How I Set Up a Google+ Account for the Library and Lived to Tell the Tale

Guest Blogger: Emily Newberry, Social Media Librarian at the Thompson Library

When I first heard about Google+ the implications for higher education became immediately apparent to me. There have always been gaps and missing opportunities in the mainstream social media tools. Google seems ready, willing, and able to take on the challenge of filling those gaps.

The idea of circles is obviously the biggest selling point. Reading about Google+ I started to imagine classes creating circles and using Google+ to have dedicated free spaces for each student in a class to communicate and collaborate. This would also allow them to draw in other helpful people i.e. librarians, tech support, or anyone else with a vested interest in the class. What a brilliant concept! I then imagined how you could use the other new features to take collaboration further. With hangouts, you can do group work or conduct study sessions with several other team members through video chat without ever having to leave your house/dorm room. Likewise, Huddles on the mobile app can allow you to text your entire circle so that everyone is always on the same page.

This immediately got me wondering if they’d let me set up an account for the Thompson Library. We use Google Voice for our SMS reference service and I figured it was worth a shot. So I went in and set it up. It was obvious that they don’t currently intend for Google+ to be used for institutions, because they ask for a gender and a birthdate. The gender question didn’t pose a problem as they provide the option of “other”. Putting in the birthday however is where I hit a snag. Not thinking at all, I put in 2011 as the birth year. Our Google account was instantly locked out, because they thought we weren’t old enough to have an account. What this meant is that we couldn’t use any part of our Google account. I was worried that just as our SMS reference service was picking up people wouldn’t get a response and write it off.  This could be bad. Really bad. A panic set in! I ended up having to send Google a copy of my state issued driver’s license, and to be safe, I sent a copy of my MCard (UM-Flint ID card) as well so they could see I was acting on behalf of our library. I sent in a letter explaining exactly what I was trying to do. The website said it would take 3-5 business days for reinstatement, however our account was up and running within 24 hours. I was super impressed with how quickly and easily Google took care of my request.

So although I’ve heard to the contrary I’m wondering if Google’s no-company-policy is really that strict. Or perhaps they’re ok with non-profit institutions using the service.  Or maybe I just got an employee who’s completely out of the loop to reinstate my account. In any event, this will hopefully give me a chance to get in there and experiment to see how it works before the hordes arrive. Things change so quickly in the world of social media that I always feel like there’s no time to lose. It’s better to be there when people arrive than to try frantically to catch up. I’m hoping that all my hopes about Google+ aren’t unfounded. But all the excitement about Google+ so far shows me that this may be the start of a beautiful friendship.


Emily Newberry

Emily Newberry is the Social Media Librarian at the Thompson Library on the campus of University of Michigan-Flint. She loves to provide reference help to students through any feasible method of communication. You can find her in the following places.

Google+: Thompson Library
Twitter: @Thompson Library
Facebook: Frances Willson Thompson Library