School Librarian Barbara Ferramosca tells us about her initiative in using Microsoft Sway to promote her library in King’s College School.
My library has recently started to use the Microsoft app Sway as a way to promote our books and library resources with great success: as a Librarian I have always felt that our OPAC/Library Management System or the VLE used in school were not quite the right tools for the job and we needed to find something more in keeping with the times. Sway is the answer that I was looking for.
The app Sway is Microsoft’s response to the popularity of Prezi and it is part of our school Office 365 package. It is basically a more fun and visually appealing version of PowerPoint. It is very user-friendly too because it requires little training to create something that looks professional and bring together different types of media in one platform.
These Sways display without any problems on all types of phones too: the text and images automatically adapt to the size of the mobile phone screens.
What did we want to achieve?
Marketing and Raising the profile of the library. Sway can be easily embedded on Facebook and on Twitter: I have always wanted to use social media to promote new books and our recommendations but I have never been able to do so because I found that running a library account was very time-consuming and I could never quite ascertain the impact of my efforts towards lending figures, for example. Now we send our weekly Sways to the school marketing team so that I can use the school social media channels instead: a quick survey with our students has reassured me that students tend to follow the school Twitter account anyway for more practical reasons (i.e. info about sport fixtures, music or drama events, etc.) so this was a guaranteed way to reach them. Using the school account has another benefit too: it raises the profile of our library and we can also regularly highlight our expertise to the school community (including SMT), our parents and other possible stakeholders such as governors, ex-pupils and the general public. Finally, on a more practical level, we are helping the school marketing team who are really grateful as they sometimes struggle to find materials or information to publish on social media.
Promotion. Sway is a brilliant tool to promote the library books in a new and more exciting way because it is a very visual tool for a very visual generation. The following are just some examples of what we have been able to do:
– Booklists with book covers, quick blurbs and hyperlinks to Amazon. We quickly discounted hyperlinks to our library OPAC for these reasons: students are already familiar with Amazon and use it much more often than our library catalogue; they can read the book reviews about the book and even the beginning of the book before making the decision to borrow the book. It just works.
– Students like to discover what their peers/friends like to read so now I am finally able to add these peer-recommendations or the top ten books of the week for example. Beforehand, I used to display these recommendations on displays or on the library shelves but it always felt like a lot of work for a small audience overall. I have given my pupil librarians the task of creating book reviews in podcast form so we will be adding these soon: it will be another way to integrate peer-recommendations into our newsletter.
– I finally have a way to add video book trailers from Youtube or even podcasts – I have never found a way to use them until now. A lot of publishers produce trailers for new books and they can be extremely successful at catching the attention of a reader. The feedback from the students has been extremely positive – they REALLY like the trailers.
There are so many other possibilities that we have not yet fully explored: in our first Sway, we created galleries of students’ artwork based on their summer reading. It is worth exploring this app to see how it can work for your library.
Library lessons. In our school, the English department is keen to bring their classes in the library for students to read or choose a new book. We found that sometimes students are lost when faced with so much choice around the library, especially the more reluctant readers. Creating regular Sways has provided a new format for these particular lessons. The week before October half-term, we invited all the Year 9 classes to the library and asked the students to go online (either on their phones or using our computers) and just browse/read/listen/watch our last two to three Sways. It was a success especially as the teacher made clear that they were expected to borrow a book by the end of the lesson. They responded well to the combination of clear expectation and also to the fact that they could freely explore. It did not feel prescriptive because they had so much choice. I am now treating each Sway with the same care and attention as I would every lesson: I try to think about the audience that I want to target and then add content appropriately.
Final considerations. Making our Sways on a weekly basis works for us for the reasons explained above. Overall, creating a weekly Sway can be very time-consuming so this is why I think that it is extremely important to use it in as many different ways as possible. The amount of effort invested into creating each Sway needs to strategically work in several different ways to make it worth it. However, as we all know, every school is its own micro-cosmos so what works for us may not necessarily be possible for another librarian. Sway is just a brilliant new tool in the Librarian’s arsenal to reach our school community in a different way.