Ashley Smith-Hammond

When we look at the Orkney Library's Twitter statistics in context its clear that what they are doing is working. The Orkney Library account is significantly out performing the average Scottish arts or cultural Twitter account.

How 80s hair metal and Orkney library’s twitter account are the perfect combination


When we read Orkney Library’s tweets we really enjoy them. Everyone does. They are hilarious. Here’s a taste of Orkney Library’s Senior Library Assistant Stewart Bain’s particular brand of Twitter magic:

There’s more going on here than simply the fact that the world loves hair metal nostalgia. The tweet above generated more than 1000 retweets and 560 favourites – online engagement that wouldn’t shame some of the world’s major brands. When we look at the library’s statistics in context its clear that what Stewart is doing with the library’s twitter account overall is working. The Orkney Library account is significantly out performing the average Scottish arts or cultural Twitter account.

@OrkneyLibrary has the highest level of retweets of all the accounts in our database of 350 Scottish arts tweeters. In the past twelve months (March 2014 – February 2015) it has averaged nearly 5 retweets per tweet, whereas the sector average is less than 1 retweet per tweet.

This tweet about Thomas Hardy from 14 June 2014 is that magic mix of being literary, knowledgeable and funny, the hallmark of Orkney Library. The pay off? It got 169 favourites & 299 retweets.

Another example is this tweet referencing a cult 80s TV programme The Adventure Game from 3 May 2014, which generated 393 favourites and 270 retweets. More than that, it started a conversation that included more than 40 replies and a break off conversation around how followers wished they could live in Orkney just to be members of the library.


@OrkneyLibrary follower numbers are growing at a fantastic rate. The account has over 16,000 followers (passing that landmark last week ). Follower numbers nearly doubled in size over the 12 month period from 8,515 in March 2014 to 15,595 in February 2015. Its annual growth rate is almost 7% as compared to an average growth rate, which is closer to 2% or 3%.

And who is the audience? It’s made up of people who love books and advocate reading. A sizable proportion – 13% are fellow librarians or libraries from around the world.

In a completely natural way, @OrkneyLibrary routinely hits some of the top sharing triggers: funny, shocking, controversial, uplifting (see them all on the Periodic Table of Social Media ). Here are some examples of @OrkneyLibrary hitting the zeitgeist and becoming part of the wider conversation.

Everybody loves an Alan Partridge pun – or at least the more than 250 people who retweeted and over 130 who favourited it clearly loved it.

And during the winter of 2015’s dramatic storms, Orkney Library in the face of high winds and severe storms dryly referenced the tornedo that took Dorothy off to Oz using the trending #ScotStorm which triggered more than 200 retweets and 150 favourites.

Engagement like this is a contributing factor to the overall perception of the Orkney Library service being seen as amongst the highest quality in the UK. Only this week, the library was nominated for the prestigious Library of the Year Award (the only Scottish nominee in the bunch). The library’s presence on Twitter was highlighted as a key part of their excellence. Congratulations to Orkney Library and best of luck. No matter what happens, just like the Oscars, it’s an honour simply to be nominated.

Keep up to date with Orkney Library – follow them on twitter @OrkneyLibrary or like them on Facebook.

And for more on Orkney Library please read on to our interview with the library’s chief tweeter Stewart Bain.