Three Reasons for Libraries to Use Social Media

Does your library have an active Facebook page? I hope so, because 96% of college students use Facebook.

Here are 3 great reasons for your library to jump on the social media bandwagon:

  1. Marketing. Marketing is the primary reason why colleges and universities have adopted social media at an institutional level. Branding and recruiting are serious business. Marketing library sources and services is also serious business, serious educational business. Students need to be given a reason to physically visit the library. Social media provides a convenient avenue for that. What fabulous new books have you acquired? What do your facilities look like? What services does your library offer? How helpful and friendly are your library staff? Of course, the key to effective social media use is to get as many ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ as you can. In the beginning, word of mouth is the most effective way to go about it. After that, things begin to roll. Kudos to those of you already doing this!
  2. Community. Students need to feel a sense of community in order to flourish in the academic environment. Every classroom is a community. Every club is a community. And every department on campus is a community. All are a part of the larger academic community (e.g. college), but all have their own unique community culture. Social media is a wonderful tool for helping to create a sense of community among students, faculty and staff. And not just those on campus, but for those at a distance as well. For your library to create a sense of community through social media, you must use it as a communication tool. Not one-sided communication (that’s what marketing is for). Creating a sense of community requires you to make things personal. Let your students know the daily goings-on in the library: post pictures, ask questions, solicit feedback. Have an active presence. This means frequent postings.
  3. Education. Social media has a lot of potential as an educational tool in the classroom. But for the library as a whole, education with social media means sharing learning resources. That could mean sharing a LibGuide, a tutorial, or search tips for an upcoming assignment. It could also mean hosting a web conference, a Facebook group, or a Twitter chat.

So, which social media tools are the must-haves? In my opinion, at the very least, every library needs to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Blogs are great, but should be topic specific (e.g. book reviews, ed tech, info lit, etc…). is also very useful and easy to keep up with (should also be topic specific). On a cautionary note, some academic libraries have adopted Pinterest, but the demographics on that show that it is most popular among 25-34 year-olds and is five times more popular with women than men. So, unless your students are older and mostly female, it’s probably not worth the effort. Instead, you might look at Learnist. It’s a bit like Pinterest, but specifically geared for learning. In addition to images and videos, you can add full web pages and articles. Here’s an example of one I created.

When you consider the powerful influence that social media has in students’ lives, it seems crazy not to take it seriously. In my experience, social media has often been viewed as a side ‘chore,’ relegated to the librarians who are willing to volunteer their time for it. It’s often not a priority, and can fall by the wayside during busy times. I think the future is going to call for social media to be a permanent part of the job description and a task that is as important as reference, instruction and collection development. Maybe it already is in some places. I certainly hope so.

Reading in a Participatory Culture

Earlier this week, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye: Students May Be Reading Plenty, but Not for Class

Turns out, a new study found students are reading a lot more than we thought. But, 40% of that reading is done on social media (and often during class).

Of course, some might argue that social media is not “real” reading. Though, that kind of thinking fails to recognize the cultural shifts that social media has brought. Students are now reading in a participatory culture.

On the one hand, social media is creating new literacies. On the other hand, there is legitimate concern that this type of reading is negatively impacting the skills that more traditional reading practices develop. What is this doing to vocabulary development and reading comprehension skills? What effect is this having on academic learning. Anecdotally, I would say a lot. And we know that literacy skills have dropped among college graduates.

So what can we do to broaden students’ reading habits? I see this as a golden opportunity for college and university librarians to step up to the plate and start promoting recreational reading. I know that a growing number of academic libraries are running reading programs and hosting book clubs with great success. However, I think those programs are primarily attracting the students who are already avid readers.

What about the students who limit their reading to Facebook statuses? Well, interactive fiction is one approach (see my previous post). Here are some other creative ideas:


Install book booths around campus. Students can freely exchange books whenever they want (and I bet there are students on campus who could build them). How cool is that?


Host a Twitter Storytelling Festival. Have you heard about this? Students contribute 140 lines that collectively form a larger story. This will get them excited about reading and writing. It also makes a great class project.









Start a Fan Fiction Club. Books, movies, video games, whatever… Fanfic-ers are readers and writers.


Start a ‘Chapter a Day’ program. Post Project Gutenberg works bit by bit on your Facebook page.

The giant Galligantua and the wicked old magician transform the duke’s daughter into a white hind.
From The Project Gutenberg eBook, English Fairy Tales, by Flora Annie Steel, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham