Banning Social Media in Libraries

A year ago, we began an experiment in social media. Using Twitter, we invited librarians to come together once a month to talk about the galleys they’ve been reading. Called GalleyChat, it gets more interesting each month and has become a useful RA and ordering tool.

There’s one small snag, however; some librarians can’t join because they are not allowed to use Twitter or other social media at work.

It’s painful to hear that librarian creativity is being limited by shortsighted policies. In more enlightened areas, social media is used as another tool for reaching out to the community. The Kansas City Public Library, for instance, has an active Facebook page. During National Library Week, they posted this:

Looking for a great read? Just post the titles of the last 3 books you enjoyed on our Wall, and our readers’ advisory experts will suggest your next favorite book.

The community enjoyed challenging the staff and, as Kaite Stover attests on Booklist‘s “Book Group Buzz,” the librarians learned a lot.

Even library schools see the value of social media. As the Boston Globe recently reported last month, at Simmons GLIS, “Every student must create a website and wiki page within the first six weeks.” Unfortunately, those students may be in for a rude awakening once they land jobs.

Help us build the case for social media in the library; let us know in the comments section how you are using it and how you have fought off threatened bans.

6 Responses to “Banning Social Media in Libraries”

  1. Jackie Says:

    Our library uses social media as a marketing/information tool. We post all different types of information — programs, library closings, new arrivals — on the library’s FB and Twitter pages. Our Children’s department has a separate FB account and our Teen Librarian maintains both an FB and MySpace account where they post programming and collection information.

    Just this month we launched our eBranch where we’ve collected all of our digital, take-it-with-you resources. It has links to our social media pages as well. http://www.and.lib.in.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=382&Itemid=411

    As employees, we aren’t supposed to use social media unless it is for work purposes. So, those folks who maintain the library’s social media have the nod. As Collection Services manager, I’m able to use FB and Twitter for things like GalleyChat and FB where I’ve ‘liked’ many publishers pages.

    As far as our customer access goes, we do not block access to any of the social media websites.

    Jackie Davis
    Anderson Public Library
    Anderson, IN

  2. Ellen Hancock Says:

    I think a distinction should be made between libraries utilizing social media as marketing devices and individual librarians engaging in discussions of TBR stacks. While we all like to talk about the books we read/will read/want to read, the time spent on such conversations is time spent away from the necessary functions of a librarian. Social media and blogs can sometimes be a source of information, but it is imperative that the foundations of this information be recognized. As librarians we are taught to analyze our sources — social media should be no exception. A wise reader should recognize that there is a hidden voice behind any for-profit site and realize that publishers are often the driving force behind these conversations.

  3. Terry Says:

    We recently used Facebook in promoting our Adult Winter Reading Program. As part of the program we had a weekly reader’s challenge that would earn the participants an extra chance in the Grand Prize Entry. An extra clue was posted on our facebook page each week. We informed the patrons that they could access the facebook page from the library’s home page. The patron’s enjoyed looking at the page and finding the extra clue.

    We also post reminders about book clubs and programs on the Facebook page.

  4. John Robertson Says:

    We use social media marketing library services, and also for announcements.

    It has been a trying time at our library with the threat of library closure. Social media has been a great way to keep the public informed about the situation. Social media is also a fantastic way to quickly interact with the public, and due to the streaming nature of status updates library announcements may be more likely to be seen when posted to Facebook/Twitter, than just a static announcement on a library webpage.

    John Robertson
    Head, Technology Department
    Troy (MI) Public Library
    troylibrary.info
    @troylib on Twitter
    facebook.com/troylib

  5. Katie Moellering Says:

    Like the other libraries above, we use social media as a marketing and reader’s advisory resource. As you can see from our website, social media is front and center. It’s where our patrons are, so it’s where we should be!
    Katie M.

  6. Peggy Says:

    A few weeks ago I returned to my home town for a funeral. I hadn’t been back in over a dozen years. I had some free time so I stopped by the public library where I had spent so much of my childhood. My plan was to tweet and update my Facebook status to let people know I was in the place that led me to my current very successful career as a librarian.
    Both Facebook and twitter were blocked.

    The message I had wanted to send was that the fact that I had not been limited in what I could read or learn as a child in that building had made all the difference in my life. Too bad the current crop of children won’t be able to say the same.

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