Academic Libraries on Social Media: Finding the Students and the Information They Want

By Howard, Heather; Huber, Sarah et al. | Information Technology and Libraries, March 2018 | Go to article overview

Academic Libraries on Social Media: Finding the Students and the Information They Want


Howard, Heather, Huber, Sarah, Carter, Lisa, Moore, Elizabeth, Information Technology and Libraries


Librarians from Purdue University wanted to determine which social media platforms students use, which platforms they would like the library to use, and what content they would like to see from the library on each of these platforms. We conducted a survey at four of the nine campus libraries to determine student social media habits and preferences. Results show that students currently use Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat more than other social media types; however, students responded that they would like to see the library on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Students wanted nearly all types of content from the libraries on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but they did not want to receive business news or content related to library resources on Snapchat. YouTube was seen as a resource for library service information. We intend to use this information to develop improved communication channels, a clear social media presence, and a cohesive message from all campus libraries.

INTRODUCTION

In his book Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters, Alfred Hermida states, "People are not hooked on YouTube, Twitter or Facebook but on each other. Tools and services come and go; what is constant is our human urge to share." (1) Libraries are places of connection, where people connect with information, technologies, ideas, and each other. As such, libraries look for ways to increase this connection through communication. Social media is a key component of how students communicate with classmates, families, friends, and other external entities. It is essential for libraries to communicate with students regarding services, collections, events, library logistics, and more.

Purdue University is a large, land-grant university located in West Lafayette, Indiana, with an enrollment of more than forty thousand. The Purdue Libraries consist of nine libraries, presented collectively on the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter since 2009 and YouTube since 2012. Going forward, the Purdue Libraries want to ensure it establishes a cohesive message and brand that is communicated to students on platforms they use and on which they will engage with it. The purpose of this study was to determine which social media platforms the students are currently using, which platforms they would like the library to use, and what content they would like to see from the libraries on each of these platforms.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Academic Libraries and Social Media

Academic libraries have been slow to accept social media as a venue for either promoting their services or academic purposes. A 2007 study of 126 academic librarians found that only 12 percent of those surveyed "identified academic potential or possible benefits" of Facebook while 54 percent saw absolutely no value in social media. (2) However, the mission of academic libraries has shifted in the last decade from being a repository of knowledge to being a conduit for information literacy; new roles include being a catalyst for on-campus collaboration and a facilitator for scholarly publication within contemporary academic librarianship. (3) Academic librarians have responded to this change, with many now believing that "social media, which empowers libraries to connect with and engage its diverse stakeholder groups, has a vital role to play in moving academic libraries beyond their traditional borders and helping them engage new stakeholder groups." (4)

Student Perceptions about Academic Libraries on Social Media

As the use of social media has grown with college-aged students, so has an increasing acceptance of academic libraries using social media to communicate. A Pew Research Center report from 2005 showed just 7 percent of eighteen to twenty-nine year olds using social media. By 2016, 86 percent were using social media. (5) In 2007 the OCLC asked 511 college students from six different countries to share their thoughts on libraries using social networking sites. …

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Academic Libraries on Social Media: Finding the Students and the Information They Want
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