Saturday, March 29, 2008

Using Facebook to Promote Your Library

In their article, Connecting and Communicating with Students on Facebook, librarians Sarah Miller and Lauren Jensen, discuss how to use Facebook as a potential marketing and reference tool for University or College Libraries. If you are a proponent of using social networking tools in educational settings, many of their ideas could be used for high school libraries, where patrons may also be Facebook users. Elementary and Middle School librarians probably wouldn’t have much of an audience using Facebook, aside from parents of the students.

Miller and Jensen point out librarians who join Facebook groups get minimal student response to library outreach because they create institutional profiles instead of personal ones. As this is against Facebook policy, Facebook deletes the profiles. Facebook encourages the individuals to replace their deleted institutional profiles with personal profiles and then form groups but Miller and Jensen believe a Group is one of the weakest ways to communicate using Facebook. They recommend a more powerful approach to social networking called Friend and Feed.

Using Facebook is about making new friends because without friends, few profiles are accessible. Librarians who want to use Facebook to promote events and services must connect with patrons to be effective. Miller and Jensen suggest a variety of ways to build a community on Facebook including:
-Join the Facebook groups of courses you are doing instructional sessions for and ask all of the students in them to be your Friend.
-Display your Profile during instructional sessions and invite students to seek you out.
-Friend new students at your fall welcome session by making a laptop available or by taking names on a sheet of paper.

New in 2006, the Facebook News Feed uses RSS technology to display updated Profile information from user's Friends. According to Miller and Jensen,

“Because they have the News Feed, most students spend time reading information that Facebook puts in front of them, not what they seek out on their own. We believe this is a critical point that can make or break a librarian's efforts to utilize Facebook. A static Profile, or a simple Group, will never appear in the News Feed. Additionally, if you don't have Friends, the information you share will never be posted in a News Feed either. Our simple Friend and Feed advice will help you avoid these missteps and take you to Facebook nirvana.”

To effectively get the information you want placed directly in front of students, it would be necessary to keep adding current information to your profile because the ones that are read the most are the ones that are frequently updated.

Librarians could use Facebook applications to:

· Get the word out about databases or new resources.
· Share holiday references.
· Upload the library's blog.
· Post contact information and office hours.
· Share favorite books, TV shows, interests, or quotes.
· Reply to questions from students on their own Walls.
· Photograph new books and share them in Albums
· Introduce the library's faculty, staff, and student workers.
· Create a library tour and put it in an album
· Describe how to use library technology, including software and hardware.
· Use the Events application to announce events and invite students.
· Connect with other teacher-librarians

Using Facebook to promote the high school library program may help students learn more about the services the library can provide but is this information what students want to read on Facebook? Some might say using Facebook in this way is not unlike telephone marketing. Just because the technology is accessible and will allow us to reach the masses doesn’t mean our message will be welcomed or received by our intended audience.


Linda Morgan said...

Very practical ideas for how TL's can use SNS.

Val said...

I like Sarah and Lauren's initiative with Facebook. Some great ideas for the library. I see it working best at highschool or university levels. I agree we all read what's in front of us so by constant updates, book reviews etc. you can get 'in their face' more often. I'm still not comfortable having students go into my personal facebook. Micheal Staton suggests two profiles a professional one for school and a personal one. That would be one option. Great article Elizabeth. Thanks! Are you back from Hawaii? Hope you are doing well.

Cindy said...

You made an interesting point that caught my attention about elementary school librarians wouldn't have much of an audience using Facebook.I think it would depend on how you develop a library Facebook account and the questions you ask on it. Having the students participate in recommending books or book talks, asking them specific questions about a research topic and having them respond are just a few ways that they could be actively involved and sharing their learning.Now do I actually believe that an elementary library in my own school system could have a Facebook account? Our board is very much concerned with the safety and security of our students so it is highly unlikely!

elizabeth said...

Cindy, I think a library blog could accomplish the same goals as a SNS and would be more accepted by parents and administrators for elementary students.

Arlene said...

I appreciate the critical stance that you have taken in your exploration of Facebook. I have saved your posts in my Bloglines account for future reference and my own exploration. arlene