Community Connections

Using technology to reach your clientele

October 1, 2012

Has your library ever thought about using technology and communitywide projects to connect with customers? It’s not easy to pull off, but if you’re successful, your library can make new friends and contacts and can provide useful knowledge or entertainment for the community along the way.

Topeka, where David works, has done a number of these projects—but with a technology twist. Here are some examples to get us started.

Community novel project

Topeka and Shawnee County (Kans.) Public Library is in the process of writing a serialized novel. Here’s the plan: The library created a summary of the novel, devised a rough outline to follow, and wrote the first chapter. Then we found local authors (many of whom have participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, events in the past) and assigned each a chapter to write. We publish one chapter a week in a blog post, and chapter authors can read the previous week’s chapter before they write theirs. Check it out at

Once the novel is finished, we plan to hold an author signing event at the library and give each author a printed copy of the book (via a service like Lulu or CreateSpace). We also plan to create an ebook version of the novel and sell it on Amazon to complete the process of creating a community-written novel from scratch.

Community connections for this project include gathering local authors around a project, letting our community in on the fun through posting the next chapter of the book each week, and allowing the public to comment on what they read.

Podcamp Topeka

Topeka has also created a conference for local social media users, now in its third year, called Podcamp Topeka. Because it is an unconference, Podcamp Topeka includes a mix of planned and unplanned sessions. The day usually starts off with a keynote speaker. Breakout sessions are a mix of planned-out sessions and topics dreamed up the day of the conference. Some meeting rooms are left open for discussions to take place.

Community connections for Podcamp Topeka focus on making connections with area residents. Participants can meet other local professionals interested in social media and can facilitate further meetings if desired. We are also able to share some really useful information and brainstorm during the conference.

Library 101

We have done a few librarian-focused community projects, too. To date, the biggest was the Library 101 project. For Library 101, organizers asked some smart people in the library and information industry to write essays about the future of libraries and then published those essays online. We created a music video around the project, which focused on the project theme. The video featured hundreds of librarians providing content in the form of photos. So far, that video has been watched almost 27,000 times, and the essays have been popular too.

Community connections for this project included giving other librarians a magazine’s worth of essays from thought leaders, and an example of creating media and promotional material for a web-only project through social media tools such as blogs, Facebook, and YouTube.

These three examples of using online social tools to reach different segments of a community will hopefully get you thinking about how to use technology to reach your community in a big way.

Has your library done this type of project? We’d love to know. What worked? What didn’t?

DAVID LEE KING is digital services director for Topeka and Shawnee County (Kans.) Public Library.

MICHAEL PORTER is currently leading the effort of the e-content–centric nonprofit Library Renewal and has worked for more than 20 years as a librarian, presenter, and consultant for libraries.


Library Snapshot Day Turns Three

Picture this: A glimpse of your state’s libraries at work