Technology & Innovation for Libraries of Every Size & Budget

My first session on Friday was presented by a librarian, Sarah McCormack, from Medicine Hat Public Library. She provided a good summary of what libraries can do with the big social networking tools of the day, such as Twitter and Facebook. At the end of the presentation, I had filled some gaps in my knowledge, and I concluded that there wasn’t much of a barrier for any library to embark on these efforts and to see positive results.


Some trial and error is still required though. The presentation was created in Prezi (“the zooming presentation editor”–, and there were a few glitches when the presentation began. It was this software that got me to thinking of how complex topics could be rendered with and made understandable with great visualizing tools.


Screen shot of a Prezi presentation. The slides progress by zooming in and out of sections of the screen.

Here are some examples of Prezi presentations:

Sarah McCormack began with this YouTube video: “Social Media is Not a Fad.” Before she began her projects at Medicine Hat Public Library she was inspired by the amazing statistics about social media presented in this video. While many social media tools are “free” there are associated costs, like staff time.

Social Media is Not a Fad – YouTube video

McCormack then when on to describe her library’s Twitter page, which she stated was the most important social media tool the library uses, and the one she would recommend libraries adopt first.

The library Twitter page is branded like the main website– Twitter is a great way to get information out to library users and start conversations. At the moment there are 700 followers. Her main advice: to get followers you need to follow others on Twitter.

Sarah uses the Twitter management tool CoTweet ( With this tool she can schedule tweets, which is great for getting program announcements out on time. It also means there’s a steady stream of tweets even when she’s away, and it’s important not to lose audience by long delays between tweets. CoTweet allows the library’s Twitter account to link to its Facebook account.

The library’s Facebook web page ( needs some work, and some of the things Sarah would like to do would require getting into Facebook HMTL. She would like her library’s Facebook page to look like TSN’s (, with its videos and polls). One thing I learned is that while one becomes a “friend” to a personal profile, one “likes” a page, like a library Facebook page in order to subscribe to updates. Facebook “events” go out to all the people who “like” the page.

But Facebook is a global phenomenon that should have a place in libraries. Sarah mentioned that China is one place where Facebook is not dominant, as social media services like QQ and RenRen are more common.

Medicine Hat Public Library even has a YouTube channel:

And here’s a YouTube video from the library featuring Sarah McCormack:

Medicine Hat Public Library–Book Club!

The library’s YouTube channel rebroadcasts the Shaw Cable interviews with library staff. The library got an agreement with Shaw to be able to talk about any topic, and then to copy the videos to the library’s YouTube channel. People can subscribe to the YouTube channel, and in turn the YouTube channel can get RSS feeds of new uploads from “friends”—that is, other libraries who have YouTube channels.

Medicine Hat Public Library plans to use Camtasia to create YouTube videos for OverDrive training and for the library’s database of the month program.

Sarah McCormack mentioned that the library also uses WordPress for its TeenSpace web site,, and so this remains a separate service from its web site and other social media services.

Medicine Hat Public Library also updates its Wikipedia page, This is a great starting place when people do web searches, as they often land on this page. However the editing freedom can produce surprises, as when a new logo was reverted to an old one by someone who edited the library’s page.

Medicine Hat Public Library also explored digital advertising. When the library checked with City Hall and other libraries they found digital advertising services costing $10,000 per screen. The library found some cost-effective workarounds. They have TVs for Wii consoles, but at times the TVs go up and display PowerPoint slides.

The library found good software called ScreenScape (free for non-profits) that is quite easy to use and can connect displays. Check out ScreenScape at


ScreenScape allows the library to take TVs to tradeshows and farmer’s markets and display slideshows.

While Medicine Hat Public Library is busy supporting lots of technology (wireless, PCs, classes, ebooks, databases), it’s been important for the library to seek partnerships and to be part of consortiums, such as The Alberta Library and the Shortgrass Library System. The library prefers in some cases to let other library experiment so it can swoop in and benefit from those that have gone before.

But with social media tools, once you start you have to keep going, and it’s important to plan for that. Otherwise the library will lose people if content becomes stale on Twitter or Facebook. As Sarah said, libraries increasingly need to be run like businesses. Dell succeeds because it stays at the cutting edge.

A good web site to stay current on social media:

A good Twitter technique: use hash tags, such as #medhat. These are for topics that people can follow on Twitter, and an excellent way to track trends.

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