College libraries gravitate to social media in fight for relevancy

Library officials at Agnes Scott, a women’s college with less than 1,000 students, have used Facebook to promote Trivia Tuesdays on the library’s blog. The first students to answer librarians’ questions receive prizes such as theater tickets and gift cards.

“We’ve gone in this direction … because students don’t use eMail nearly as much anymore,” she said, adding that she can “count on” her college-aged son failing to check his eMail inbox while paying close attention to Facebook notifications.

Casey Long, head of the Agnes Scott College library’s social media effort, said college students might hesitate to post questions to Facebook pages, so library officials should not discount eMail use.

“If they’re willing to put their information out there, that’s fine, but there is potentially a privacy issue with doing that in such a public space,” said Long, who updates the library’s blog when a common research question surfaces at the reference desk, ensuring students can get a quick answer without even logging into Facebook or checking their inbox. “For the most part, [students] understand their electronic world and what they’re getting into when they use social media.”

AnnaLaura Brown, an academic librarian and blogger who tracks library technology trends, predicted in January that college and university libraries would be more apt to create Google+ accounts as the social network slowly builds its user base.

Even with campus library adoption of Google+, the site “will still not be as popular as Facebook,” Brown said.

College libraries – especially research schools with massive library collections — could use Pinterest to display images of its newest and most popular books and volumes, Brown said.

“Boards” created on Pinterest could be shared on campus library Facebook and Twitter accounts as a way to use eye-catching visuals that would stand out among the text of a social media new feed.

Westmont College, a private liberal arts campus in Santa Barbara, Calif., pushed its offer for “research consultations” on Facebook in the first weeks of the spring semester.

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