College libraries gravitate to social media in fight for relevancy

Part of Westmont’s library liaison program, research consultations team library staffers with students looking for help on research projects and homework assignments.

On the library’s Facebook page, which has more than 430 fans, Westmont librarians invite students to set up an appointment if they need help “brainstorming” their next research undertaking.

And to lure students to the library, Westmont posts invitations on Facebook, offering coffee, tea, or hot coco to the first 20 students who visit the facility that day.

A wide-ranging research project examining the dos and don’ts of Facebook use for college libraries warned librarians against post “unnecessary” material that wouldn’t draw students’ attention while creating closed online dialogue between library employees.

In his social media research, Michalis Gerolimos, an official from the Alexander Technological Educational Institute in Greece, pointed out instances in which campus library Facebook posts only received “likes” and comments from other library staffers.

Administrators for the Rice University library’s Facebook account once posted a photo of a library employee walking to work. Six of the seven “likes” on that photo were from fellow Rice employees.

“It is unlikely that a library user would consider commenting on a photograph like this, and it is puzzling why a library would upload this photo on its outreach or marketing]… tool,” Gerolimos wrote. “We should … view [Facebook’s] widespread use with some skepticism, not only because its popularity might change but mostly because Facebook is above all a commercial company and its goals, means, expectations, and, ultimately, economic gains are different from the ones that academia and students should serve or aim toward.”

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