The ‘dark side’ cometh…?

Very interested to see Newcastle Libraries recently launched blog.

http://community.newcastle.gov.uk/libraries/

The blog is powered by WordPress and the page interactive, colourful and vibrant, with pod casts, news, events, staff blogs and the promise of more to come. The site ‘sports’ Newcastle’s bright, award-winning ‘Turn a new page’ branding. And all in all, it is a thing of great beauty! A triumph in its design and its engaging use of Social Media. There are of course links back to the Council website but …this is where the bubble well and truly bursts for me.

The library pages on the council website are quite frankly boring. Bland and uninteresting – mostly consisting of list after list of links to other equally dull pages.

Am I being too harsh? Probably. I imagine like many library services, Newcastle have had to work within the confines of a corporate Content Management System (CMS) with strict constraints placed upon them on what’s permissable in terms of content and layout. Is it any surprise then that their very new and lovely ‘blog’ is the first link on their library homepage, closely followed by yet another external link to their YouTube channel, and then another to Enquire? I can only assume this is some sort of subconscious effort to steer their customers away from the functional to the fabulous and the fun.

So just what message should we read into this? Is it a clear signal that all is not well with our council websites and that they are not in fact providing the sort of experience our customers crave? I’m not entirely sure our sites were ever that gripping but I think it has now reached the point where the gap has become unacceptable – and not just for our users. I’m sure authorities up and down the country spend mega bucks each year trying to bridge this great divide – tweaking templates, slapping in the odd bit of embedded code to link to YouTube, or Twitter. But we can never keep up – and that does sort of ask the question why bother? Why not break things – ‘mash’ it all up and utilise these social media sites to our advantage. Yes, it’s risk taking and yes we do lose a certain amount of control. But more and more library services are testing the waters and diving in – exploring ‘the dark side’ that is the Social Media revolution.

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