Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Library Advocacy through Twitter: A Social Media Analysis of #Savelibraries and #getESEAright

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Library Advocacy through Twitter: A Social Media Analysis of #Savelibraries and #getESEAright

Article excerpt


Advocacy groups of all types use social media to reach their constituents. Social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr are among the popular options for these groups to communicate directly with interested parties. Utilizing social media is a powerful method to advocate for libraries in this time of austere budgets and waning support for public institutions. Many libraries are under increasing threat of budget reductions and de-professionalization (librarians with a terminal degree being replaced by less qualified paraprofessionals). However, are messages of library advocacy disseminated through social media reaching those individuals who can become allies in the quest to save libraries? Or are the messages relegated to the echo chamber? How far reaching are library advocacy messages?

This article outlines how two library advocacy groups use the hashtags #savelibraries and #getESEAright to advocate through Twitter. NodeXL software was used to capture and analyze these library advocacy tweets. This software allows for visual analysis of networks and relationships in social media. NodeXL provides a simple, yet powerful way to analyze these networks and relationships. By using NodeXL, libraries and library advocates can determine the spread of their messages through social media and identify strategies for further dissemination.

A review of the literature outlining social network analysis and the influence of Twitter for advocacy, procedures for using NodeXL, and a taxonomy of Twitter conversations are provided. An analysis of the spread of the hashtags #savelibraries and #getESEAright through Twitter is then given. Finally, recommendations for libraries, librarians, and advocacy groups are outlined.

Social Network Analysis

Social network analysis is a strategy for examining social structures (Otte & Rousseau, 2002) that is concerned with the study of patterns between relations. The tradition draws from social science disciplines and mathematical graph theory (Crossley, 2011). Social networks are a set of nodes (individuals) that are connected by one or more relations (Marin & Wellman, 2011). A variety of social structures, including social media, can be studied using the technique. Social network analysis can be approached in two ways. Researchers can study a whole network, which offers a bird's-eye view of a set of relations among nodes, or an egocentric network, which focuses on the network that surrounds one node (Marin & Wellman, 2011). This article is concerned with studying a whole network, in this case a Twitter network. Whole network analysis can provide insights about whether messages distributed across social media platforms are reaching the intended audience (Smith, Rainie, Shneiderman, & Himelboim, 2014).

When studying a whole network, researchers take into consideration the following factors: the number of relations between nodes (also known as degrees), the extent to which a particular node is a bridge to other nodes, the density of the nodes, the average path length necessary to connect one node to another, and the degree centrality of one or more nodes (Freeman, 1979). Degree centrality is the extent to which one node dominates the social network by having more connections (Crossley, 2011; Freeman, 1979). Other measures of centrality are betweenness centrality, which is a measure of the nodes that most often lie in the path connecting other nodes, and closeness centrality, which deems those nodes with the shortest paths to travel more central (Crossley, 2011). Tweets rarely travel five steps away from the originating account, so short paths are essential in spreading information (Yang & Counts, 2010). Centrality is "an indicator of prominence, importance, reputation, or power within the overall structure" (Mergel, 2011, n.p.) of the network.

One way to think of this concept is the game "telephone" (Yep & Shulman, 2014). …

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