Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Thursday, January 17, 2019

Behind the scenes of the AU Library's elevated online presence

Behind the scenes of the AU Library's elevated online presence

This summer, students, faculty and other university Twitter accounts have seen an increase in retweets, favorites and mentions from the AU Library’s Twitter account. With a fresh voice and greater interactivity with its nearly 2,000 followers the library has opened up its channels so that it’s talking with students rather than at them.

The efforts go back to last winter, when the library underwent an internal reorganization. According to University Librarian Nancy Davenport, this initiative was intended to help the staff make better use of their time and unify their efforts. While the reorganization affected a number of different operations, social media was a large factor. Previously, posts were generated by different departments, each promoting their own goals, without much coordination or concern for timing.

“We might have been sending things out on Tuesday that could have better been going out on Thursday,” Davenport said. “We’re now trying to organize ourselves so we don’t overwhelm you and all your colleagues.”

This initiative involved creating a team in charge of strategy and communications – including social media. This team is made up of people from across the library’s different departments, each of whom contributes ideas and posts on the library’s social media accounts.

Lennea Bower, the library’s programming coordinator, oversees this team and coordinates their contributions to make sure they all reflect a singular goal.

“Our goal is to be approachable and interesting and to feel like a resource that [students, faculty and staff] can depend on if they need it,” Bower said.

Those resources go far beyond the stacks of books that make up the library’s physical presence. They have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube with details about events, photos of the library’s collections to tutorial videos and more. The library has so much to offer that these social media accounts help serve as a bridge to the student body, Bower said.

“If you’re following our social media because you want to know about reference or gen-ed textbooks, you’re also going to find out about our 3-D printer,” Bower said. “We’re trying to get that information out to people so that they know we do more than just the one thing they typically use us for.”

Perhaps the most noticeable change has been the increasing engagement with the library’s followers. Bower said she noticed that students were using Twitter not only to communicate with each other but also to talk about their student experience.

“They’re talking about things that we’re doing and things that are happening on campus, so we want to be there with them,” she said.

Although they still use the account to make announcements, the tone is more colloquial and conversational.

The accounts carry that same tone into interactions with followers, which are no longer limited to library-related replies. The library accounts occasionally start conversations and respond to tweets about other topics. Bower, who is also an AU alumnus, is the primary voice for the library in these interactions.

“We stepped it up this summer in trying to engage a little bit more and look for engagement and I’m hoping that’s something we can keep up during the year,” she said.

This fall, the library wants to further expand its interaction with students. On Friday nights, it will remain open until midnight but not for for active library service. Instead, the second and third floors will be open for quiet study and the Mudbox will be playing movies. Board games will be scattered around the library for students to play and enjoy.

“We’re reaching out to you to let you know that the library is a third space for you on the campus,” said Davenport. “There’s the dormitories, there’s the classrooms and then there’s us.”

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