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#OnTheRoadULC: Featuring Austin Public Library // Two Librarians & A Microphone Podcast

Live from the Urban Libraries Council Annual Forum, we’re interviewing Cesar Garza from the Austin Public Library about their Social Media Ambassadors Program. 

As a public awareness tool, social media can be used to assist libraries with communication, visibility, and exposure. Tune in to hear how Austin Public Library’s citizens proactively raise awareness of the public library through their Social Media Ambassadors Program, including how APL engages with the community and encourages ambassadors to spread library initiatives. #APLambassador


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Jim Heuer [00:00:17] Hi everybody. This is Jim Heuer and I am the host of the Ingram Library Services podcast, Two Librarians & A Microphone. This morning I'm with Donna George, librarian number two. We're excited to come to you live from the Urban Library Council Annual Forum in Baltimore, Maryland. Ingram Library Services is a proud sponsor of the Innovation Awards that the ULC bestows upon its members. Today we have with us Cesar Garza, a Top Innovator from Austin Public Library. Cesar's going to talk to us a little bit this morning about a project that they were awarded, the Austin Public Library Social Media Ambassadors. First, we'll say good morning to Cesar. Good morning, Cesar.

Cesar Garza [00:00:58] Good morning, Jim. I'm glad to be here, thanks.

Jim Heuer [00:01:00] Thank you. Thank you for being with us.

Cesar Garza [00:01:01] Sure.

Jim Heuer [00:01:02] Really interesting stuff. This was your idea, the Social Media Ambassadors. So, could you tell us a little bit about it and what it is and what you're trying to do with it?

Cesar Garza [00:01:11] Sure. The Social Media Ambassadors of the Austin Public Library in Austin, Texas, they are just a group of people in Austin, citizens of Austin, users of the Austin Public Library, who just love the library and like to sort of share their love for the library on social media. It's just people who happen to love the library, who also happen to be on social media. We, through the Austin Public Library, through this program of the Social Media Ambassadors, we brought them together. We organize them through email, and anyone can be a Social Media Ambassador. You don't need to apply, you just simply need to sign up. You add your name to our email list and about once a month, or once every two months, we, the Austin Public Library, will email our group of ambassadors to say things like, "Hey, this is what the library's working on. This is a hashtag that we're trying to push out. This is how you can help us on social media." The Social Media Ambassadors,

Cesar Garza [00:02:07] they help us in two basic ways. One is, when we email them and ask them to use a certain hashtag. Another is, they can decide on their own to just write a post about the library, what the library's doing, what the library means to them, how much they love the library, and they tend to do that a lot. They basically amplify the library's message. They show other people, people within their networks, how the library benefits the community, how it benefits them as individuals. And so, all the things that you kind of do on social media already, such as shares, retweets, favorites, hearts, likes, and reactions, these are the ways that we ask our supporters to show their support for the library.

Donna George [00:02:49] Great. Cesar, I would guess that when you first recruit an ambassador they're kind of gung-ho at first, but maybe their interest or their remembering to do this kind of thing may kind of fizzle out as they get caught up in their day-to-day.

Cesar Garza [00:03:04] Right.

Donna George [00:03:05] I read in your write-up that you do some interesting things to keep your ambassadors engaged and kind of reward them for their efforts. What are you doing there?

Cesar Garza [00:03:13] Good question. One of the purpose of the emails is just to kind of remind them about the program and how they can help us. That's one way we keep them engaged. Another way is to actually give them incentives for being a Social Media Ambassador. Since we started the program at Austin Public Library we have extended to our Social Media Ambassadors a sneak preview of Austin's new Central Library building, which opened in October of 2017. A week before the grand opening, we invited a group of our Social Media Ambassadors to come into the building, to get a sneak preview, to take pictures, to tweet and do all the stuff you do on Instagram, and to just try to generate some positive buzz about this brand new, beautiful facility. This year, in 2018, we gave them a sneak preview of a new event series that we're starting at the Austin Public Library, which is called APL After Dark, which is just inviting the public over

Cesar Garza [00:04:05] for adult drinks and music on the rooftop garden of the new Central Library. Before we launched APL After Dark, we invited a group of our ambassadors to get a sneak preview of the event and to help us generate buzz about it. They tweeted, they got on Instagram and Facebook. Since we had so much success with giving them a sneak preview of Austin's new Central Library before it opened, I think we're going to try to give them more sneak previews, because Austin Public Library has been renovating a new facility, our branch libraries, and so we are toying with the idea of extending that idea into the branches. Before a branch is renovated and then before the branch library opens we are thinking about giving them a sneak preview of the branch, so they can help us generate excitement about the branch reopening.

