Behind the Scenes @ London

3 12 2011

EnglandThe photo above was taken by commonwealthlibraries.

Where has England been during our tour of the Commonwealth’s libraries, you ask?  England, an original member of the Commonwealth of Nations and subsumed under the United Kingdom, must not be forgotten on our tour… especially as it houses the British Library.

How does the British Library use social media, and especially YouTube, to connect to its local, national, and international users?

The British Library Home Page

The British Library’s home page is a well organized source of information on British and world renown literary collections and artifacts.  The British Library’s wealth of information is organized under eight main pages listed at the top of the home page.  Thus, the library home page provides a basic navigation key and hyperlinks in order to present its users with a well organized stream of information.

An article titled What Makes a Great Web Site?, hosted at Webreference, suggests that websites should use graphics sparingly and be well organized through providing users with many short pages instead of a few long pages.  The British Library does just that.  Their website pages are typically short, concise, and discuss one aspect of the library’s services or collections.  Thus, users may visit the site to answer specific questions and avoid obtaining unneeded information.

The library’s social media tools are located at the bottom of their home page.  The British Library’s Twitter feed encompasses the left hand corner of the screen.  The bottom right hand side of the screen contains six tiny icons which link to the library’s other social media applications – Facebook, YouTube, and a Trip Adviser website (to name a few).



Let’s take a closer look at the British Library’s use of YouTube.  The British Library’s Youtube channel hosts numerous videos concerning their collections, exhibitions, library programs, research, and  fund-raising events.  This tool is very easy to use and would not be troubling for users who lack prior experience with YouTube.  Furthermore, the tool can be adapted to meet the needs of those with hearing impairments as close captioning can be enabled in many of the videos on the British Library’s channel.

The British Library’s YouTube channel provides users with behind the scenes information on the library.  Their channel emphasizes historical and cultural information on Britain as the British Library is a national library.  A review of the video’s posted by the British Library suggests that they use YouTube in order to promote new products, exhibits, and initiatives while providing behind the scenes information.

Promote new products:

You may view the video on YouTube by clicking here (britishlibrary, 2011).

Promote new exhibits:

You may view the video on YouTube by clicking here (britishlibrary, 2011).

Promote new initiatives:

You may view the video on YouTube by clicking here (britishlibrary, 2011).

Webreference claims in their article What Makes a Great Web Site? that websites should provide readers with behind the scenes information in order to attract a committed audience.  I think that a library’s use of YouTube should also rely on providing unique information to its users.  The British Library does just that in their YouTube videos.  While their videos may be long and at times dry, they also provide information to users which is otherwise unavailable.  When will the public be able to see the back rooms of the British Library?  Most likely no time soon, unless you count on a virtual experience through YouTube.

I have used the British Library’s YouTube channel in the past even though I live half a world away from London.  I am happy to see that the library now offers a Trip Advisor link beside their social media tools on their home page. Afterall, I was once that tourist who stumbled into the British Library due to an experience with their social media (view the About page for more information on that story).  However, if I was a local patron of the British Library I would still be perusing their YouTube channel.  Perhaps it is the history nerd in me, but I become excited when looking at books as antiquated as those displayed within the British Library’s YouTube channel.  I might not be alone in this feeling though – The World’s Oldest Bible Reunited Online, a British Library video, has been seen by 36,159 viewers.



The British Library could improve their use of YouTube by presenting their information in a more exciting way.  The library could maintain its authoritative and sophisticated approach in videos while presenting information at a faster pace and quickly grabbing the viewers attention.

David Lee King suggests that YouTube videos should grab the attention of its viewers and call them into action within his blog post YouTube – Calls to Action.  The British Library should not only inform its users but cause them to become active participants at the library.  While this might mean donating money, as discussed in one of their videos linked above, it could also mean helping to promote British heritage or the library itself through non-monetary means.  Thus, I think the British Library could improve its YouTube channel by creating more fast-paced videos which quickly catch the viewers attention and by calling on its viewers to be active participants in the library.


And those other social media tools?

The British Library’s YouTube channel interacts with their Facebook account.  The British Library will on occasion provide links to their YouTube channel through Facebook.  For example, on December 2, 2011 the library uploaded a link to their YouTube video of Simon Callow, a British actor, discussing Charles Dickens.  It can be seen on YouTube by clicking here.  The British library also has a highly active Twitter account.  However, this social media tool is not integrated with YouTube to the same extent as Facebook.

Thus, the British Library uses social media tools in order to create a greater connection with its users and provide behind the scenes information on the library’s collections, exhibitions, and initiatives.




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