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This report comes to us from the Richland County Public Library in Columbia, South Carolina. Debbie Bloom, the Walker Local History Manager, doubles as one of the many capable FamilySearch Community Administrators.
Walker Local History Room -- October 2011 Monthly Report
Grow Our Customer Base
One of the ways we grow our customer base in Local History is administering genealogy Facebook pages. South Carolina Genealogy Research page, New York Genealogy Research page and Richland County, SC - Genealogy & History are the three pages currently monitored by LH Room Staff.
Facebook Administrators facilitate the conversations among the members of the Facebook page they are assigned. The pages are hyperlocal; focusing on genealogy for a state, country or culture. However, I will admit that a definition or job description of the administrator’s role is still being debated and formed. Some of the ideas for administrator duties include:
- Help make this group useful and relevant for genealogy research in this area
- Help ensure all questions get answered or addressed – you don’t have to do it all, see ideas on the Community Building Ideas doc
- Post good resources you’ve found that have helped with your research, show gratitude for other valuable resources posted
- Delete inappropriate posts
- Join our Admin community on Skype to connect with other Admins.
- If you must leave as an admin, find another one who can take your place.
Between the three pages we are involved in there are nearly eight hundred “likes”. In addition, our posts have exponential growth through our fans and active users. For example, one post in the NY Genealogy Research page had nearly 1300 news feed impressions. That is the raw number of times the post has been seen on our wall or on the news feed of our fans.
When a customer comes into the library and he receives similar information we do not even consider if that information will be passed to other users. Through Facebook we reach over one thousand people with one piece of information.
The NY and SC Genealogy pages are administered in collaboration with the FamilySearch organization. That has given us professional connections nationwide. The administrators meet weekly for updates and training through Skype and Facebook. This professional interaction gives us the chance to share resources and offers an opportunity for philosophical debate. One thread listed below describes a debate on the pros and cons of Facebook as a reference tool.
Research vs Community
Cheryl- I would like to discuss whether we are serving as personal researchers - someone posts a question and we rush out to answer - or we are trying to build a community of people who have different knowledge and experience that can be a free standing help, sharing, etc. I think if we rush out to answer every question before any community members read it and have a chance to contribute we are not building a community but providing free research. If we have that rep we will never build a community.
Betseylee- It's a fine line though because we want to not leave them hanging without an answer. I don't think we should give them all of the answer. We should teach them to fish. So we should provide the links and let them find the answer.
Cheryl- that's the way I understood it initially and I think it is the best plan if our goal is community building.
Anne-Marie- I would say, supply the tools, but if we see no help or answers from the community we need to go a bit further maybe just to prevent people from leaving us?
Debbie- My idea of a community is one where people help each other by sharing information/answers which could include direct answers with links to sources. Once a person accesses a source it may occur to them to try other similar sources. I think we've all enjoyed the experience of learning by helping others or we wouldn't be here. The person I replied to this morning presented some pieces of information about her family and I offered one other option. I hope others in that community will offer her other options as well. The combined effort would be a learning experience for all of us.
Robin- Good topic. As these communities swell, we will see more and more members contributing, and less opportunities for admins to provide answers to every question. As I have perused the pages daily, I would say most questions remain at least 12 to 24 hours and some longer. Overall, we encourage each admin to feel free to be as helpful as desired. It is always helpful to explain the process we follow to obtain the answer. When that happens, all the members benefit. Some admins are researchers at heart and find fulfillment giving the answer outright. We are open to being a little more helpful if we can discern the person we are helping is unfamiliar with the technology or frustrated after an extended search.
Debbie Bloom- I completely agree with Debbie. I see myself as a genealogy hostess. I want my sites to be friendly, with lots of conversation and collaboration. Its' my hostess job to see that everyone has a good time. How can we possibly do research for someone with the information we receive on Facebook! This is "social networking" not a library.
Michael- If I'm helping someone, I post under my own name. Nobody knows I'm an administrator as I don't advertise it, and I thought that it meant that people wouldn't think that "Ireland Genealogy Research Community" was an endless supply of answers, and people would be more inclined to step in and help. Any links to resources, news articles and so on, I'd post under the page name.
Janell- Good discussion, these are all great points. Can the answer be d., all of the above? :) I don't know if we can or should have a definitive answer for how all of the questions are answered. I can see there being room for both ways of answering questions for various reasons on all the different pages. I think there can be a place for doing some research for someone, and I think there can also be a place for stepping back and seeing what happens. The individual interactions are what matter most of all; if the people/visitors/fans are taken care of, the community will grow. But how they are taken care of might be different at different times, depending on you as a helper and what you feel you should do in that instance. Speaking in broad terms of community building - as a new community just gets started, you have to jump in and do a lot more of the work, because there are less people there to help out and talk to each other (only a few % will become "helpers," so it takes hundreds to get a handful of helpers). I do think that most of our communities are in that stage right now, where admins will still have to do a lot of the work. But then slowly that will be less and less as others jump in to help too, and sometimes it is good to wait for a bit and see what happens. So I tend to think both viewpoints are correct, and both can and should be used.
Cheryl- I would like to see us have more discussions like this. I think it will help us build our communities.
Fran- I have the habit of asking, if they answer my welcome, and where are they researching, another question of if they have anything to share about researching in those counties or if they need help. I have had a variety of answers.
Robin- I agree Cheryl! I always get an expanded view from listening to other admin's opinions. This helps me to find different options, and that I really enjoy.
Janell- Ditto, I think its great to see different approaches for things
How do FamilySearch Communities help our organization?
How does this help RCPL? Administrators are resident experts in our field. With that comes recognition and respect nationwide not just from customers but from our peers. As our Strategic Plan states, “RCPL staff will be valued community assets known and respected for their talents and expertise”.
We are also innovators in a new virtual “reference service” world. With the backing of FamilySearch these Facebook genealogy sites are highly respected. This service will be emulated by other organizations. It is exciting being on the cutting edge of improving customer service.
We will grow our customer base by connecting with Richland County family historians who live in other parts of the world. We want to reconnect with those remote members of our community and bring them virtually back home. We also want our local residents who are not from South Carolina to know that the Walker Local History Room can help them, too. If we don’t know the resources of another state or country we certainly know where to find the answer.
Walker Local History Manager
Richland County Public Library