Libraries and Social Media within the recent LIS Literature

By  |  1 Comment
Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare can help libraries serve and communicate with patrons.


Much of the social media studies in the literature from 2012 and prior focuses on Facebook and Twitter. Certainly by 2009 or 2010, a large number of libraries were using these platforms to reach patrons, so the ability of researchers to conduct data analysis using large sampling became available. From 2012 to 2013, new studies on Instagram, FourSquare and other tools have emerged, as social media becomes a natural part of library services, even integrating into activities for professional development for librarians.

Social Media

An interesting article by Doshi (2012) gives an inside-the-library perspective on Twitter. She explains what has worked and what hasn’t, and why she is mistrustful of social analytics that rely upon numbers, such as the number of likes, comments or retweets a post has. Her focus is on the quality of the interaction with the patron, such as the library’s response time to a tweeted question, or whether she has changed a patron’s negative experience with the library into a positive one. Patron feedback and conversations are the important data in this anecdotal piece.

Bosque, Leif and Skarl (2012) conducted in-depth research on the trends in academic Twitter use and found that 34% of the 298 academic libraries surveyed owned a Twitter account.  For a single month sampled, 42% of libraries tweeted between 1-10 times, with 55 percent using Twitter to discuss library resources and 24% library events. The study also covered the number of followers libraries maintained, as well as other important research data.

An article by Abbott, Donaghey, Hare and Hopkins (2013) looked at Instagram implementation at Bond University Library in Australia. The article discusses how Instagram provides the ability for libraries to create engaging content, giving the library a more approachable identity. The photo-sharing network basically augments photos, allowing for geo-location, emotions, conversations, and sharing experiences “in the moment.” This is more effective than text alone, and is a great opportunity for libraries. As with Doshi’s Twitter experience, the idea of success is not necessarily linked to the number of likes or followers, but getting more people to visit the library as a result of picture sharing. Another interesting by-product is raising visual literacy of librarians as they get to know and use Instagram.

Library Hi Tech News has created a column called “Hot off the Press!” that focuses on new trends, social networking and other hot library tech topics. A topic covered recently was branding specifically through social media. Although it is a marketing term, branding is also a way that organizations communicate to users, and creates loyalty. The article discusses the successful @yourlibrary national brand for public libraries, which created partnerships between libraries and both government agencies and businesses. Branding libraries with YouTube videos is covered, as well as the idea of crowdsourcing, or the process of obtaining creative contributions from large groups of people in the online community instead of from employees or suppliers (Accart, 2013).

Mobile Phones and Augmented Reality

The National University of Singapore (NUS) Libraries implemented a study for the FourSquare mobile phone app, which allows users to check-in to the places they are visiting. FourSquare allows location owners to claim their locations and provide rewards to users who check in a certain amount of times, or for claiming the title of “Mayor” (the patron with the most check-ins in during a certain time period). NUS librarians heavily publicized FourSquare specials, such as $40 book vouchers and free staplers, and observed a greater usage of FourSquare check-ins among library patrons. However, their study also showed that the amount of visits to the library did not increase appreciatively, meaning that current library patrons were just using FourSquare more, and that FourSquare was not necessarily bringing in more patrons (Tay, Glass and Wen, 2013). Although this was the case, it does seem that FourSquare can be a great vehicle to communicate with patrons in ways that did not exist before, and to get them actively engaged in the variety of products and services the library offers.

In Moorefield-Lang’s article on Augmented Reality, she reviews websites that allow for embedding information (text, video, conversations) into images. Thinglink, Marqueed, and Taggstar are among the sites that can augment photos. There are also sites that can augment videos, such as Mad Video and Wirewax. Free apps can allow users to learn anatomy, build virtual robots, or create 3D pop books. The article emphasizes the educational opportunities that augmentation technology can provide to students.

Book Reviews

There were several books reviewed that I thought would be interesting reads in the future, as they would provide excellent food for thought for Library Currents.

In the Library Management journal, Postar (2012) reviews a book called “The Cybrarian’s Web: An A to Z Guide to 101 Free Web 2.0 Tools and Other Resources” by Cheryl Ann Peltier-Davis. The sites covered in the book range from Web 2.0 to librarian core competencies and library management. Sites are classified as productivity tools, social media sites, blog publishing tools, wikis, or others. Even presentation software is covered, and librarians receive a brief overview of real-world applications and how they relate to servicing patrons.

Another review in The Electronic Library covers the recently published “University Libraries and Digital Learning Environments.” The book covers social media, information literacy, professional development, open access, the nature of physical space, e-books, and more. The book discusses the library as institutional repository, a practice that allows universities to provide its research data outputs to the world (In my last post, I covered an article about FigShare, which does exactly that!). The book also covers library innovations and leveraging physical space and technologies to increase the reach and use of libraries outside its own walls (Smith, 2012).


One thing that is clear from the analysis of these articles and books is that social media is not seen as an end in itself, but as a part of a greater study of Web 2.0, librarian professional development, and the Electronic Library. Social media does not stand alone, for it is just a tool. Social media can also be seen as intertwined with other innovations. Take FourSquare, for instance, where mobile phones and social media combines to augment reality. Instagram in all its simplicity is also a form of augmented reality, as pictures can be tagged and geo-located. With the ability now to upload videos to Instagram, I can see instances where libraries would take videos of areas in the library and tag important information or provide instructions within the video. QR Codes posted on the walls or shelves would lead to the Instagram videos — and voila! It’s a simple solution for wayfinding within the library!

From social media to digital innovation, librarians are able to turn the concept of physical libraries on its head, allowing library workers and users to come together in new and exciting ways. In essence, they become co-creators of a participatory library. With this research, I am coming much closer to understanding the scope of the future Library Currents blog!

Next up: A Look at Some Pew Internet Research Data!

Was this post helpful? Please leave a response below with your questions or comments.


Abbott, W. , Donaghey, J. , Hare, J. , & Hopkins, P. (2013). An instagram is worth a thousand words: An industry panel and audience q&a. Library Hi Tech News, 30(7), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/LHTN-08-2013-0047

Accart, J. (2013). Branding your library through social media. Library Hi Tech News, 30(5).

Del Bosque, D., Leif, S., & Skarl, S. (2012). Libraries atwitter: trends in academic library tweeting. Reference Services Review, 40(2), 199-213. doi: 10.1108/00907321211228246

Doshi, A. (2012). Just the right tweet at just the right time. Reference Services Review, 40(2), 221-223. doi: 10.1108/00907321211228273

Moorefield-Lang, H. (2013). Augmenting reality in your school’s library. Library Media Connection,  32(1), 26-27.

Smith, A. (2012). University libraries and digital learning environments. Electronic Library, the, 30(1), 146-147.

Tay, A. , Glass, G. , & Chew, S. (2013). Using foursquare: Check-ins are not just for books!. Library Management, 34(6/7), 433-447. doi: 10.1108/LM-07-2012-0047

Williams, D. (2013). The cybrarian’s web: An a to z guide to 101 free web 2.0 tools and other resources. Technical Services Quarterly, 30(2), 246-248.


Series Navigation<< Diving into the first week of RSS articles in the Library Currents listening postWho uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram? Looking at the Pew Research Center polls. >>

Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at

1 Comment

  1. michael

    September 19, 2013 at 6:33 am

    You draw some good conclusions. I appreciate the fact that looking beyond numbers and metrics to social interaction with emerging technologies is something that comes up again and again across your reviews of the literature.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply