These days, it’s not enough for libraries to just share information, they must be a part of the creation of new information, too. And in the Internet age, everyone’s a content creator. Embracing the trend of user-generated content allows you not only to spread even more information, but to engage library users as well. Read on to find out how to go about doing this, and pick up some handy resources along the way.
Follow these tips to make user-generated content as helpful as it possibly can be.
- Allow things to be messy: User-generated content just isn’t going to be as organized as something the library puts together on its own, but seemingly unimportant tags may help users find what they’re looking for.
- Know when to moderate: Although you should allow lots of freedom in content, it’s important that you keep some sense or organization and order, so don’t hesitate to correct spelling errors, misleading content, and other troublesome items.
- Get all of your staff involved: In the early stages, it’s important to get started with a strong community, so encourage interaction by asking library staff to participate in creating content.
- Create tags and encourage users to adopt them: If you’re creating a class tag, for example, make sure that the students in that class know how to use them.
- Encourage corrections: With many eyes on your content, users are bound to point out when you make a mistake, so allow user-generated content to provide good feedback.
- Don’t call it "user generated content": Focus on terms like people and members to make creating content more appealing for patrons.
- Grow your own: Instead of relying on Web 2.0 platforms, you can create your own technology, like a blogging platform specifically tailored to your library, or a photo sharing database just for your patrons.
- Don’t charge for access within your network: Some libraries charge a usage fee for using the Internet, but be sure that any usage within your library’s official tools is free.
- Specifically ask users to contribute: Make sure that library patrons know that your user generated content exists, and ask them to contribute.
- Create a question and answer section: Encourage participation by designing an area where users can ask for specific help and information.
- Enable notification features: Keep your users coming back and contributing by letting them know when there’s a response to something they’ve created.
- Be useful outside of the library: Make your content accessible everywhere, so that users can plug in from the road using mobile devices or their computer at home.
- Host a contest: Nothing will get users contributing faster than a little friendly competition. See who can collect the most useful links, or just refer the most friends.
- Add viral features: Be sure to make it easy for library users to pass along their contribution with features like "email a friend."
- Respond whenever possible: Get the discussion ball rolling with a comment or some other type of response to any content that’s created.
- Create a poll: Spark discussion by creating a simple poll with comments enabled.
- Create a space for content creation: Draw attention to content creation by using a specific workstation for taking photos, uploading files, and tagging items.
- Make things personal: Don’t just offer information, offer personal service, too. Give feedback and offer conversation to the users who are creating content for you.
- Give them a reason to participate: Whether it’s working off library fees or just online brownie points, provide some sort of motivational compensation for users to contribute.
- Be commentable: In order to get users to make comments and provide other content, you have to get things rolling with interesting content yourself. Instead of writing blog posts listing new items in your collection, take it a step further by providing reviews, opinion, and other interesting commentary that others will respond to.
- Treat your users with respect: Recognize that your users aren’t just that– they’re owners now, too.
Check out these tools that make your job as a user-generated content administrator incredibly easy, and dare we say it, even fun.
- Wetpaint: This wiki software allows users to easily add content, plus has great tools to let them know about new information.
- LibraryThing: Allow your patrons to review, tag, and rate books in your collection with LibraryThing, plus be able to offer recommendations and translations through the service.
- LibMarks: This tool makes it easy for library users to tag and bookmark items in your catalog, online databases, and the Internet, which is all shared with others.
- ChiliFresh: Using ChiliFresh, you can allow your library’s users to share book reviews via your website.
- Forums: Forums offer an easy and organized way for your patrons to discuss topics with each other. Check out Forum Matrix to find the one that’s right for your library.
- Facebook: With Facebook, you can allow users to connect, post events, helpful links, photos, and loads more content.
- Flickr: A perennial favorite, Flickr has been successfully used by the Library of Congress to offer historical photograph collections.
- Drupal: This content management system offers everything from blogs to entire community-driven websites.
- LibGuides: With this tool, you can create guides, which can then be rated and commented on, and even integrated with Facebook.
- CiteULike: Using CiteULike, you and your library users can create a group full of excellent resources.
- MySpace: Encourage users to contribute comments with photos, video, links, and more by setting up a MySpace profile for your library.
- Second Life: Set up a Second Life library, and you can conduct virtual classes, discussions, and more.
- Connotea: With Connotea, your library community can share useful reference links together.
- GotVoice: Using GotVoice’s message system, you can allow patrons to leave mp3 phone messages to be used as podcasts.
- Ning: Ning allows you to set up your own network that library users can contribute to.
- Notecentric: Encourage your library’s users to share notes about books, classes, and collections on Notecentric.
- PBWiki: With PBWiki, you’ll get a custom subdomain, RSS alerts, search capabilities, backups, and a lot more.
- Blogger: Create a blog for your library to encourage comments and interactive discussion with your library patrons.
- del.icio.us: Encourage your library’s users to bookmark useful resources that everyone can use with del.icio.us.
Check out these guides to learn the nitty-gritty details of putting together user-generated content in your library.
- Wikis and libraries: This guide offers a look at how wikis can be a useful tool in libraries.
- User-Generated Content: Read this post for an excellent summary of a discussion focusing on using user-generated content in the library.
- Privatising Information by Stealth: This poster discusses the implications of using online services, and discusses why and how you should create your own library-led solutions instead.
- Community Dev: Get Your Patrons Coding: In this guide, you’ll learn why it’s great to have patrons doing programming for the library, and how you can encourage it.
- SL2.0: Examples of a Vision: This post has a number of ideas for user-generated content, like blog reviews, and voicemail podcasting.
- Telling Your Community’s Stories: Walt Crawford discusses using the library as a community publisher.
- Libraries in Social Networking Software: Check out this post to learn how you can leverage social networking software as a content tool.
- Library 2.0 and User-Generated Content-What can the users do for us?: This paper discusses how user generated content can be used in libraries, and how to get started.
- User-Generated Content: Check out this presentation to see how you can put user generated content to work in your library.
- Online Communities: This wiki document has great information for creating online communities in libraries, like connecting all of the people on a reserve list for a book.
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