Here's The Story Behind Orkney Library's Hilarious Twitter Account

    Orkney Library has over 10,000 Twitter followers. And this is why.

    Here are the Orkney Islands.

    And here is their library (and mobile library).

    Which has just broken the 10,000 follower mark on Twitter, and has roughly as many followers to its name as it has tweets.

    You know those days when you think "I really want to read an action-packed thriller set in the world of snooker"?

    @OrkneyLibrary is a great mix of ludicrous nonsense, terrible book covers, and actual library things. This got over 1,000 retweets.

    Don't forget - it's National Visit The Library Dressed As A Member Of Whitesnake Day tomorrow

    And here's the man behind the account, Stewart Bain.

    How soon did it take you to build up a significant following on Twitter? Was it a deliberate policy or did you just think it would be fun to mess around on there?

    We seemed to gain a sizeable number of Twitter followers quite quickly. Very soon after we started using Twitter we were having tweets read out on BBC Radio 2 and our content was being widely retweeted. After 18 months on Twitter we had over 1,600 followers and @OrkneyLibrary was already being used as an example of best practice in case studies and at conferences.

    We started using Twitter as we felt it would be a good way of communicating with our members and the wider community. Twitter gives us the opportunity to raise the awareness of the library and its services among the community. We thought it might in some way help to change the stereotypes people might have about libraries, and allow us to show a more fun side of the service. ...

    What we hadn't thought about was how beneficial it would be for the service in terms of direct contact with authors, publishers, journalists etc. We have had author events that have pretty much been organised through Twitter. Serving a community scattered across various islands means we can use Twitter to promote our online services that people can access from home. They can share photos and content from events we have in the library, or advise people of changes to the mobile library timetable. It has become an essential part of what we do as a library.

    Does anyone else turn the moss that falls off the roof into a pet? This one is called Nigel

    What's an average day in the library like?

    An average day in the library is being prepared for anyone to come in and ask you any question on any subject. Having a Twitter feed means now people don't even have to come in to ask us these questions. You might go from looking for a One Direction book for a child to helping an OAP use the internet for the first time, and in between telling someone in New Zealand which book of George Mackay Brown's they should start with.

    On an average day we will have around 400 people through the door. Some of those will be regular users, some might be coming in for the first time in years because they need a Haynes manual to fix their car or their printer has broken, and others will be signing up as a library member for the first time.

    Our popularity on Twitter has also resulted in a surprising number of people on holiday or visiting Orkney, popping in to say hello because they follow us from whichever part of the world they live in. The rise of e-books may have initially had some effect on library use, but a great number of our members use e-books alongside their borrowing of printed books, rather than instead of. Lending downloadable e-books and audiobooks is now also part of our online service, and Twitter is an ideal way of promoting this as we are able to directly communicate with people in terms of recommending books to read.

    So it turns out that when the man asked for a guide to wills he meant writing a will. How were we to know? #furious

    What experiences have you had "in real life" because of the Twitter account?

    Personally, I have travelled right to the other end of the country to speak at London Book Fair about our use of Twitter. I have guest-edited a magazine, written articles about @OrkneyLibrary, and have also had my face in national press holding a book about dairy farming that was returned nearly 40 years overdue. In the library, we have been amazed at people coming in specifically to borrow books that we have tweeted because the covers amused us.

    A great example of this was when Al Murray popped in after we tweeted him when he was in Orkney for a gig. We've also had parents arrive with their child in pyjamas, having got them ready for bed but then seeing we were live tweeting our World Book Night events, they realised they wanted to come along! Some people think that Twitter isn't for them, but it's often a place to share news and discuss shared passions.

    If these guys are from the YMCA you'd think they'd get the actions right. What the hell letters are they doing?

    Stewart says:

    One of my absolute favourite things about the @OrkneyLibrary Twitter feed is that we have school pupils and older teenagers who follow us. Libraries can have an image problem and that sort of age group is always notoriously difficult to get through the doors of a library, so the fact that young people enjoy the humour of our Twitter account and want to follow us makes me think we are doing something right. I don't mind if they haven't visited the library since they started following us, if we can keep them interested that is the important thing, it will just take the right tweet to make them step through the door for the first time. With this, @OrkneyLibrary has also been a key driver of traffic to the Orkney Library website as well.

    This is one of the best books of all time. And yes, that is Martin Shaw dressed as a sandwich #yourewelcome

    He adds:

    Follow @OrkneyLibrary and tell all your friends to do the same. And if you aren't a member of your local library go in and sign up. You may get a surprise.