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Lisa Waite Bunker

If you follow the Pima County Public Library on Facebook or Twitter, you've witnessed firsthand why librarian Lisa Waite Bunker was named a 2012 Mover and Shaker by the American Library Association. Bunker, who won the association's Tech Leader award, is also known to Harry Potter fans both locally and internationally. She's a contributing author of The Lexicon: An Unauthorized Guide to Harry Potter Fiction and Related Materials. But during her work time, she's all about building library community through social media. The library now has 21 social-media accounts for its branches and special projects. See for yourself on Facebook or Twitter.

How did you end up in the social-media position?

I was first hired (by the county library) in 2004. I was a children's librarian, and that made a lot of sense. I had a tremendous amount of experience in bookstores and other libraries in other cities doing children's services. ... Then I moved to outreach, which is now called the Literacy Office, but I got this offer to work (on loan from Pima County) as a part-time director of the (research library at the) Tucson Museum of Art. It's a temporary position. I needed to find more hours, and I heard from a friend that the librarian in charge of the library's website moved to part-time. That's really how it started.

Was there a library presence in social media before you started?

They had a presence before, but it was a time thing, and most of the media was situation-driven. I came to it with many years of experience at home in Harry Potter fandom, where I had gotten very involved in upper levels of fandom and created levels of community for people on the Internet. Because I was functioning at that level, I looked at it from that perspective: Here is a book-centered community online—and what kind of fun we could have. I wanted to bring a sense of fun and bring a wider area of content to the page, and I really wanted to also bring more staff into it, and that it not be just my voice.

Do you have any examples?

One great example is the Pima County Seed Library. (The person who runs it) makes it fun and spends her weekends going to community-garden grand openings and is a very skilled photographer. To me, what she is doing there is textbook for what any community can do to build loyalty online.

Tell me about the recognition you received from the American Library Association.

I have to say: I have a wonderful boss. She just seems to know how to give the people who work with her what they need to really shine ... and that's a really rare thing. My first day at the museum library, she had flowers on my desk ... but she is also just wise about people and how important passion is to a job. So I have this great boss, and she nominated me. Sometime before Christmas, they told me I made the first cut, but I didn't know I had been chosen until March.

What do you like about using social media?

It was especially exciting for me, because here was this chance to speak directly to people who use the library. I know not everyone loves the library, but here are people who've chosen this connection. In the past, the only reason to publicize something was that you wanted them to show up. Everyone would get together to work on a project, and the publicity person would send out a press release, and you'd hope the media picked it up and got the details right and that people showed up. At the end, you went on to the next project. But with social media, you can talk about all kinds of things and capture more of the energy of everything that happens at the library and its branches.

Do you have a philosophical approach to social media?

I don't have an overarching philosophy. I look at it that we should be doing more than just providing consumable information, but (also) playing games and celebrating creativity and creators in our community. Because I am part-time, I'm not always able to do this as much, but I do remember in June, we were all talking about the rain and, "When is the rain coming?" So, I posted a request that we all write haiku and celebrate rain and clouds that bring rain. Over a period of time, I got about 45 haiku. Many were wonderful, and some were goofy and funny—but to me, it is an example of what we should do.

More by Mari Herreras

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