Nearly three weeks ago, Skokie (IL) Public Library, where I work as the Communications Coordinator, closed to the public. As things were changing at a rapid pace, we did not have any time to map out how to take our in-person services online, so we’ve been learning as we go, as many libraries have. I’m inspired by the creativity and work many libraries have shown as we all embrace this new digital landscape. Here are a few ways my library is keeping in touch with patrons, broken up into two categories: Keep Them Informed and Keep Them Entertained.
Keep Them Informed
We want our patrons and followers to continue to see us as a source of information, regardless of whether can come to our building. Here are two ways we took our standard in-person programs online.
Twitter Chats Replace Pop-Up Events
When our building is open, we host pop-up events called Civic Lab, which focus on hosting discussions and sharing information about issues facing our community. We’ve translated Civic Lab to Twitter chats, where staff members on Twitter moderate discussions on a specific topic, and share relevant resources for one hour. We use #CivicLabChat, and when sharing resources, we tag creators on Twitter and use pertinent hashtags. Our first #CivicLabChat was called All Genders, and focused on gender identification and pronouns; this was a Civic Lab event previously planned to happen in person in March. We had participants from all over the country participate. Our next #CivicLabChat is about COVID-19 information and misinformation. Here is the link for the #CivicLabChat: All Genders.
Instagram Story Series
We started doing a series of Instagram Stories focused on specific topics that are relevant and of use to our followers. These are loosely based on the Civic Lab model as well, but catered more to Instagram’s slide-based and video-friendly platform. Our first series was about COVID-19, and the second one was about the 2020 Census; a third series that’s in the works will focus on how people can help others in our community during this time. Each series features a mix of slides with text and slides with video, all recorded selfie-style by library staff with their phones or laptops. We’ll often follow video slides with a slide that recaps what was said, since many users watch stories with volume off. These series are saved on our profile’s Story highlights.
Keep Them Entertained
Many people are inundated with stressful news. We want to give patrons a chance to relax and give their brains a break.
Music is a great equalizer! We have a lot of music lovers on staff, so the idea to create a playlist of feel good music was a no-brainer. We have a Spotify account that I created a while back, so I created a collaborative playlist, and shared the link with co-workers, who also added songs. Now we, as staff, can listen to it, and I can share it on our social media channels for our followers. Here is the playlist – it’s pretty great!
Instagram Story Templates
We’ve all seen these in some capacity on Instagram. A person posts an Instagram Story that has blank fields, and followers are supposed to take a screenshot, add text above the empty fields, and then share on their stories (ideally tagging the initial creator). This was an idea I’ve had for a while, but had not implemented. Darien Library in Connecticut has done a few, and I thought now was the chance for us to try it. I used a template found on Canva.com (search for “fill in Instagram Story”), added fields for book-related answers, branded it, and shared it in our Instagram Stories. It was a fun way for people to get follower’s minds off of the news, and see what they’re interested in! The template is saved on our profile’s Story highlights.
Online Book Club
Our followers of course love talking about books (and so does our staff). Similar to the library’s Spotify account, I previously set up a Skokie Public Library group on Goodreads, and we now use that as the hub for discussions. Our staff first found 4 books that were available in both eBook and eAudiobook format, and which could be checked out by multiple people at the same time. We then posted polls on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to ask which book people wanted to read; they chose The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King. From there, we decided that the book club would host moderated discussions once a week for one hour, but members could post on our Goodreads page whenever they wish. The book club has more than 20 members, it has increased circulation numbers for the book, and it helps us stay connected with fellow book lovers. Here is our Goodreads group.
Our Digital Collections Librarian created trivia questions based on our digital archives that are shared internally with staff, to give us something fun to do (because we think research is fun!). I thought the questions could serve as perfect content for a Twitter trivia night, which we hosted on a Tuesday night. I used #SkokieTrivia, and posted all questions (10 total) in a single thread. All answers were about Skokie history, and could be found using our digital archives, so it had a nice tie-in to the library’s resources. Here is the Trivia thread.
To make all of these ideas happen, collaboration and communication with co-workers has been crucial. We’re redefining the idea of library programming, teaching each other new technologies, and trying to practice work/life balance at the same time. I have found that creating and sharing a high-level social media calendar with our colleagues has been helpful in getting some semblance of process and priorities. This is a challenging time for libraries, but also an exciting time to try new ideas! Best of luck as you continue to serve your patrons while flattening the curve!