Social media has the potential to facilitate much closer relationships between libraries and their patrons – wherever users are based, and however they choose to learn about and access library services and resources. Current usage of social media by the library community generally remains ad hoc and somewhat experimental, but the uptake of these tools is accelerating, and they will likely play an increasingly important role in library service provision and outreach in the future. 

Just a decade ago, social media was seen by many as having little relevance for use in a professional context by librarians. In recent years there has been a seachange in attitudes. Social media is now widely used by librarians to fulfil a variety of objectives.

Social media objectives

Libraries use social media to fulfil a range of objectives, with most focused on promotion (visibility for and usage of the library service and resources). However, broadcast/informational communications are increasingly being supplemented with two-way communications designed to solicit feedback (e.g. for collection development), offer real-time customer service and build engagement with users. Social media is also increasingly being seen as a collection management tool, offering flexible ways to present resources (e.g. YouTube for video delivery) and categorize them (e.g. folksonomies). Outreach is also seen as important – for example, helping librarians increase their visibility and connections within the broader library community; also, for assisting in the promotion of the work of their faculty. Use of social media for enhancing teaching and learning is currently a lower priority, but this will likely become an important activity in the near future, and librarians with their growing experience of using social media tools are well-placed  to help develop institutional capabilities. 

References

Source: Taylor & Francis white paper on social media use in libraries

Image source: “Social media icons” by cilipmarketing, used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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