Sep 25, 2008

How Librarians can be the Ultimate Community Managers

What is a Community Manager? My friend, Connie Bensen introduced me to the concept at my first social media gathering. I know she has collaborated on the wikipedia definition, and as a librarian herself, and I hope she agrees with my assertion. Community managers help shape online spaces by representing organizations through starting and/or contributing to discussions. They are social media mavens and power users. Community managers solve problems, offer the best customer service, and give organizations a human face.

In the online context, librarians can also fill these roles for their individual institutions. Some of us have Community Manager in our job titles (think the talented Chrystie Hill at Webjunction). Jeremiah Owyang describes the 4 tenets of Community Management as: Community Advocate; Brand Evangelist; Savvy Communication Skills, Shapes Editorial; and Gathers Community Input for Future Product and Services.

Librarians are natural community advocates. We promote free access to information and technology. We oppose censorship. We offer community gathering spaces to encourage conversation and participation.

According to OCLC according to library patrons our brand is books, so we need to work on evangelism, but the word is out. Libraries have gathering spaces, current materials, and free wifi- pass it on!

We can also shape editorial about our work- see Library Link of the Day to read about the ways libraries are in the press. Many of us blog, although I wish more leaders chose to blog. Not enough of us tweet outside our community or seek out our users in other social media. Some success with MySpace and Facebook is promising, but we can’t just friend and fan eachother. We need to connect with our patrons, customers and users in online communities. Historically we may not be known for savvy communication skills, but here’s another opportunity.

Gathering community input is also a key role of librarians. As we plan services, build new facilities, and evolve into our 21st century selves, libraries have to listen to what our community needs. Let’s face it Gen x and y aren’t attending community meetings at the library. The meetings are happening online. Do you Google alerts point to blogs, microblogs, or comments that reflect how patrons feel about the library? Are you listening and responding?


  • Love this perspective! Really thoughtful post.

  • I like that idea. Its just that so many institutions will NOT go for this kind of thing. Organizations tend to drag. Also, I prefer it when the community solves the problem itself–Orgs, generally drag progress…

    Great post–keep thinking!

  • Many librarians have been blogging this concept for some time. David Lee King ( probably has the best perspective on setting this up. I’ve written in the past how tough it is to connect with this community online, as it seems like you are spamming or stalking to them.

    What does work are people who are really active, savvy, and happen to be librarians, rather than I’m a librarian I’m here to help online.

  • Meg, you are my hero.

  • Thanks Meg for highlighting a role that is imperative in libraries in real life & in the digital world.

    It’s been great getting to know you! Looking forward to getting together on my next trip down.

  • [...] spring I met Meg Canada, a librarian from the Twin Cities who works with digital media. We had dinner & she was totally [...]

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Meg Knodl is a librarian and social light. Opinions and ideas shared here are Meg's and do not represent the opinions of Hennepin County Library or other organizations.


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