Brighton in Foursquare first as it seeks to boost library use

With local government funding cuts threatening the future of many community services, I’ve noticed that several libraries in my area of London are turning to social media, specifically Facebook, to rally support.

Brighton & Hove City Council has gone a step further in harnessing people power, and deemed November 6 to be Foursquare Day.

It has teamed up with Foursquare – a first for a council – to try and attract a more tech-savvy audience and generate some online buzz for local libraries (yes, through the automated Foursquare updates on Twitter and Facebook, which I see more people moaning about than using).

So, on November 6, if you visit one of 15 libraries in the Brighton and Hove area and check in on Foursquare, you will taking part in social media history. You’ll also be in with a chance of winning a free audio-visual library subscription, which are up for grabs as an incentive to take part.

The campaign doesn’t stop after one day, though, with the council planning to start offering specials to people checking in across many public buildings, including museums and leisure centres. Appropriately, it will even recognise when mayors (the name Foursquare uses for members who have checked in the most to a venue) are in residence.

What’s the thinking behind the push? According to the council’s head of communications, John Shewell, it’s to tempt people through the doors, in part, but it doesn’t stop there.

“We also want to learn from the feedback visitors leave using Foursquare and to develop a whole new two-way dialogue,” he says.

“We hope to go on from this experiment to build location-based services into all our locations whether they are swimming pools, libraries, gyms or events. In fact, we want to embed social media into all our services.”

I imagine that this experiment will generate a flurry of interest on the day, but what will local people find in libraries to keep them coming back? That’s where success or failure will lie.