According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, one definition of community is “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.” The physical library is a community. Students (and other library users) come together in one location, not only for a quiet place to study or do research, but also to meet up with friends and socialize. What about the virtual library? Most typically, it’s a place to go to do online research, no social interaction necessary. That needs to change for one very important reason: student success. Research tells us that community is an important factor in student success. And that’s not just for campus students. Considering the growth in distance education, virtual communities are more important than ever, and the library virtual community is a key part of that.
So how can you build your virtual library into a virtual community? Here are five ideas to get you started:
- Have a strong Facebook presence. That’s not the same as a Facebook page. A Facebook presence requires you to post frequently (as in every day). Posting about library sources and events is great, but personalizing your posts is even better. Let your Facebook followers get to know the library staff. Post photos of daily goings-on in the library. This fosters their sense of community.
- Start an online book club in Goodreads (or something similar). We know that reading is the basis of all learning, and we know that students who read regularly perform better in their classes. A great opportunity for this is if your campus has a “one book” program. Get classroom faculty involved to promote and participate in it.
- Collaborate with classroom faculty to set up virtual study groups. This could be done in your school’s LMS, but I personally recommend developing one in Lore. It’s incredibly easy to set up and manage, and students can log in with their Facebook accounts. Also, you can keep track of posts in your e-mail.
- If you have dabbled with Pinterest, check out Learnist. You can create socially interactive resource guides. You can even integrate your LibGuides into Learnist.
- Make your library’s presence more prominent in the LMS. Embedded librarianship aside, it could be as simple as ensuring that a ‘Library’ link is easy to locate. Make sure the link is labelled ‘Library’ and not something else. That’s the term students are most familiar with. If you offer a 24 hour reference service (e.g. QuestionPoint), make sure that that is also easily located and prominently displayed.