If you build it, will they actually come?

Tumbleweed Rolling

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Having a web presence is important, both for you as an individual and for your library. I wrote about how as a student, it’s really helpful to build an online presence and Steven Kaszynski wrote on his blog about library’s promoting their online presence. It makes sense and it’s not too hard to do right? In all honesty, this past semester there have been a few things that I have struggled with, in terms of building an online presence for my library school student group, ALISS. This blog post by the Annoyed Librarian on how little users actually pay attention to library’s on Facebook really hit home, because I’m struggling with this very problem! I have to ask the question, if you build it, will they really come?

Over the summer, as the new Chief Info Officer  of my group, I was charged with maintaining the website. I redesigned the website and installed WordPress to make the website more dynamic, and make it easier to update content. Students can comment on the posts and there’s potential for conversation on the website. Guess who actually comments on the blog? Other ALISS officers and spambots. Not quite what I was hoping for. Between the other student officers, we post really great opportunities for students to apply for scholarships, internships, student events and more! Opportunities that I didn’t even know how to find as a first year student. All great stuff, but it falls on deaf ears. We tried promoting it through the SLIS list-serv, to which another student replied “I almost never pay attention to those emails.” We promote our events and the website on Facebook and Twitter and still there’s a lack of response. So what happens when you’ve built our online presence, continue to update content but can’t get your audience to pay any attention to you?

The SLIS program at my school is geared towards people who are already working FT jobs. It’s a commuter campus. Our students tend to be older, have families and other responsibilities outside of school, so they might not have time for student events. But that’s why having the online presence is important. However, part of the problem is that you still need face-to-face interaction to promote your online presence. If people aren’t paying attention to your posts while they’re online, I’m not sure how promoting through other online outlets will help. It just doesn’t. Making connections in the classroom and telling people things like “Hey you like ____ right?  I heard about an internship that you might be interested in. It’s posted on our website” might carry more weight. To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m speculating here.

This semester, all my classes were online. This is a first for me and in general, I do like going to a physical class and talking to people in person. I felt cut off from my student body and I don’t know who our new students are. How can I reach out to them and promote our events if I don’t know what their faces even look like? If I feel this way, how many other students do? I have a lot of questions and I don’t have a solution to this problem. I’ve heard from other student groups and ALA chapters that it can be hard to get people to participate, but how do you make it successful? If anyone has any insight, I’m all ears.

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8 thoughts on “If you build it, will they actually come?

  1. First, I’d say keep at it. If it adds value to a single persons experience in school, it could be worth it. Then, on the flip side, it’s always useful to step back and evaluate whats really working and what isn’t and make adjustments. For instance, does every library NEEED a Facebook page? I dunno.
    Also, sometimes it just takes time for people to realize the value of the resource that’s right in front of them. It might not pick up speed with your class, or the incoming class, but if the infrastructure survives the class of 2013 might take off with it. You never know.
    Ultimately (this might sound like a cop out) you are gaining experience that will be applied and useful elsewhere in your professional career. So keep at it. If they come, great. If not, you’re working diligently to be the best colleague you can, and that will bode well for you in your work down the road.

    Hope this is encouraging Annie. You’re my hero.

    • Thanks Micah! I gained some really great experience making the website, although it was frustrating at times. I’m trying to figure out why it’s not working or picking up with students now. Hard to say since I’m not physically on campus to talk to them.

  2. Annie, I think what you guys are doing is awesome! I wish ALISS had been around the entire time I was in library school, but sadly it didn’t really get started until my last year in the program. Even though I graduated a year ago, I still feel like the content is relevant to me as a newish librarian trying to find her niche. How do you feel about enthusiastic alumni?

    Also, I would agree with Micah that it takes time to determine the value of the type of resource you are creating. But I sometimes wonder if librarians are TOO good at creating resources. Maybe there’s a little overkill?

    If all else fails, we could do another tweetup! I’m still amazed at how many people came to that!

    • The tweet-up was a success! I’m so glad that we do have enthusiastic alumni. The past couple years of ALISS have had great turn out at events, I feel that’s because you all were also friends. I’m wondering what our group can do to reach out to new students. I don’t think just doing things online is going to help.

  3. Do you use google analytics for the ALISS site? The fact that only officers ever post comments does not necessarily mean that nobody else is paying attention. It’s not uncommon for me to check the analytics for my blog and see that I’ve had several visitors that stayed for 10+ minutes (so presumably they actually read stuff, compared to spambots that spent 10 seconds posting spam then moved on)… Yet it’s rare for anyone to comment… I don’t know if that’s a function of how I write or if it’s just that a lot of people are quiet and self-conscious about posting. Personally, I only comment on a small minority of blog posts that I read.

    So don’t lose hope!

    The other thing I noticed is that it’s not really promoted in an eye-catching way on the SLIS website. It’s 9th down on the list of just text links on the current students page (http://www.slis.iupui.edu/student/current/). I don’t always love the way Mizzou’s webpage is laid out, but I like the way they mention the LIS Grad Student Assoc. on this page: http://lis.missouri.edu/admitted — it stands out more as something that new students need to check out. (Of course, with two links, now my comment is probably going into your spam folder!)

    • We had to fight to actually have the link to our website put on the main page! Kind of silly, but the previous dean was hesitant to link to it. I’m going to look into Google Analytics, I haven’t messed around with that so it would be good experience for me to incorporate that in.

      Also, thanks for commenting on my blog! I always appreciate your thoughts!

  4. Hey, thanks for the read and the mention. Given recent research on the subject, I’ve been looking for time to focus more on libraries and Facebook. Questions of homogeny arise, not to mention usefulness of pages as individual and linked entities and the content pushed there. I’ve had conversations and it’s clear that many libraries of all types are just doing it wrong. Surprise? Not so much.

  5. Thought-provoking post! My library school sounds a bit like yours, in that it’s a commuter campus, catering to working people–night/weekend classes in addition to an online MLS. Some of the students taking the online classes are around the world, but some are local. Getting local students (whether online or on-campus) together is something I’ve been thinking about, too. Thanks for your post!

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