Our November discussion centered on the use of social media to engage with our patrons and community. According to a white paper published by Taylor & Francis, “70% of libraries are using social media tools.” and “30% of librarians are posting at least daily.” But what social media tools do libraries find most effective? What are some of the challenges libraries and librarians face in using social media? Members shared the desired platforms for their libraries and the type of content shared through these platforms.
Platforms Used by Libraries
Of the four platforms, discussion members mentioned the use of Twitter and Facebook for the majority of their library’s engagement with patrons and the community. Twitter appears to be the most effective when it came to engaging with patrons.
Type of Content Shared
According to discussion members, the primary use of social media by their libraries has been to promote events in the library and outreach to the community. Depending on the type of content, members favored one type of platform over another. Twitter was found to be effective in sharing quick and brief information about programs, events, and new resources available. Facebook was not seen as a good source to list programs and events, but was a good platform for live streaming programs. YouTube is a good tool for creating library tutorials. For some libraries, Instagram is primarily used as visual archive.
Challenges for Libraries and Librarians
Librarians and libraries face a number of social media challenges. Many institutions do not have the resources for a dedicated marketing team, there are no guidelines to what and how to post, lack of engagement from staff to provide content, and the potential for copyright violations. An effective social media campaign requires active participation by those responsible for content. In some cases, libraries rely on staff to provide content. Unfortunately, this could lead to inconsistent content that is not effective. Without clear guidelines, it is difficult to maintain consistent engagement and avoid potential copyright violations.
Continuing the Discussion
In the end, the use of social media by libraries is still in the early process as there is no clear benefit to the use of social media by libraries and librarians. As information professionals, librarians should not shy away from these platforms. Social media engagement is a great way to change the perceptions of libraries and to share the plethora of resources available at a library to the community. Especially to those outside of the four walls of the library.
How important will social media be to libraries? Should libraries invest in having a strong online presence? How much will social media change the information profession in the future?
Submitted by: Alfonso Huerta