Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Systems Librarian: Practical Technologies to Foster User Engagement

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

The Systems Librarian: Practical Technologies to Foster User Engagement

Article excerpt

Libraries and related organizations naturally want to maintain a high level of awareness and exposure to their clientele. They can use many different techniques as part of their marketing or outreach efforts. As organizations centered on information, employing methods to disseminate interesting content comes to mind as a potentially effective way to strengthen engagement with a site's community of users. There are a variety of technologies that can leverage the resources of the library to strengthen its engagement with patrons.

I often use my Library Technology Guides site as a test bed for trying out strategies that may have applicability to libraries. Although not a library in itself, it aims to provide relevant resources to those who share an interest in the topics it covers. Since this is mostly a personal site, I can use it to experiment with different technologies and techniques. Even though I want to ensure that it remains stable and reliable, I don't have the concerns for risk avoidance that often apply in a library setting.

I have implemented a variety of techniques to increase the exposure of Library Technology Guides since I launched it almost 2 decades ago. These techniques include optimizing the discovery of content in search engines, dissemination of content via multiple channels, use of social networks, and other personalized services.

Interesting and Relevant Content

More than anything else, the key to cultivating engagement lies in developing highquality content of interest to your clientele and presenting in it a way that highlights its value. In a context in which information is abundant, it can be difficult to distinguish objective, reliable, and authoritative sources. While great content is an attraction, it can remain obscure unless proactive measures are taken to heighten awareness.

Focused Audience

It's essential to understand the audience for the organization's information and services, which may include many different segments. Although most libraries serve broad and diverse communities, outreach activities can be directed toward specific niche groups, defined by academic disciplines, cultural affinities, or other areas of common interest. Different forms of outreach might be developed to reach each of these target audiences. With Library Technology Guides, for example, vendors that make products have distinctly different patterns of use relative to those who work in libraries and might make use of those products.

The general public constitutes another interesting audience group for Library Technology Guides. The libraries.org directory of libraries sees extensive use as a general finding tool, both by searching it directly

or through the listings presented in web search results. This type of activity represents a large portion of the overall use, but it is somewhat incidental to the main goals of the site. The high volume of churn in the directory does help improve data quality, especially through the reporting of errors or changes. I'm delighted that libraries.org provides a useful public service, especially since that use results in strengthening the data underlying the overall site.

Discoverability

Following the content itself, techniques to facilitate its discovery in the broader web come next in the development of outreach strategies. Although SEO may not be able to optimize access toward targeted audience segments, it is an important prerequisite for other, more refined approaches. It is vital that the site can be easily found on the web, as well as each of the individual content elements within.

The specific techniques for improving discoverability on the web continually change. Google and the other search engines provide guidance regarding the content guidelines and technical techniques that can be implemented to improve search engine performance. However, it is notoriously difficult to achieve consistent results. Some of the basic techniques currently expected are as follows:

* A clean presentation of information, using uncluttered and valid HTML. …

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