Jim Heuer [00:04:53] Are you seeing these posts driving participation to different events? How do you measure the success of your ambassadors?

Cesar Garza [00:05:00] The metric that we use really is just if people use the program hashtag, which is the permanent hashtag we always remind them about which is #APLambassador. When we email the ambassadors sometimes we'll say as usual, "Just use #APLambassador, so that we know you're helping us." Then sometimes we'll say use #APLambassador and an additional hashtag which pertains to the more short-term thing we're doing. Like when we gave them a sneak preview of Austin's new Central Library, the hashtag we had been using was just #NewCentralLibrary. On the day of the sneak preview we asked them to use #APLambassador and #NewCentralLibrary. And when we tracked the usage of that we could see, we got about 300 uses of those hashtags, which might not seem a lot when it comes to things going viral, but for a library generating 300 posts in two hours, that we consider a success.

Jim Heuer [00:05:59] Yeah, absolutely. Donna and I know about the random world of going viral. We thought our podcast here would have gone viral by now. But speaking of podcasts, right, we want to make sure that everyone knows that Austin Public Library, in addition to doing all this really cool stuff, you guys are also doing a podcast, right?

Cesar Garza [00:06:15] We do.

Jim Heuer [00:06:15] APL Volumes, is that right? Austin Public Library Volumes. So, you're one of the hosts there or you've been a host, so talk to us quickly about that, as well. That seems social media-ish.

Cesar Garza [00:06:27] Yeah, Austin Public Library Volumes is just the podcast of the Austin Public Library. I have hosted a series of podcasts on APL Volumes, which is on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, and this podcasting network called Libsyn. I produced seven podcasts, each featuring an individual Social Media Ambassador of the Austin Public Library. In that podcast, I just talked to the ambassador, and I asked them all the same set of questions. One of the questions was, "How does the library fit into your life? Why did you become an ambassador?" And of course, every answer changes according to the individual, it's very personal. A lot of our ambassadors are passionate about the library which is why they speak up about it and share their posts about it on social media. I would invite people to check out APL Volumes. We also have a radio show, a local radio station there in Austin, Texas.

Jim Heuer [00:07:22] We broadcast the radio show on Wednesdays and then we transfer the show to the podcast. So, it's a mix of content on APL Volumes. Wow, doing some really great stuff at Austin Public with social media. I think everyone now can understand why you guys were one of the top innovators. Congratulations. That's some good stuff.

Cesar Garza [00:07:41] Thank you.

Jim Heuer [00:07:42] What do you got your eye on next?

Cesar Garza [00:07:44] With social media, you always have to have your eye on what's next, and it's always about engagement. We always have to think about, how can we continue to keep our ambassadors engaged and get them to share the library's messages, share their love for the library…we're just trying to find incentives. Right now, we're looking at giving them a sneak preview of a branch library that has been renovated these past few months, giving them a pre-party before we have the public party for the reopening of this renovated branch library.

Jim Heuer [00:08:11] Oh wow, really good stuff. Once again, congratulations.

Cesar Garza [00:08:15] Thank you.

Jim Heuer [00:08:16] Thank you for joining us.

Cesar Garza [00:08:17] Sure.

Jim Heuer [00:08:17] Along with the ULC, we'll also say, "Wow, that's some really good things you guys are doing there in Austin on social media." Thank you.

Cesar Garza [00:08:23] Thanks a lot Jim. Thanks.

Jim Heuer [00:08:23] All right, take care. Bye-bye. Two Librarians and A Microphone is brought to you by Ingram Library Services, it is a division of Ingram Content Group. Our producer/director is Rachel Cope, sound engineering by Craig Simpson, special assistance by Essence Brisco, and Elizabeth Wilcox. The research done by our librarians, Trisha Bengel and Donna George. I'm Jim Heuer, thanks most of all to you for listening. Please follow us on Instagram at @thelibrarylife, tag us in your #thelibrarylife moments, because we've got some cool stuff going on, on that social media platform. We're going to be giving away some exclusive books, ARCs, perhaps a signed copy. In order to make sure you're staying tuned to this podcast, we'd love for you to go to, but most importantly, the best way you can show your support for us, is we'd love some reviews on Apple iTunes. If you can go on there and leave us a positive review, that would really help.

Jim Heuer [00:09:25] We'll see you in your libraries. Thanks everybody.