4 Successful social media campaigns for and by libraries

Libraries are some of the most active users of social media and it is no surprise that many have taken to using new media to spread their message and in serious cases promote their cause. Some of these campaigns are started by librarians others have purely grassroot orgins. Some are targeted only/mainly to their fellow librarians, while others are meant for everyone.

Stephen Abram has a 2010 post listing many Facebook based “Save the Library Campaigns” (another list by ALA here)and it’s interesting to see that many of the Facebook Pages have massive number of fans, some as high as 15,000 in some cases. Andy Wawoodworth who is certainly no stranger to using online tools for library Advocacy notes the following in a insightful post   about setting up a Facebook group   Save NJ Libraries.

For myself, it was wonderful to see that over 15,000 people joined the group; but in the back of my mind, I had my doubts. How many of those people are fellow librarians joining in solidarity? How many actual New Jersey residents are actively monitoring the group? How many NJ people are sharing the information to their friend? How many people in the group are contacting their elected officials? For these questions, I had no answers nor hunches; there is no way to measure it and my gut feelings did not feel reliable. While some would argue that the larger the number the higher the probability of active members, I would answer and say that probability does not translate into measurable results. It also relies on the false premise that each person who joins the group has an equal chance of taking further action.”

In the concluding words of the blog post Andy also alludes I believe to “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will not be Tweeted” where Malcolm Gladwell claims that online campaigns are unlikely to result in social change as a “like” or tweet is so easy to do and does not prompt other action.

I think he has a point, does 15,000 fans of “save library X” fanpage really help if most just click “like” and forget about it?  Does that sway the powers that be? More to the point, in this day and age, does having 15,000 fans of “Save a library” with no other action really make sufficient news for traditional mass media to take notice and help to spread the word out? I don’t know. In recent months, I have noticed however a couple of campaigns that seem to have resulted in actions that go beyond the purely online realm.

Why they did it : Over 375 libraries in the UK threatened with closure due to budget cuts

What they did :  Users on Twitter began tweeting “Libraries are important because … [fill in your answer & RT] “, with hashtag #savelibraries. Done initially in support of UK Libraries but spread to the US.

A search shows that #savelibraries has in fact being a tag used on Twitter as far back as March 2010 but here we are talking about a specific use that occurred in Jan 2011. See later for more details

How it started :  Started spontaneously by Shropshire ICT lecturer @MarDixon  , supported by Voices for Library. More information

Result: As I write this, the story is still on-going, but according to Twend.it , #savelibraries has trended WorldWide, UK/London,  and United States with the longest in UK (6 hours on 16 Jan 2011). (It also benefited possibly from the effects of the next case below) .

There were 12,000 tweets of this according to Topsy in just 1 week!

Gary Green has a nice visualization showing that in this case tweeting has probably escaped the echo chamber (the tight knot of interconnected users in the middle are probably librarians)…

Why am I including this, since we are talking merely about tweets and no physical action can be attributed to this? Simple, at this stage, trending on Twitter is still considered “news” enough for the Mass Media to report on, so like it or not in this case online activism has led to some effect in the real world.


‘Wot No Books’ campaign/Save Stony Stratford Library

Why they did it : Stony Stratford Library faces closure for same reason as first story above.

What they did :  A campaign to encourage users to protest against the closure of Stony Stratford Library by using their full loan entitlement of 15 books to empty the library of all books between 12 Jan to 15 Jan 2011. More information 

How it started :  This campaign began normally enough with a petition and a Facebook group. But what about the ‘Wot No Books’ idea? It all “.. stemmed from a semi-serious (or half-joking) off-hand remark made at, it would appear, just the right time.” by David Quayle of  “Friends of Stony Stratford Library” 

Result: All 16,000 books checked out! They reached their target of removing all books 24 hours ahead of time! As someone calculated, for this to have happened, at least 1,000 users were involved in taking actual physical action. It seems that this idea is going international , and libraries such as the Isle of Wight library are planning to do something similar.


Why they did it : Librarians discovered they could buy a library for a very cheap sum of £1250 for people in India and Africa using GoodGifts.org.

