Library programs are reaching a new audience: social media users.
In August, Alachua County Library District began a new pilot program of Q-and-As with authors on Twitter.
The program is an effort to try something new and promote the library’s mission of supporting books, according to e-Branch manager Otto Pleil.
The library’s e-Branch oversees the website and social media for the entire district.
The branch was established six years ago to look into new technologies and initiatives for its online presence, Pleil said.
“In our e-Branch, our vision is to have a branch with many of the same collections and services you would see in a branch coming through the doors,” he said.
E-Branch librarian Sheila Bishop is in charge of social media and came up with the idea for the Q-and-A. She, through the Library District’s Twitter, hosted the program with two local authors on August 27 and October 1.
“She came up with the idea with the ‘libchat’ as a way of reaching out to local authors and providing an online program for promoting and, basically, supporting our mission,” Pleil said.
E-Branch staff members wrote questions for informal Q-and-As with local authors Darlene Marshall and Shira Glassman. Each tweet was posted with the hashtag “aclibchat” to promote the program.
Marshall, a historical romance author who participated in the August 27th chat, said that she didn’t find the Twitter chat as difficult as she originally feared it would be. She contributes her comfort to spending “too much time” on her own social media talking with other users.
“I felt that I could handle the Twitter chat because I was so used to doing that kind of Q-and-A back and forth or responding quickly to people or tapping quick little replies,” she said. “And it’s just something I do every day anyway.”
Marshall said she has been a user and supporter of the Alachua County Library District for decades and was happy to contribute to the program.
“The public libraries in the 21st century are an amazing resource,” she said. “They have so much value added for everybody in the community. I think, sadly, a lot of people just aren’t aware of how much their public libraries are doing, so that’s why I enjoy participating in the chats to raise that awareness.”
Shira Glassman, LGBT fantasy author and participant in the October 1 chat, also stated her hope that her participation would allow the library to promote its existence to potential consumers.
She said she feels appreciative towards the library because they’ve been a resource for the genre that she writes and likes to read—LGBT novels.
“The Alachua County library has been amazing in ordering all of this stuff for me,” she said. “I want to reach out to the entire LGBT community of Gainesville, but mainly the UF students, to let them know how much there is at the library to read if that’s what they’re looking for.”
The promotion through social media not only affects the library, but also plays a big role in the promotion of authors and their books.
Marshall and Glassman both stated that they haven’t seen tangible impacts of the chat in social media traffic or book sales, but think the time spent helps promote their own careers to a new audience.
“For an hour investment of my time and a little bit of promotion ahead of time,” Marshall said, “it was a win for me all the way around whether or not it makes increased sales or readers because I’m building the brand of the library district, which I think is very valuable as a consumer, and I’m using them to help build my brand.”
Branding was also an important product of the chat for Glassman.
As writer of self-defined “niche” works, Glassman said her books aren’t often found on the bookshelves of mainstream book stores.
“Without social media, I don’t think I’d have any marketing at all,” she said.
Both authors look forward to participating in future library chats with other authors.
Marshall participated in Glassman’s chat by tweeting her own questions and comments to both Glassman’s and the library’s Twitter accounts.
Glassman said that she wants to continue her involvement in future authors’ chats too, like Marshall did with her Q-and-A.
“I think it’s really important for indie authors who share something like a community or demographic or publishing house to support each other and help each other get noticed,” Glassman said.