Social Media in the Library


Social media, with the use of Web 2.0 tools, allows for people to share media in multiple forms. It is a method of communication which allows for immediacy and interactivity. In the library, social media allows for collaborative research, sharing of book reviews, promotion of services and much more. The new 21st century term for librarian is “library media specialist” and therefore it would seem that social media is a logical component of library services and practices. Librarian, Wendy Stephens, says “The advent of social media and user-generated content has made the school librarian's skill set more vital than ever. The school librarian can model networked professional development and optimal, responsible use of social networking for learning, in addition to monitoring the school's online reputation and establishing mechanisms to use social media to communicate to parents in their preferred communication styles” (2011). 1

1. Methods
1.1 Promotion
1.2 Research & Reference
1.3 Professional Development / Collection Development
1.4 Curation
1.5 Author Connections & Book Reviews
1.6. Instruction
2. Tools
2.1 Twitter
2.2 Facebook
2.3 Nings
2.4 Blogs
2.5 Listservs
2.6 Curators
2.7 Social Book Cataloging
2.8 Wikis
2.9 Mobile Devices
2.10 Cloud Computing
2.11 Social Bookmarking & Notetaking
3.0 Precautions & Concerns
4.0 Future Developments of Social Media in the Library
Further Reading
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Social media can be used in public, academic and school libraries to inform patrons of services, materials and resources, and make announcements as they would do through a traditional newsletter. Librarians can make announcements on Twitter, post updates on FaceBook and use a blog to inform patrons of library news. Text messaging and is also often used to update patrons of new sources or information as well as mobile-ready methods such QR codes and mobile-friendly websites.
Research & Reference
Librarians can help their patrons with research and book suggestions by using social media as a reference resource. Information can be gathered using tools such as Twitter or social bookmarking applications such as Delicious and Diigo. Social Media can also be used for reference questions through instant messaging, blogs and other Web 2.0 sites which offer patrons an opportunity to get answers online. A fine example is Ask Here PA which offers a live chat with a librarian 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As more and more libraries and databases are making information mobile-friendly, patrons can perform research directly from their SmartPhone or tablet.
Professional Development / Collection Development
Social media can be used as a professional development tool for librarians. Librarians can learn from each other by posting questions and sharing ideas through Twitter, listservs, Nings and blogs. Through these tools, and through curation tools as listed below, librarians can also increase and improve the library's collection, both print and online. Details on how these are being used for professional development can be found under Tools.

The amount of information available on the Internet can be overwhelming and difficult for patrons to navigate. Throughcrowdsourcing applications, librarians can curate information so that patrons can easily find information on a particular topic. ScoopIt,LibGuides, Bag the Web and wikis allow librarians to work together in gathering information in multiple forms in order to better service their patrons. "Facilitating the role of being a curator fits in perfectly with the role of researcher."2 Curation tools such as Creative Commons can also be accessed to find copyright free media for patrons.
Author Connections & Book Reviews
Social media can be used to connect with authors and keep up to date with their new releases and interviews and signings, as well as to share book reviews. Authors can be followed on Twitter, Facebook and blogs so that librarians can keep informed of their publications and presentations. Social book catalogs like GoodReads and Shelfari can be used to share book reviews and get recommendations.
Instruction & Curriculum

Social media has become a unit of instruction in many school library programs. In the American Library Association’s Standards for the 21st Century Learner (2007) 3, social media and collaboration skills are indeed addressed in the standards as follows:
1. Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge: Skills 1.3.4 Contribute to the exchange of ideas within the learning community.

2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge: Skills 2.1.5 Collaborate with others to exchange ideas, develop new understandings, make decisions, and solve problems.

