Author Archive for Gabrielle Montano

Librarians and the Community Management Profession

The life of a library is their community.

In David Lankes book The Atlas of New Librarianship he believes “the mission of librarians is to improve society though facilitating knowledge creation in their communities,” (p.83). His book argues that knowledge is created through conversation that is fostered by librarians and it’s the librarian’s job to facilitate for their community, inspire participation within the community, and calls librarians into action to advocate for their libraries to their community.

Oliver Blanchard writes in his book, Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization that a community managers, “…four principal function [are]: representing an organization in online forums, being the voice of ‘the community’ inside the organizations, mediating disputes in online forums, and helping manage the development, publishing, and curating of the organization’s digital content,” (p.137).

On the surface, librarianship and community management do not seem to have much in common.  Yes, both involve a community but librarianship is said to be a dying profession while community management is a new one. However, after interviewing Meg Knodl I found the role of a community manager can align itself with librarian and help the profession move forward.  Meg is currently the community manager for Hennepin County in Minnesota.  She posts for the Hennepin County twitter and Facebook accounts as well as coordinates with other department’s social media.  However, Meg started off as a community manager for a library.

In the interview Meg discussed ways of how community management and librarianship work well together.  One point she makes is a community manager has to be able to advocate and cheer for whatever brand or organization they work for.  A librarian needs to fight for their library not only for their own benefit but for their community and for society.  The tools and theories used by community managers are a perfect fit for librarians.  The use of social media to get messages to the community and to build relationships is important.  Community managers are there to connect people with others who have common interests and librarians can facilitate in the same way.

What works best within a community should be determined by the community. This idea fits both with a librarian’s job and a community manager’s job.  Meg said a community manager has to be aware of what types of platforms their community is willing to participate in.  The same is true with librarians.  They have to create programs their community wants.  For both profession it does not need to be online. For example Meg mentioned literacy programs for a library and capturing marriage photos for the Hennepin County community.  Both examples show how each profession brings together the community.

The community is what makes a library special.  Librarians have always been community managers and worked for and with their community.  Librarianship does not have to be a dying profession. One of the ways to insure this does not happen is to incorporate the modern techniques of the community manger profession to what librarians have already been doing.

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Seeing Something New While Looking at the Old

I have to be honest. Having participated in social media since the chat room days on AOL in the 90’s, I came to the point of questioning the importance of participating in the whole social media world.

I am not one of those folks who likes to broadcast my every waking moment and I do not feel the need to post every thought that enters my mind.

That being said…

I have accounts on most of the popular social media sites; Pinterest, LinkedIn, google+, twitter and I even made the reluctant switch from Myspace to Facebook when everyone seemed to have jumped ship.

But again, I asked, what is the point of it all?

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A Shift in Purpose

It was not until I started my master’s program in Library Science that I started to understand that social media is more than just a place where people share pictures of their kids, what they had for dinner, their current vice, or crazy drama that really should be kept private.

People can use social media as a tool to connect to companies and organizations that are important to them. From a business perspective, companies and organizations can use social media as a tool to make their customers or participates feel important and involved.

Oliver Blanchard’s book Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization makes a clear distinction between what social media is and how it is different from social communication.  Social media is the platform that can be used, while social communication is the actual connection between people in the community and people working within the organization (pg.7). It is not enough for a company or business to just start up a social media presence and think the social communication will just appear.  Blanchard stresses the point there needs to be actual value for the company to have a social media presence and it is important to define the purpose of being on social media and set goals (pg.13-15).  The management of the online communities is to be taken seriously because the creation of the connection between people and the organization is not guaranteed.  It is the social communication that is the key and changing factor for me.

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A New Value

I apply Blanchard’s teaching to the profession I aspire to be in.  I am going to be a librarian. One of the key responsibilities of a librarian is to connect the library users to the library resources.  Social media can be an incredibly valuable tool to make the library’s communities members have a connection to their library.  Without a community, a library would be irrelevant.

I am now starting to see a new value in social media.  The value can really be seen when we stop focusing so much on ourselves and the mundane details of our lives and start using the tool to connect with people and organizations we are truly passionate about.