Libraries and Social Media

by Diane Vautier on May 14, 2012

Is there a connection between social media and public libraries? You bet there is.

Trends show that library usage is down and many libraries are experiencing budget cuts and even closures. Many think we’re losing libraries.

Most libraries are adapting though by changing how library space is used and by being more ‘Barnes&Noble” like. Some libraries now offer coffee and some not only allow food, but sell it themselves in in-house cafes. For example, in January 2008 UNH added Zeke’s Cafe to their Dimond Library.

Libraries have also added new technology like offering eBooks, allowing online accounts for lending renewals, using QR Codes to connect books on display to more detailed online information about the book, and even self check out stations, much like those in grocery stores.

“U.S. libraries of all types continue to make increasing use of social media and Web 2.0 applications and tools to connect with library users and to market programs and services” according to the American Library Association. But they also note that ” a few are not using them at all.”  “In short, there was general, if not complete, consensus that technology is developing rapidly and that libraries and librarians who are slow to adapt put themselves at risk. (A Google search for “social networking libraries” returned 14.8 million responses.)”

I suggest that libraries avoid the risk of falling behind by immediately adopting social media as part of their way of doing business.

Libraries that are already using social media find that Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Flickr, and YouTube are the most useful tools according to a research study conducted by Curtis R. Rodgers, Ed.D at  SC State Library. The same study finds that among other things, libraries use those social media platforms to:

  • Promote General Library Services
  • Market Specific Adult Programs and Services
  • Provide Quick Updates to Users
  • Market Specific Children/Youth Programs and Services
  • Reach New Audience of Potential Users

But change still continues to be a major factor when it comes to adding social media and web 2.0 to the library mix. Shift happens and will continue to drive change, specifically when it comes to content creation and content curation. Librarians would do well to follow the same steps as does small business when it comes to content creation using social media:

  • Find your audience
  • Set your goals
  • Start with the basics and optimize those accounts
  • Build a team
  • Create a Content Map
  • Link accounts – Connect, connect ,connect – your social network

Content curation is where libraries and librarians have a natural advantage because it’s already what they do everyday. Librarians have content curation super powers.  Now that content curation has moved from an in-person resource to an online resource however, librarians are in a unique position to help patrons manage the online information overload, and they can use social media tools to do it. Social media can help libraries become more highly visible and useful to the communities they serve.

If you’d like additional information on this presentation, you can find the slide deck on SlideShare and the full video on Vimeo.

Full video on Vimeo
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