Libraries, aren't they filled with people in buns shushing other people? No. Not in Halton in the north west. They're using technology as a way of connecting with their audience and authors.
by Mark Allen
#Haltonreads takes Halton's Libraries in 'One Direction' - forwards!
Halton Borough Council's libraries have been at the forefront of social media for some time, seeing the new methods sitting comfortable alongside the more traditional ones in attracting new readers and interacting with existing ones.
The service was early to use Facebook/Twitter as a way of engaging with its users, especially as more and more people use libraries for their IT facilities as well as to read conventional books.
This is more so in Halton in Merseyside, due to its number of deprived neighbourhoods where home access to the internet is often limited.
IT workshops encouraged older people (the 'silver surfers') to get on-line and staff found they often took to it more quickly than younger readers, who were initially sometimes reluctant to interact with something like a library - (Perhaps not as 'cool' as One Direction, but more about 1D later!)
Different library staff members were encouraged to take over Twitter for the day, encouraging staff to interact with customers and reply to their questions, recommend books and make the account personal and interesting. It also increased their IT confidence.
It was felt it was good to give the account character and make it less 'corporate' - People like reacting to real people. It re-Tweeted interesting articles and - with fellow trailblazers Shetland Library - used the social media to bring people back to libraries.
To mark National Libraries Day people were encouraged to 'Tweet what you read' using the hashtag,#haltonreads - the brainchild of Council Media/PR Officer Mark Allen and Reader Development Officer Janette Fleming which they promoted through Halton Borough Council/Halton Libraries accounts.
This took off in a big way as for 24 hours people Tweeted pictures of books, magazines, newspapers and even the backs of cereal packets they read that day. Halton people on holiday even took to Twitter to join in!
Despite the library not having many follower at the time (they only recently obtained 1,000) but some of the Tweets reached 9,000 people with numerous shares on FB - which we feel are worth more than 'liked' as to put something on their own timeline means they usually read it and approve.
The most shared Tweet reached 21,000 (which is 20 per cent of our population and more than can pack Old Trafford cricket ground)
The traditional local media was supportive and attended an old-style photo op to launch the hashtag (pic enclosed on blue link) - running stories on their social media outlets too.
After the success of the scheme it was expanded and Janette started to Tweet authors directly if they were mentioned in a #Haltonreads post.
Erica James @theericajames was a good example (see screeen shot attached)
Author Martine McDonagh, whose debut novel 'I Have Waited, and You Have Come' received rave reviews, even visited Halton Lea Library- after reading her novel was being read in Halton, on Twitter.
She came to the Halton Borough Council venue on Thursday 12 September, travelling more than 270 miles from Brighton, after making contact with library staff via the #haltonreads hashtag, seeing people were discussing her books, in Widnes and Runcorn.
The fact she came after being contacted on Twitter was used as a selling point and the story got traditional media coverage!
While a recent talk from the author of a book on One Direction attracted dozens of teens in a Halton library - after a cardboard Harry Styles was Tweeted by staff in diffferent places in the library. They had a bit of fun and reached the target audience through the medium.
Another account which has been doing well is @HaltonTeenzBook. This group page is run by Halton Libraries Reading Activists group for young people (11-19 years). It has 134 followers including publishers, authors, colleges and an MP.
Halton Borough Council's Executive Board Member for Libraries, Cllr Phil Harris, said he was supportive of his service's innovative ways of connecting to its readership.
"We are in the 21st century and therefore must use the tools available to us to reach out and communicate with readers. Using the internet to do this is a cost and time effective way of utilising resources and interact with the people we need to reach out to.
"We are careful not alienate more traditional users of the service, But having said that, getting a new audience for libraries is essential for their future."
The essence of Twitter is conversation and libraries are no longer saying 'shhhh' but shouting out to the world about what they offer.
Halton Borough Council has more than 70 social media accounts spread over Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest
Mark Allen is a press officer for Halton Borough Council.