By Guest Author Alyssa Korinke
Libraries have long been a space for learning and growth. In fact, social inclusion and outreach activities are considered to be the primary goal of public library services around the world. Technological advancements and Social Networking Services/Sites (SNSs) are offering new opportunities to meet these goals. While relationship building and communication opportunities through SNSs can offer promise, they can also present a dilemma. How do libraries harness these methods to further outreach and inclusion practices?
Abdullah, Chu, Rajagopal, Tung, and Kwong-Man sent 110 surveys to libraries around the world that indicated ongoing use of social media tools on their websites. 28 responses (25%) were received and analyzed. Of those 28 responses, 68% were academic libraries and the remaining 32% were public. Respondents were primarily categorized as Chinese speaking (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan) or non-Chinese speaking (Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK, USA). One member of each library was asked to answer a series of research questions to discover current social media practices, as well as to learn more about how these tools were working in outreach and inclusion activities.
Through the surveys and additional research, Abdullah and colleagues learned that the majority of responding libraries (22 of 28) were using two or more social media tools for a period of four years or more. The primary use for these social tools was simply to reach a broader audience for existing programs and services rather than building new programs around evolving SNSs. Current library staff often felt ill equipped to roll out new social media tactics or platforms, and just one respondent had implemented a social media plan.
One of the biggest barriers to more in-depth use of social tools was staffing. Many of the respondent libraries cited low staffing and lack of training as reasons they were not better utilizing the tools. SNSs and social media evolves at a rapid rate and as our world becomes more dependent on virtual communication, engaging digital natives becomes critical to outreach activities. These tools would be best deployed alongside continuing training and mentorship, where there is an adequate staff to maintain feeds and posting schedules. This article had a small sample size, which limits generalization.In summary, social media programs remain a need for libraries, and should be implemented with policies in place, and training scheduled for library staff.
Abdullah, N., Chu, S., Rajagopal, S., Tung, A., & Yeung, K. (2015). Exploring Libraries’ Efforts in Inclusion and Outreach Activities Using Social Media. International Journal Of Libraries & Information Services, 65(1), 34-47. doi:10.1515/libri-2014-0055