3. Share knowledge: Skills 3.1.2 Participate and collaborate as members of a social and intellectual network of learners.
4. Pursue personal and aesthetic growth: Skills 4.1.7 Use social networks and information tools to gather and share information. Responsibilities 4.3.1 Participate in the social exchange of ideas, both electronically and in person.
Digital citizenship is also a curriculum unit addressed by school librarians. It is important for students to become literate and responsible users of social media and therefore it is a common library lesson. High school librarian, Joyce Valenza, speaks to her juniors about social media presence and the importance of responsible use. In her blog post4, she points readers to a resource for educating high school students about college admissions looking at Facebook posts: Reading Students Like an Open FaceBook. See Precautions & Concerns for more information about school policies of using Facebook.

Twitter -

Twitter is social media network which consists of messages which are up to 140 characters long. Messages are received by anyone who is following the person’s Twitter account. Messages (“tweets”) can consist of text, hyperlinks and photos. Librarians use Twitter to announce library news and to keep patrons informed of library resources and materials. Librarians also use Twitter as a professional learning network so that they can share and learn from each other. Certain hashtags allow librarians to follow topics of interest such as #tlchat (Teacher Librarian Chat). Twitter can also be used to follow authors and publishers for information on new releases, book signings and give-aways. Twitter Book Parties (@bookbday) announces and celebrates new releases for young readers. According to Joyce Valenza and Wendy Stephens, tweets from readers can influence both authors and publishers. “Outrage about Simon and Schuster’s plan to end Rick Yancey’s award-winning Monstrumologist series led the publisher to continue the series beyond the third book.” 5

Other possibilities: With the use of hashtags and Twitter feeds, librarians can provide information on certain topics studied by students and then have these feeds embedded on their library website. Private Twiiter groups such as Twibes can also be used in classroom settings allowing students to share and communicate on certain units.

Facebook -

Facebook is a social network which acts as a personal or group portal. Users can post updates, photos, videos and share other Facebook postings. Librarians use Facebook as a supplemental webpage to keep patrons up-to-date with library information and news, as well as to get feedback from their patrons. Speaking about Facebook, an Australian teacher librarian blogs, "What an excellent opportunity this presents for establishing a page to promote reading and/or other library services". 6 She also acknowledges that school districts block Facebook and that some educators see it as a negative form of social media. "It is important for staff to be able to counsel and educate students about the use of social media so for those without a Facebook account this opportunity to 'see' what students see was important". Some examples she gives: TIGS Library, Unquiet Library, and The Arthur Holt Library. See Digital Citizenship and Precautions and Concerns for methods in teaching responsible use of Facebook.

Other possibilities: Facebook can be used as a platform for sharing tutorials, videos and photos. As more multimedia projects are being created by students, it's a practical way in which to post and share the multimedia material. In this respect, Google+ is another tool which could be used in the same way.
Nings -
Nings are online community sites which allow groups of people to share on one particular topic or interest. Librarians use Nings as a professional learning network by sharing library lessons, photos and videos, and starting online discussions about library topics. Often Groups are created within the Ning on a more narrow interest. For instance, the TeacherLibraryNing has groups for High School Librarians, Web 2.0, Reading Advisory and more.

Other possibilities: Nings could also be used to create learning communities in schools so that students, teachers and librarians can share multimedia material and discuss various topics.

Blogs and RSS Feeds
A blog is an online journal or series of posts which is maintained by a person or a group. Visitors can often comment on a blog which promotes an ongoing conversation and collaboration. Librarians use blogs to post information and news about their library. Popular blogging software are Blogger , EduBlog and WordPress . Through RSS feeds, librarians can follow blogs which relate to their profession and can also instruct their students to do the same as a research tool. In speaking about how her students use RSS feeds, high school librarian Mary Schwander says she teaches her students how to use RSS feeds to subscribe to database articles. “It helps them in gathering resources and is much like having a personal librarian helping them to get information." 7 Other possibilities: Student generated blogs can be used for book discussions and critical analysis. They can also be used for reading advisory such as this exampleof a reading map.
Listservs (or **Electronic Mailing Lists** )
Listservs consist of distribution email lists so that email messages can be sent to a group of people at once. Once someone subscribes to a particular listserv, they will automatically receive any email sent through that server. Librarians use listservs as a reference tool and to collaborate and share. A popular listserv used by librarians is LM_NET. Listserv emails are usually archived in a searchable database.

