Tech Talk — Reuther Library's Facebook Page

The season of the Facebook

It has been two and a half years since a student at Wayne State University's School of Library and Information Science approached us here at the Walter P. Reuther Library about a school project. The assignment was to build a page on Facebook to help promote archives and libraries. This student contacted me, Paul Neirink, Digital Resources Specialist, by email. Soon after, construction was under way. In the three winters since its completion, this seemingly small school project has blossomed into a steady course of links and comments touching on numerous labor history related topics and events. In a very real sense, the Reuther's Facebook page has become an alternative source of information that is nearly as useful as our main site in terms of advancing aspects of our mission.

From meager beginnings

What really impresses me the most is just how successful this page has become, and it's not just the quantity of "Likes," either. While it's true that having as many "Likes" as we have gathered makes for a nice graph, it's the other less tangible things that matter more to me. For example, nearly 57% of all our "Likes," an outright majority, come from people between 25 and 44 years of age. Sure, this may say something more about Facebook users in general, but short of conducting an online poll, the Reuther may now record data that had previously been obscure at best. But perhaps more importantly, we can also begin to understand where we could potentially better serve our community of users. When under 5% of our "Likes" come from those 18-24 (a seemingly low number and prime undergraduate age range), that suggests to me that these individuals are perhaps being underserved and that we could do a better job connecting them to our holdings.

Instrument of the month

Having another tool in the toolbox is not a bad thing unless the toolbox gets too heavy, or too full. In this case, Facebook has been a nice lightweight addition. With Facebook, we now have a place where we can upload posts about subjects that may have been considered too minute or awkward for attention before. The posts are short and to the point. Sometimes they point to content on our Web site and other times externally to other sites around the Internet. All posts are administered by a group of four individuals who work together in tandem. This shared responsibility has made for some fun developments, such as a photo captioning contest that takes place from time-to-time. Here our policies and committee discussions converge. The Reuther's main Web site and Facebook page work together. Because we allow comments on Facebook, but not on our main site, we needed to leverage both to make this contest work as intended. By using one service to feed the other, our intentions to raise awareness about our work and to drive more visits have been realized.

Making the grade

While I never knew how this bright young student did in the class or what grade she was awarded on this project, the Reuther's Facebook page has been a great success. Consider dropping by our Facebook page and leaving a comment. We would love to hear what you have to say. And remember to show your appreciation for our work by visiting our Web site and clicking on the “Like” button. Everyone that has been involved in this ongoing project, you get an A+ in my book.

Paul Neirink is the Digital Resources Specialist for the Walter P. Reuther Library.