Libraries and social media

A majority of libraries have gotten into social media, some in a big way. I don’t mean simply that many librarians have their own blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ pages. Many libraries–even small ones– also have blogs and pages. An overwhelming majority of library administrators see social media as important tools for marketing the library and its services.

Many in the current generation of young adults consider email antiquated. Libraries or any other institutions that want to stay in touch with them must use newer forms of communication. It’s not just young people who use social media. In 2008, 9% of the older part of the baby boom. In a survey taken by the same polling organization two years later, the percentage had jumped to 43%. At the same time, their parents’ generation’s involvement in social networking quadrupled from 4% to 16%.

So what do libraries do with social media? So far, largely for branding and promotion of their services. They also provide yet another means of communication when patrons have reference questions.

What may be surprising is that librarians are beginning to find ways to use Twitter to answer reference questions. Just as librarians can often find answers on Google or other search engines that have eluded their patrons, they are more likely to have some training to be power users of Twitter and know how to find the useful content among all the noise.

So far as I know, no library has yet hired a social media specialist. It seems only a matter of time; not only is Twitter beginning to emerge as a source of answers, but many libraries are beginning to teach social media along with all their other educational activities.

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