Book Review: Doing Social Media So It Matters: A Librarian’s Guide by Laura Solomon

Solomon, Laura.  Doing Social Media So It Matters:  A Librarian’s Guide.  Chicago, Il:  ALA Editions, 2011.  80p. $37.00.  Also available as an e-book.

Warning:  Doing Social Media So It Matters may make librarians want to leap onto institutional Facebook or Twitter accounts and revamp the way they use social media.  These days most libraries have at least dipped their toe into social media waters.  But are their efforts having any impact?  This book is an excellent bite-sized guide for beginners who want to learn to use social media effectively, or for those currently using social media, but unable to see how it is changing anything for their library.  While the book is clearly written with a public library audience in mind, the strategies, techniques, and best practices can apply to most types of libraries.  Experienced social media users, however, may find that the book adds little to their use of familiar tools.

Laura Solomon, Library Services Manager of the Ohio Public Library Information Network is well versed in the advantages and pitfalls of using social media.  Her successful use of social media in a campaign to prevent a fifty percent funding cut for Ohio public libraries gives her unique credibility when talking about how to use social media effectively.  She’s demonstrated how to use it in a way that counted when it really mattered. She communicates her practical experience and expertise in a clear, concise manner that makes her message easy to take away.

The book gives a clear progression from getting started, to using, how to measure, and finally evaluating the use of social media.  It begins with a gripping introduction, narrating how Ohio public libraries used social media to help successfully restore $147 million in funding.  Solomon’s “Proof of Concept” sets out a concrete example related to libraries of just how powerful a tool social media can be when properly harnessed.  In the first chapter, she focuses on how libraries can prepare the ground by getting administrative and staff by-in.  Her practical suggestions in this chapter have application for more than just the beginning of the process and can really be used throughout a library’s involvement with social media.  Her second and third chapters deal with strategies and techniques to engage library users, build connections and develop social capital.  Many of these seemed obvious but just because you know you should be doing it doesn’t mean you are!  Of particular enjoyment were the “Status Update Makeovers,” which showed how to turn stodgy updates into something more engaging.  Chapters five and six dealt with how to measure and evaluate use of social media.  These were the chapters that I found the most interesting.  With all of the increased emphasis in libraries on assessment and outcomes, these chapters provided practical ways to apply these to social media.   Finally, Solomon uses the last chapter to reinforce her message that social media is more about engagement than promotion.

Throughout the book, Solomon sprinkles “Bottom Line” statements, which consist of one to two sentence summaries of her most important points. These provide nice sound-bites for the book.  Her bibliography at the end provides useful resources for further reading.  I would have appreciated something more robust that included resources other than Internet articles and blog postings.  The bottom line is that this is a quick read with practical tips that most types of libraries can apply to their use of social media, but it will not add anything new for the already savvy user.

Reviewed by Susan M. Boland, Associate Director of Public and Research Services at the Robert S. Marx Law Library, University of Cincinnati College of Law.

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