Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

A librarian from Sweden is celebrating a victory after her library’s Facebook page was disabled, without warning, by Meta. Isabelle, a communications librarian, fought for months to get her library’s Facebook page back online after it was taken down by the platform.

Isabelle began working as a librarian in 2006 and took on a communications role in August of 2021. The lengths her library had to go through in order to get their page back are pretty mind-boggling.

Isabelle was kind enough to share the saga, in hopes that she might help other libraries.

How was your library was using Facebook for promotion before your account was disabled?

We mostly used it as a platform for promoting events, exhibitions, storytime sessions, and reading recommendations. It was also used for crucial information that had to be communicated to the public, like if our system was down and how it would impact the service we could provide to them. In short: it was used for both important and entertaining content. It was also a bit of measurement for what our patrons were satisfied with.

When was the account disabled and how did you first realize what had happened? 

The first page got disabled before my time, on inexplicable grounds. It had been so for almost six months. I launched a brand-new page that also got disabled after two weeks in October 2021. I got notified by email from the “Facebook team” in a no-reply email. The email also contained the message “If you think your page was wrongly disabled, click here”, providing a broken link.                                            

Tell me about the process of trying to get your account re-enabled

At first, I tried to get in touch with the Swedish branch of Meta by writing an explanatory public post on LinkedIn. I tagged the Swedish country director Sam Rihani and the corporate communications manager, Lukasz Lindell. None of them replied although people of course reacted to my post. Our library wasn’t the only one whose Facebook page had been disabled by Meta.

After many fruitless attempts to get in touch with Facebook and some of its employees, I turned to the communications team at the council house in my municipality. It was obvious that we needed to take this case to another level.

Two communication specialists were consulted and one of them had a Facebook Business account. It was the only way to get in touch with some kind of non-automated customer support (i.e., an actual human being.) I made one communication specialist an admin of the disabled Facebook page, and a couple of months later, our Facebook page was finally re-enabled. 

During the process, Meta wanted us to give them specific information about why the previous Facebook page was shut down. This was information that I didn’t have because nobody knew the circumstances even when it happened, and I wasn’t employed by the library at the time. If pages and accounts get disabled with no more specific information than “violation of community standards”, that’s all the information we can give.

How did being disabled from Facebook impact your library’s ability to reach your community?

It was a bit of a blow, considering that we had invested so much time in promoting the page to our patrons. Some of them wondered where we had gone when the page was disabled.

On top of that, it happened the day before we were to release the much-awaited news about our printer/copy machine being re-installed. People who needed help applying for jobs, residential permits, and other urgent matters had been asking us for months. I had promised them that I would break the news on our Facebook page as soon as it was possible to print again.

But we still had Instagram and our website. I thought that if Meta didn’t want us on Facebook, I would downgrade its importance to being an optional channel more than something essential. I invested a lot of work in upgrading our library website so that all the information that the public needed was to be found there.

Even though not all our patrons have access to the internet, it was still a bit reassuring for them to know that all the information they needed about the library, events, and more could be found in that one place. That’s where we channeled everything that also should have been posted on our Facebook page. No information was lost, but it was a bit scattered instead of concentrated on the Facebook page.

I also make posters and flyers that are popular amongst people with limited access to the internet. When Facebook re-enabled our Facebook page, I was like: “Oh? OK. Let me just get this thing out on the library website first.”

What lessons or advice do you have for other libraries, having been through this tumultuous process?

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, especially not when it comes to social media. Your content never really exclusively belongs to you and can be taken down by external agents who have no clue about your job.

I would advise librarians to invest time, money, and energy into building up their own websites where they can control and own their content. Direct patrons to that one website primarily for important news.

Also, don’t underestimate the usefulness of analog information like posters and flyers. They are essential for many patrons who lack the ability to search the web. It’s way too easy to believe that “everyone’s on the internet” or “everyone’s on Facebook” but that isn’t true.

Use social media for lighter content: info bites, book recommendations, humorous posts, and the like. I think that’s what people expect to find on Facebook anyway.

Libraries are the epitome of quality content and should not bow to corporations that choose to disable them.

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