Twitter and Facebook began to get some buzz.

It was mentioned and retweeted a pretty good amount over the weekend. When it came time to host the puppies on Monday we got a few more people than we expected. In fact, we were swamped!

Our original idea of having the puppy VIP room in a good-sized office had to be replaced with a plan B of a large meeting room in the library. Once my office-mate Lindsey skillfully shuffled everyone upstairs, the event went swimmingly. Everyone had a smile on their face, and it was a completely calm and relaxed environment. A news crew even ended up covering the story!

There were plenty more tweets from students either asking about the dogs, posting pictures, talking about how Champlain is the best school ever, or posting our news video. I heard from multiple students either on social media or in person how awesome an event this was and how it actually helped during this stressful week.

This event is a great example of how social media can be leveraged by libraries and organizations. It’s a tool for listening to your community, responding to your users, promoting relevant services that meet their needs, telling stories, and demonstrating value.

How better to demonstrate value than having students tweet things like #bestschoolevermy college > than your college, or proud to be a Champlain alum.


NELA Conference Presentation

Last week at the NELA conference I was part of a panel presentation at NELA with Heidi Steiner from Norwich University and Michelle McCaffery from St. Michael’s College. My section was the first one about using social media for outreach in reference. The panel was a lot of fun and Heidi stole the show at the end with her really fun and quirky presentation style. Overall, NELA was a great conference and I am looking forward to next year.


Using Social Media To Demonstrate Value

Higher education is increasingly putting more emphasis on evidence and assessment. Libraries everywhere, whether public, special, school, or academic, are feeling more pressure to demonstrate their value to administrators, boards, politicians, and their constituents. Megan Oakleaf, a professor at the iSchool at Syracuse University, wrote an excellent report entirely on this topic called The Value of Academic Libraries.

One strategy she emphasizes is gathering evidence. But evidence doesn’t just have to be surveys or numbers. It can also be anecdotes and stories. One thing that she said in a workshop I participated in this summer was that “a story is just a story until you write it down.” Once it’s recorded it becomes evidence and you can use it to demonstrate value to a variety of stakeholders.

It occurred to me that there is already data available to libraries that we may not recognize as such. Tweets, Facebook posts, and online reviews can be great tools in demonstrating value.

tweet demonstrating value

One of the great strengths of social media is that it is by nature recorded. It’s not a spoken conversation that disappears into the ether. It is a record of something that happened and can be used as evidence.

The above tweet is just one example. Not only did this tweet demonstrate the value of the library to this person’s followers and any other people who saw it (not to mention was the best kind of free marketing you can get). It can also be used to demonstrate to administrators or professors that the library contributes to academic success.

I’m guessing just one tweet or Facebook post won’t make a difference, but if your library is using social media I am guessing posts like these happen more than once. The key is to watch for them and intentionally collect them. You might have a “Praise” of “Kudos” folder in your email or on your hard drive. When someone says something great you or your library did you save it. The same should be true with social media posts. Don’t just smile at a positive post and then let it pass by. Create a system to save these posts whether it’s favoriting them, bookmarking them or capturing a screenshot. Then you’ll have them collected when it comes time to make your case.

You can then use them in a variety of places: interspersed through your annual report, in presentations to the board or faculty senate, in promotional ads or materials. But in order to do that you first need to recognize that social media posts are evidence and then have a system set up to capture them.