U.K. University Libraries and Social Media

By McKenna, Brian | Information Today, February 2011 | Go to article overview

U.K. University Libraries and Social Media


McKenna, Brian, Information Today


All publishing is marketing. That's a truth universally discovered by all publishing professionals. In my last column, I looked at how European STM publishers are engaging with social media as a part of their marketing strategies and how they are reaching out to customers in order to bring them into dialogue, even to the extent of co-creation. And, of course, these are still the early days.

But one of the transformative aspects of the web, intensified in recent years by social media, is that a (limitless?) plethora of groups and individuals have become "publishers." And they are also learning how all publishing is marketing.

What about U.K. university libraries (to put a reasonable limit on this)? How are they doing? My alma mater, the University of Glasgow (Scotland), is one member of the Russell Group (aka U.K.'s Ivy League) with a library that is active in social media.

The Glasgow University Library has an active blog dating from February 2009 (http:// universityofglasgowlibrary.wordpress.com). It opened with two blog posts: one on The Hunterian Psalter, an illuminated manuscript from the 12th century believed to have been published in England about 1170 and which has been a part of the university's special collections since 1807; the other on Giovanni Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium generously rendered as The Fall of Princes to convey the sense of its moral accounts of the untimely demise of medieval celebrities. Both texts are from the collection of William Hunter (1718-1783), who left his library and other collections to the university. I never came across either of these in my research as a history and English undergraduate in the preweb days.

Recent posts in December 2010 include highlights of primary source materials that were previously inaccessible showcasing the world of the Victorian Music Hall. The collection also provides access to audio clips, such as Glasgow's unofficial anthem, "Glasgow Belongs to Me."

The university also has a Facebook page, a Library on Demand section (videos hosted via YouTube), and 2,462 images primarily from its special collections section on Flickr.

"I think all libraries should have a social media strategy," says Susan Ashworth, assistant director of the University of Glasgow Library. "As times get harder we will need to engage with our students much more using social media--we'll be developing a lot more videos and other forms of electronic content and making them available in multiple places."

Social Media at the Bodleian Libraries

The University of Oxford's libraries (turning to another alma mater) directs its users to a social media directory at www.bodleian.ox .ac.uk/libraries/libraries/web2. It confirms that "many University of Oxford libraries are now communicating with their users through a variety of social media such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter," according to the website.

One resource in the directory is the Twitter feed of the modern languages and literature Taylor Institution Library called @TAYOxford. Sample tweets include "Heating won't be turned on in reading rooms till the end of 1st week or beginning of 2nd due to building work. Please bring extra clothes" and "Prof. Charles-Edwards will give a seminar on Pictish at 5 pm today [Nov. 10] in the Taylorian Lecture Hall. All welcome." I can confirm that it can get a bit chilly in the Taylorian. Had it been an option then, I would have greatly appreciated a tweet to users that I was standing in for Terry Eagleton in a lecture series in 1993. Then all those people who left could have been spared the inconvenience of turning up after discovering the switch.

Facebook in the Mix at Warwick

The University of Warwick has a well-developed Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ WarwickUniLibrary). Helpful notices about electronic resources such as Emma Cragg's Datamonitor 360 (Perfect Information's company) and financial database PI Navigator appear on the wall alongside queries from students and tips on making the most of the job recruitment and career site Milkround (www . …

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