What they did :  Set up a blog and paypal account and began asking for donations online using Twitter and other online tools.  More information

How it started :  The idea was conceived on a Twitter conversation between @ThatAndromeda (US), @theREALwikiman (UK), @janholmquist (Denmark) and also supported by @JustinLibrarian

Result:  Raised over £1500, enough to buy a permanent library in India and a mobile library in Africa . People forked out money via PayPal so definitely in this case , physical action resulted. I’m curious whether most of the who helped were librarians or not. 

Charlotte Mecklenburg $2 million in 1 week campaign  

Why they did it : The Charlotte Mecklenburg Library planned to close 12 libraries and fire 148 workers because of a reduction in funding.


What they did : Campaign to raise $2 million in 1 week by March 24, 2010 to make up for shortfall in budget. Among other efforts a Facebook Page was setup to solicit for donations.

How it started :   Unclear, probably started by library

Result:  Did not reach target of $2 million in 1 week, but reached over $200,000 which is still impressive. In the end all branch libraries remained opened with shorter hours, there were pay cuts and 48 layoffs at least for now.

Other stories

Other cases that you might be interested in includes Marketing a Levy Through Social Media , which chronicles Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) use of social media to get a tax levy passed and New York Public Libraries invitation to Improv Everywhere to re-enact a famous GhostBusters scene  to raise awareness of budget cuts. 

A note about library related hashtags on Twitter

The ALA Chapter Office has a nice series of pages on advocacy efforts for libraries and suggests the following best practice

Follow CRO on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ALA_CRO. Find and send tweets on saving libraries with #saveSTATElibraries; for example, #saveconnecticutlibraries, #savemichiganlibraries, #saveohiolibraries. Also include #savelibraries in the message. If you send out tweets to save the libraries in your state, please send a note to dwood@ala.org.

Unfortunately while I can track the amount of tweets made for these hashtags, I can’t check if they actually trended as Twend.it goes back only to May 2010.

Some notable ones in terms of volume include #savelapl (432 according to Topsy as of Jan 2011), #saveohiolibraries (1,584 according to Topsy as of Jan 2011). Of these only #saveohiolibraries might have sufficient volume to trend and indeed that was the intention, but I don’t see any evidence it actually did.

Realistically speaking I suppose only the generic #savelibraries is likely to trend? Since two or more libraries who happen to be campaigning at the same time (like the two UK libraries)  will have sufficient volume to push it up? Twitter trending depends on factors such as velocity of tweets and uniqueness compared to normal volume so it’s not very clear even if this is true.

Honorary mentions

The following social media campaigns are on less weighty issues other than the survival of the libraries but have resulted in some degree of traction if not among users at large but at least among librarians internationally


Started by @emijnsbergen, @kenniswerker, @adaerts, @lukask, @poulus @wbk500 to declare October 1 2010 to be follow a library day. Users would be encouraged to mention his favourite library on Twitter. Started mainly from Netherlands but later spread internationally.

“Overall more than 7000 tweets were made. We found 12 inspiring videos on YouTube from librarians about the day that attracted a 1000 views in a short time span. Our seven promotion films on YouTube attracted 3000 views.” Source . Not to mention dozens of libraries supporting this.

Started by @Wawoodworth & @catagator. Similar to #followfriday, the idea here was to recommend librarians on Twitter to follow. Andy recounts the story here. Currently according to Topsy there are over 500 such Tweets

A Day in the Life of a Library

Started by @librarianbyday to encourage library workers to share their day or week by tweeting, bloging, post pictures or videos. This is currently in it’s 6th round! For rounds 4 and 5, 343 library staff registered themselves at the project wiki , if you include the previous rounds there must be at least 500 posts or items created by librarians to support this project. That’s a lot of real world work!


There are no doubt many other successful social media campaigns by libraries and librarians, some are accidental such as Andy taking a chance by asking Old Spice to talk about libraries or a Cambridge Librarian catching the fancy of the internet world by commenting on portrayals of Jedi librarians . How does one measure the “success” of these campaigns? How much can one attribute success due to social media? For instance while the Wot No Books’ campaign/Save Stony Stratford Library seems to be mostly driven by Facebook, the idea could have being conceived and executed even if Facebook didn’t exist.

Another thing I noticed is that in the 4 cases above, 2 were actually ideas initially conceived spontaneously by non-librarians. Not sure if that has any significance.

source via http://musingsaboutlibrarianship.blogspot.com/2011/01/4-successful-social-med…  by Aaron Tay a librarian at the National University of Singapore – NUS Libraries Tq