Discussion topic: Libraries and social media

Social media and donuts @ThreeShipsMedia, by Doug Ray, used with permission under CC BY-NC 2.0

Social media and donuts @ThreeShipsMedia, used with permission under CC BY-NC 2.0

Social media can be considered as part of just about every other discussion topic we have ever had here at the ILN. For example, we’ve talked here about censorship. Consider the way social media has allowed us to see and hear stories we might otherwise have not been able to, if we were relying on traditional media outlets. Library advocacy is stronger and louder with the use of social media – attracting supporters to campaigns to save libraries or fix budget cuts , promote new products and services or raise awareness of libraries.

Social media is serious business. It has transformed the way many of us do our jobs and live our lives. It has blended the personal and the professional in a way that was as revolutionary as the introduction of the mobile phone. The merging of the two, with smart phones meeting the tools of social media has been another leap forward in the indispensable nature of social media.

Social media (and associated Web 2.0 tools) allows programs such as ours to exist, run by volunteers and using free tools that enable people to connect all over the globe. For example, we present at virtual conferences, bring our participants together using virtual meeting software, connect with the global library community via twitter chats and use Storify to capture those twitter chats so anyone who missed out can see what we talked about.

There is also the undeniably fun side of social media. We can share photos, links, videos and memes with a like minded community – many (most?) of whom we have probably never met in real life. Some organisations are better than others at blending this approach to social media. Over the next two weeks we will be bringing some examples of the use of social media by libraries to your attention here.

Barriers and issues. 

So, is it as simple as setting up a Twitter, Facebook or Instagram account for your organisation and hoping your followers will come? The answer is no, it’s not at all that simple, although many organisations may do just that. A quick search for social media and libraries in any search engine brings up the need for planning and strategy from the beginning if social media is to be an effective part of a library’s marketing or communication.

There are also many parts of the world where access to social media is difficult or even impossible. There are potential technical and political barriers to social media in many places.

Consider also the blurring of lines around ownership of the content posted on social media. Is it ok to use Twitter and Facebook comments from customers in your own marketing (without asking) for example? Technically maybe yes, but is that enough if the idea of social media is engagement with your community.

Discussion points

Based on some of these considerations and your own experience with social media both professionally and personally, you may like to discuss with your program partner issues such as:

  • Does your organisation (or you) go beyond the now traditional Facebook and Twitter in its use of social media?
  • Are there barriers to social media in your organisation?
  • Does social media blend your personal and professional life, or do you keep them quite separate?
  • How can you make use of social media to enhance your professional development?
  • Have you been involved in a social media campaign to save your library, promote a new service or just attract followers?
  • Is there a social media policy at your place of work?

As always, we welcome your comments here on the blog, on our Facebook page or you can join in the conversation on Twitter using #interlibnet.



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  1. Thanks for offering this very interesting and multifaceted topic! Different libraries have their own social media policies which depend on communication tasks. Besides, private involvement of librarians through social media LIS groups is crucial because these activities encourage professional development. Irina (Russian State Library, Moscow)

  2. Hi Irina, that is so true. Social media has become such an important tool across the board. The ILN gets so much engagement out of Facebook and Twitter I can’t imagine life without them

  3. The discussion has come at the right time for me as i am currently involved in setting up a library and social media cannot be left out while formulating my policies for the new library. Thank you ILN for this topic.

  4. Pingback: Libraries and social media: a Pinterest roundup | International Librarians Network

  5. Pingback: Professional development is international | Who are these kids and why are they calling me mum?

  6. Our students use Snap chat but the school has blocked that site so it is not available for them to use at school.

    I agree – I think Facebook is for the “oldies”.

    • Some of the teens I used to work with loved Snap Chat. I can empathize with their desire to use such a platform… I think it’s like the modern day equivalent to prank calling, except sometimes you get to see some weird stuff/people. I find it disturbing the way some adults use Snap Chat, but I have also seen people use it in creative and positive ways. I would agree with any schools making the decision to block this site, perhaps making rare exceptions where it could be used for educational purposes (psychology, math, advanced students).

  7. I agree that use of social media in libraries is more that just creating an account/page but libraries need to have a person who will manage those pages.

    • Thanks to all IP’s for the great discussion so far. Social media is key within Libraries and Information Centres and we cannot do without it. Our users engage deeply with it and we have to match the game for us to stay relevant and active in responding to their needs.
      Our school Library has a facebook page to reach out to all members who are students/users and it is quite heplful. Other tools used in our school as a social networking are GROOPT and NAVIANCE. Thank you.

  8. I’ve not heard of Groopt or Naviance before, I’ll have to have a look at those. Interesting on how quickly things change, Facebook is definitely not for the young people anymore. They have aged out in less than 10 years, wow.

    • Welcome to the world of inventions, innovations, discoveries and creativity. There are many more social media platforms that are evolving in this global environment. All we need to do as information professionals is to look at their effectiveness. If yes, then we get ourselves informed about them in order to help our users. Thank you.

      • You are quite right Habel Social media is continually evolving – new sites are starting, and others closing all the time. Even well established sites such as Facebook continue to evolve and change the way they display information, what they share and how much information they expect the user to provide as part of the ‘free’ service.

  9. In the public liibrary where I develope my job we use mostly Facebook. We also use Google+, Pinterest, Flickr or even Youtube, but Facebook is our main social media communication channel.
    Social media are a very useful tool in library daily work. For example, I can´t imagine how difficult would be to disseminate information about our activities without the help of social media spread. Besides, it has helped to our contact with other professionals, local writers, illustrators, and people who would be interested in the library. But on the other way, social media means sometimes an important time consumming.
    Our mainly users are families, we don´t have specific programs to focus on youth, so, for the moment, we don´t use another social media for teens.
    We have not developed a social media policy. In any case, we try always to be honest, to be balanced and to be objective and rigorous. We publish news and information about books and reading, and we also spread information about cultural local events.

  10. To my mind, social media in the libraries have two main practical aspects.
    Firstly, sharing news, information about library events attract new users to a library. Probably, not everyone knows what services are offered by his nearby public library. Social media encourage people to join the library.
    Then social media can serve marketing purposes through user feedbacks. Studying feedbacks helps to understand what library activities/fields need changes or improvement. Sometimes social media give librarians insight into effectiveness of sevices which were recently implemented.

    • That’s a great point Irina about gaining insight about users and our effectiveness. Users can gain that direct communication path and if we are smart we listen!

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