New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

5 Tips from the Mid-Hudson Library System’s Building Your Base Online Project

By Rebekkah Smith Aldrich, Coordinator for Library Growth & Sustainability for the Mid-Hudson Library System

With a tsunami of online attention coming our way - thanks to the rise in popularity of ebooks, mobile device use and social media - there is no better time to fine tune your library’s online presence. Not only should you expect an increase of patrons accessing library services online, but also assume that many new people in our communities will be seeking us out to tap into our ebook collections. Along the way they will discover some other great things about your library if you’re prepared. This time in our history provides a massive opportunity to connect, deliver service and build our base of support in our communities.

1.    Master the Basics. Every library has at least one branch, the digital branch that is your library’s web site. Before jumping into the exciting world of social media, be sure your house is in order on your web site. Keep basic information, like your hours, up-to-date. Make sure someone is monitoring the email address (or addresses) posted on your web site daily. Clean up dead links and old information. Have an online calendar listing not only special, but weekly events like story hour. Repeat: keep it up-to-date.

2.    Make sure staff has been oriented to the library’s web site. Trustees too! It is critical that everyone providing frontline service and those advocating for your library in the community be familiar with your library’s web site. What basic information can a patron find there? What time-saving things can a patron do through the online catalog? What awesome databases can they get to through your site? How do they download an ebook and audiobook? Answers to these questions should be considered a basic skill set for all involved with the library.

3.    Have a social media policy. As we get more and more fans, followers and devotees online it can increase the chance for poor behavior to be exhibited online not only by the public but by staff as well. Have a clearly stated policy that addresses expected conduct. [For policy development tips check out]

4.    Understand your medium. Facebook and Twitter are the most frequently used social media interfaces in the United States and by libraries. Don’t post eight times a day on the library’s Facebook page (once a day is recommended) and don’t post to Twitter once a month (multiple posts a day are commonplace.) Understand why people use each interface. People on Facebook are looking to connect, socialize and interact. The Twitterverse is a face-paced, voraciously hungry crew of information consumers to dive in, connect and keep up with.

5.    Be human. People relate to people. Automated replies, posts and tweets do not garner followers and fans. Have a real “voice” online that conveys your values of customer service, the right to read, freedom of access and a sense of community. A sense of humor couldn’t hurt either!

The Mid-Hudson Library System’s Building Your Base Online project was supported in part by Federal Library Services and Technology Act funds, awarded to the New York State Library by the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.