YA Clicks June 2009

How To Be Cool on Facebook


June 2009

IN June 2001, the Web Surfers and I first looked at the characteristics of a good library Web page. Things have changed a little since then, and although most libraries still maintain a part of their official Web site devoted to young adult services, many are expanding their Web presence to social networking sites. I know . . . I know . . . you already know this fact and you’ve probably done it yourself, but what do your teens think about what you created? What things do they like or even dislike about your Facebook page? Don’t worry, we won’t get personal, but the Web Surfers recently looked critically at a selection of library Facebook pages. Here are some of their thoughts.


Chuhern, Dylan, and Peter say, “Yes!” Dylan points out the fact that teens generally ignore e-mail and “normal” Web sites, using Facebook instead. They visit when bored and randomly browse to find pages of interest. Without a Facebook presence, a library has a much lower chance of attracting the attention of a teen who doesn’t interact through the Internet any other way. Even Kelsey and Emily, who aren’t avid Web users, recognize that libraries should have a Facebook presence because that is where their peers look for information. According to Chuhern, teens will look at library Facebook pages to find out about library events and sometimes use the discussion boards to talk about their favorite novels and such. Another advantage is that teens can link to your Facebook page from theirs. Imagine the publicity you’ll receive when the teen band playing at your branch advertises their event with a link to your page! Becky says our pages should encourage teens to suggest a “friend” (our libraries in this instance) to other friends. One caveat—whatever you do, don’t combine a teen and children’s Facebook page. Also, mention in the title of your Facebook page that your intended audience is teens or young adults. Teens won’t necessarily take the time to figure it out and are more likely to skip over it otherwise.


Interesting graphics are mandatory and must vary! Don’t use the same icon or photo for every announcement; ideally the thumbnail would be relevant to the event or book review. Ketchikan Public Library and Pittsburg Public Library both do a great job incorporating this detail. Kelsey mentions color as a must have. “Teens are all about the color! So instead of doing something dull, make it bright and inviting so teens will feel welcomed—like they fit in and it is the right place for them.” See Clinton Public Library’s page for an example. Photos and videos should always be included; however, Dylan warns, “a bunch of random photos
of nonsense taken by giggly sugar-high teens makes the page look silly.” Watch out for dead spots or outdated information. For example, if you offer a YouTube box, make sure there are some videos included! The Loft at Evanston Public Library does a great job of offering clips. The same holds true for discussion boards—delete the feature if there’s no discussion!

The teens also raised the question as to whether a library should create a “page” or a “group” because both could potentially fit a library’s needs on Facebook. They agreed that pages have a more attractive and accessible layout than groups. Avoid extraneous additions, though. A Facebook page, for example, has the ability to publish status updates and doesn’t need a Twitter box also. Chuhern reminds us that “clutter is bad,” but still recommends libraries use the news box option to keep teens informed.


The Basics
Definitely include your library hours and links to the library’s main Web site, as did Forbes Library Teens. Once you’ve tantalized teens on Facebook, you can entice them to learn more on your official site! Status updates are very useful, but should be more professional than the usual teen update like, “John G. thinks calc is totally bogus.” Also, Becky points out that we should definitely use them but with restraint because they can get “annoying quickly and might lead people to block the library’s page.” The teens recommend that libraries not refer to themselves as a person—“The XYZ library was thrilled to host vampire Edward Cullen last night”—they feel it is too impersonal.


Peter firmly believes that “every library should have a doughnut day like Arlington [County Library]!” Even if it is not that specific program, definitely list the library’s upcoming events on your site. If it is a drop-in program and open to a large group of people, accept online RSVPs. As Becky points out, even a “maybe” gives you a great idea of the interest your program generates. It can help build the excitement and the crowd! Chuhern wants to see pictures from the programs. “It helps [them] seem more fun and enjoyable and helps the page seem more diversified, colorful, and active. Check out the way Ketchikan Public Library implements these strategies.


Becky and Inaam definitely think Facebook is a great place for book promotion but not in the usual paragraph-long-book-review sense. Inaam recommends “keeping the entries short and sweet as not to risk losing interest.” The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library (KHCPL) Teen Scene identifies these briefs by labeling them “Book Bytes” or “Book Reviews.”


Becky suggests posting non-library-related points of interest “only if they are going to be extremely interesting to teens, otherwise [they] just compete.” Inaam thinks it’s important to not overwhelm visitors. “If there are too many things going on all at once, it’s easy to be distracted or confused. Posting a few choice pics and reviews is the perfect way to capture and keep people’s interest.”

The following is a list of sites we evaluated and some of their highlights.

Arlington County Library
Arlington, Virginia
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Arlington-VA/Teens-at-the-Ar lington-Public-Library/42887572295.
Pr imar i ly a forum for program announcements, it includes photos and alternate icons. Colorful and easy to read.

Clinton Public Library
Clinton, Indiana
The library announces programs and then follows up after the fact, too! This dynamic page mentions recent changes to the YA area and links to videos on YouTube.

Forbes Library Teens
Northampton, Massachusetts
h t t p : / /www. f a c e b o o k . c om/ p a g e s /Nor thampton-MA/Forbes-Librar y-Teens/41035198144.
Program announcements and photos. Links to library-published clips and other videos of interest.

Ketchikan Public Library
Ketchikan, Alaska
Very colorful, with plenty of program photos to peruse. The Teen Advisory Group recently created original READ posters, which can be found here.

KHCPL Teen Scene
Kokomo-Howard County, Indiana
This site offers something for everyone: programs, book reviews, and other things of interest, like links to School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books.

The Loft at Evanston Public Library
Evanston, Illinois
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Evanston-IL/The -Loft-at -Evanston-Publ i c -Library/20019998646.
The Loft does a great job of sharing items with broad teen appeal, for instance an article on a local antiviolence rally. There’s even a birth announcement for their YA librarian’s new baby!

Pittsburg Public Library
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pittsburg-KS/Pi t t sbur g -Publ i c -Librar y -YAServices/40540145921.
This page has great images and a wide variety of offerings, from pictures of their YA art show to a blog created by two local teens.

Rebecca Purdy is the Youth Services Manager at the Headquarters Library of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library system in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Web Surfers are a collection of teens willing to volunteer some of their time to see their names in print and help young adult librarians find good sites for their library blogs and Web pages.


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