In March 2012, Pima County Public Library’s (PCPL) Lisa Bunker will cast a Revelio spell at the “Potterize it! Sharing the Magic of Fan Culture” panel she developed for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference to reveal how to draw crowds with the power of butterbeer.
As social media librarian for the 27-branch system in Tucson, AZ, for the past seven years, Bunker has tapped into her own love of all things Potter to develop an influential social media brand for the library, with thousands of Twitter followers and Facebook fans. It’s part customer-service desk, library behind-the-scenes, book and movie world news, and community news.
“Lisa has single-handedly turned our social media presence into a powerhouse,” says Jennifer Maney, virtual library manager at PCPL. “Thanks to Lisa, our library now has 21 social media accounts, a Twitter score of 71.2, and countless reciprocal connections with people in power, people on the street, and a variety of community organizations.”
In 2004, Bunker discovered the communities forming online around the Harry Potter books. “Here were vibrant forums, podcasts, news-sharing, fan fic and filk-writing, and wonderful fan art–making communities that were book-focused,” she says. She studied them closely. “How did the Potter fans communicate? What kinds of posts got the best conversations going?”
She became so engaged that within five years she was owner of the largest archive of J.K. Rowling interviews on the web and had cultivated PCPL’s social media presence. She’s also throw n five Potter-related events, including one at the Hotel Congress that drew more than 3000 people.
What can libraries learn from Potter fandom? “One answer is that we library staff can communicate the joy of books as real people and not solely as an institution,” Bunker says. She’s taught library staff to avoid posting “calendar barf” in bland, neutral language. She’s also trained county staff and the public on what social media is and why it’s powerful.
Amazingly, she accomplished this working half-time at PCPL. She is also director of the research library at the Tucson Museum of Art.
“Social media is just one of Lisa’s incredible talents,” says Bonny Bruce, an administrator with PCPL. “Her magnetism and boundless energy draw people in, and they work happily with her to do something good for the community.”