Thursday, 9 August 2012

Social media and libraries

It’s been a busy year- I can’t believe it’s already August. Where has the year gone?
The ALIA Sydney group has been busy organising our next event, which will be a special free event to celebrate the National Year of Reading, put on in conjunction with the City of Sydney Library. We’ll hear from a variety of guest speakers on their thoughts on the future of reading and the event will be chaired by Mal Booth, the University Librarian at UTS Library. We hope to see you there! For more details, and how to register, see here. Update (13/8/12): Due to poplular demand, this event is now fully booked.
What else has been happening? Well, I just presented a session earlier this week at an interactive study day in Melbourne, put on by the Ark group on ‘Next Generation Libraries’ and as mentioned in my last blog post, I presented at the ALIA Biennial conference last month, so I’ve been pretty busy!
It was my first time presenting at a conference- while nerve-wracking, it was an incredible experience. It was a fantastic way to round off all of the hard work that went into my research (although I sense that this is just the beginning!) It was wonderful to see so many people in attendance. My research focussed on social media roles in Australian libraries, and I reported on the results of a survey that people working in Australian libraries were invited to complete.
I hypothesised that many Australian libraries have a social media presence, and that many people who work in Australian libraries are doing work-related social media tasks, but that social media tasks aren’t necessarily formally recognised in organisation-wide structures such as strategic plans and communication plans or in employee-level structures such as annual performance reviews, job advertisement descriptions or in duty statements.
The results of my survey demonstrated that some libraries already include social media into their strategic plans and communications plans, while other libraries do not. The same goes for recognising social media roles in performance reviews, duty statements and job advertisement descriptions. In fact, many people who completed the survey said that they don’t have social media tasks formally recognised in these three ways, despite the fact that they are doing social media tasks at work (it seems as though some people have collected it as a duty, and it’s been absorbed into their day-to-day tasks, without this formal recognition.)
So my argument would be for libraries to start thinking about how much they value the use of social media, and whether it should be worthy of inclusion into these structures. I think social media is extremely valuable, and that it should be included into formal library structures (but which particular structures and how social media is used, does depend on each individual library.)
There are many ways in which social media can be introduced. For example, if your library chooses not to use social media to interact with your client groups, social media could be used as a great professional development tool for library and information professionals to build their professional learning networks (PLNs).
Social media is now a mainstream way of communication, and to quote Phil Bradley, who is the current president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in the UK: ‘Social media is enormously important… social media is not a ‘nice bolt-on’ or something that we can put off learning until tomorrow. It’s not an added burden: it’s the future for the library profession-without a shadow of doubt’ (from the January 2012 CILIP Update newsletter).
Of course, there are still many organisations that may be constrained by policies that don’t enable them to use social media in work-related contexts, even if they’d like to implement it. For people who find themselves in this situation, I suggest to try and try again. Do your research and put forward a strong argument for different models of social media use and point out the many advantages of using social media. I sense that with the increasing socialisation of the internet and the way in which social networking tools are increasingly becoming more popular in the workplace, it’s only going to be a matter of time that organisations see the value of social media. (Just look at the increasing popularity of social networking sites for professional contexts, such as LinkedIn or Yammer. Incidentally Yammer was recently acquired by Microsoft, so I wouldn’t be surprised if social networking becomes part of the next rollout of Office.)
 What do you think? Is social media something that you think library and information professionals should be using? How have you argued the case for doing work-related social media tasks at your library?
If you’re interested in reading more about my research, you can download the paper here.
- Crystal
Crystal is the convenor of the ALIA Sydney Group and is a Faculty Liaison Librarian at the University of Sydney Library. She tweets @crystalibrary.
All opinions expressed are her own.

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