A new white paper breaks down current practices in social media use by campus libraries worldwide, and provides tips for improvement

social-media-librariesAccording to a white paper from the Taylor & Francis Group titled “Use of social media by the library: current practices and future opportunities,” connecting with users digitally is quickly becoming the major goal for campus libraries.

The impetus for the study stems from the general belief that “social media has the potential to facilitate much closer relationships between libraries and their patrons.”

However, current practices from libraries generally remain hit or miss, even though 88 percent of respondents agreed that social media would become more important to the library in the future. The white paper aims to provide an overview of the most common methods in use today and suggests new approaches for libraries to try as well.

Comprised focus groups in the U.K., U.S. and India; ten telephone interviews with thought-leaders from the library community; a Twitter party; an online survey (with 497 responses) and desk research to reference other relevant studies, Taylor & Francis — a scholarly research group — found that 70 percent of libraries around the world use social media tools, with 30 percent of those libraries posting at least once per day and 60 percent having had an account for three years or longer, says the report. Facebook and Twitter are currently the most popular, but visual channels such as YouTube, Pinterest and Snapchat have received growing interest within the community.

Mainly, libraries use their social media for promotion of events and services, but an increasing emphasis on taking advantage of the ability to receive feedback from patrons has led to communication being a major objective for things such as collection development and customer service. Additionally, using social media to present resources in new and flexible ways is a growing priority.

The report notes that using social media for the above purposes comes at a low cost and serves to build a sense of community between a library and its users, to support co-development of collections and help keep librarians updated on industry news and initiatives.

However, despite all of these advantages, there are numerous challenges with social media use by libraries.

(Next page: Challenges, as well as tips, for libraries on social media use moving forward)

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