Other possibilities: Social networks such as Google+ could replace listservs since private groups (or circles) can be created for mass communications.

Curation tools are used to gather information and resources through a combined effort of people (crowdsourcing) or devices (aggregators). Librarians use curation tools to create online guides of information for their patrons. Examples: ScoopIt,,LibGuides, NetVibes and Qwiki. On a larger scale, Creative Commons and YouTube are social networking sites in which multimedia is curated to use as reference material for patrons.
Social bookmarking is another form of curation, as described below.
Librarians are ironically using curation tools to provide information about curation:
Digital Curation for School Librarians and Other Tech Types - LiveBinder
Digital Collection Curation - LibGuides
Other possibilities: As curation is a tool which is rapidly developing, there are more and more applications and methods available for curation. For example, YouTube recently enhanced its playlist and channel capabilities so that librarians can create subject-specific playlists for patrons and patrons can in turn subscribe to a library channel. In addition, new tools such as Pinterest can be utilized as library curation tools.
Social Book Cataloging

Social library and book cataloging sites allow librarians to share marc records for book processing ( WorldCat ) and also allow librarians and patrons to share personal libraries and reviews. Examples: Shelfari, LibraryThing and GoodReads.

Other possibilities: Many social book catalog sites have connections to other apps which can be used for communication and research. For instance, a book logged onto a GoodReads account can be automatically Tweeted to followers. In addition, these catalog sites also offer widget applications which can be displayed on library websites (eg. "What I'm reading now").

Wikis are web-based pages which can be edited by one or more contributors. Wikis are typically a collaborative and dynamic piece of work in which multiple users continually update and add content. Librarians use wikis to co-produce websites of information for both patrons and for their professional learning network. On the patron side, wikis are used as pathfinders which are lists of resources on a particular topic. On the professional side, wikis are use to share resources and ideas to fellow librarians. According to Joyce Valenza, " we create new collections as we organize the Web for particular groups of learners." 8
For students:,

For professional development:,

Other possibilities: Students can create their own wikis to collaborate on books or to work together as curators of information.

Mobile Devices

There are various ways in which librarians are making their resources and library services accessible through a mobile device such as smartphones and tablets.

Databases - Vendor apps such as MyAccess and EBSCO allow patrons to research with their phones and tablets.

Websites - Librarians are making their websites more accessible by making them mobile-accessible. Web applications such as Google Sites and LibGuides have built-in mobile app builders. There are also independent mobile app builders such as WebMobi.

eBooks - As more libraries are purchasing ebooks for their libraries, they are also making the ebooks accessible through a mobile device through vendor apps such as EBSCO and Follett.
Other possibilities: Librarians can create their own QR codes through web applications such as Kaywa and QR Stuff. Library websites, pathfinders and access to database information are some of the things librarians provide through QR Codes and thus make these resources available with a mobile device.

Cloud Computing
Cloud computing refers to the storing and sharing of information through web hosting and web sharing sites. Cloud computing becomes a social medium when more than one person has access to the information in the cloud. Librarians use cloud computing systems to share library resources with their patrons, as well as gather information from them. Examples of cloud computing in libraries is the use of Google Docs to share private database access or to be used as a feedback tool for information such as book recommendations or book logs.

Further information on cloud computing in school libraries can be found in Libraries in the Clouds and Google in the Library

Other possibilities: Cloud computing can also be used as a curation tool either among librarians or students to crowdsource information on a particular topic.

Social Bookmarking & Notetaking

With sites such as Diigo and Delicious, school librarians and their students can share resources that they bookmark and cite while surfing the net. Many of these sites, such as Diggo, Evernote and Zotero, also allow users to share their notations and highlighted text with other users which turns the tool into a collaborative research process.

More information on how social bookmarks can be used in school libraries can be found on the PA Librarians Wiki.

Other possibilities: There are other forms of social bookmarking & notetaking which take users step-by-step through each bookmarked website, including notes and comments about each site. Jog Educ is an example of such a tool.

Precautions & Concerns
When social media is used in school libraries with students as some of the contributors, librarians and teachers must take precautions for security and privacy purposes. It is important for Acceptable Use Policies to be required from students and that the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) be implemented. Many social media sites require email registration and therefore in elementary school settings social media tools may be more limited. In addition, many school districts block social media tools such as FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube because of the potential for inappropriate and non-academic subject matter. These are issues which need to be carefully addressed within school library settings.
The implementation of social media in school libraries has been a contention of some within the profession and there have been conversations and articles addressing the resistance which some librarians have had to implementing social media in their libraries. In April of 2009 in fact, there was a Twitter conversation about the efficiency of school librarians using social networking tools. Among many, Karl Fisch (@KarlFisch), teacher and director of technology, tweeted “Can a media specialist do their job now if they are not also a social media specialist?” 9 Joyce Valenza, a librarian at Springfield High School in Springfield, PA responded to the conversation in a blog post. “People who are out there teaching, speaking, moving, and shaking–are disappointed in what they see when they see school librarians...In my mind, if you are not an expert in new information and communication tools, you are NOT a media specialist for today”.10

Future Developments of Social Media in the Library

Studies show that while many librarians use social media tools in their library, the focus has been on building the professional network of the librarian rather than on delivering services. 11 While librarians feel comfortable adapting social media to share, collaborate and curate among their peers, it is important that they use these same tools to involve their patrons. Curation tools such as LibGuides, ScoopIt and are being used more and more by librarians, but these librarians are not often extending the curation process to the end users and thus creating a community library.

Librarians also need to utilize the analytical tools within social media sites to effectively evaluate the rate of success that social media is enhancing their library services. In a study done at Wheaton College, it was found that libraries can increase the library use of patrons by using the analytical tools to tweak their online services. 12

1. Stephens , W. (2011). Out of the Middle, Into the Foreground. Knowledge Quest , 39 (5), 18-21.
2. Tolisano , Silvia R. "Students Becoming Curators of Information?" Langwitches Blog. 12 June 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2012. <>.
3. Standards for the 21st Century Learner . (2007). (Brochure). Retrieved from
4. Valenza, J. "Facebook & Admissions & E-reputations." School Library Journal. 2 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. Retrieved from
5. Stephens, W., & Valenza, J. (2012, March). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69 (6), 75-77. Retrieved from
6. "Facebook in School Libraries." Library Currants. 22 May 2011. Web. 05 Mar. 2012. Retrieved from
7. Solomon, G., & Schrum, L. (2010). Web 2.0 for Educators , 31. Eugene, OR: ISTE.
8. Valenza, J. (2009, September 27). 14 Ways K–12 Librarians Can Teach Social Media (Article). Retrieved February 28, 2012, from TechLearning website:
9. Fisch, K. (2009, April 29). What's In a Name? (Web log post). Retrieved from The Fischbowl:
10. Valenza, J. (2009, April 30). On the librarian: What’s the point . . ? The Twitter conversation (Web log post). Retrieved from NeverEndingSearch: on-the-librarian-whats-the-point-the-twitter-conversation/
11. Hall, Hazel. "Relationship And Role Transformations In Social Media Environments." Electronic Library 29.4 (2011): 421-428.Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
12. Marek, Kate. "Chapter 5: Case Studies." Library Technology Reports 47.5 (2011): 33-54. Academic Search Complete. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.

Further Reading
Bingham , T., & Conner, M. L. (2010). New Social Learning : A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media. Berrett Koehler.
Careless, James. "Social Media: It Does Have a Place in the Classroom." Tech & Learning 32.7 (2012): 42-46. Print.
Jarret, K., Perez, L., Valenza, J., & Trueman, R. (2009, February 17). Playing ISTE Eduverse Talks::Beyond the Dewey Decimal System (Video). Retrieved February 28, 2012, from ISTE website:
Summer, Nancy. (2012). New Media: Sources and Resources for School Libraries.