‘Library social media – how do you do it?’ [guest post]

We welcome a guest post from Tom Kistell, Systems Support Adviser at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU).


Library social media – how do you do it?’  That was the subject line of the email I sent to two email lists (LIS-LINK and LIS-ARLG) back in June. To give some context, we had just formed a new library social media group to co-ordinate our Instagram and Twitter presence, and wondered how it was being done in other UK universities.

I put five (strictly speaking six) questions to the lists, and six UK HE libraries responded – seven including SHU – with a treasure trove of information. Thank you! The questions and summaries of responses are given below:

Q: Which social media platforms do you use? Why did you choose those?

A: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook were the most popular social media platforms for our libraries, with most using two or all of them. The common rationale was to maximise coverage across staff and students.

Q: How do you decide which staff are involved? E.g. members of particular teams, working groups, individuals with an interest.

A: Library social media was managed by a single team in some cases and in others by a working group made up of staff from several areas. Where the group approach had been taken, responses mentioned involvement out of interest and also an effort to represent different staff areas and levels.

Q: Do you use rotas or are involved on a more informal basis?

A: Five of our seven libraries reported using a rota of some kind, some for everything social media-related and others just for responding to enquiries. One library though had rejected the ideas of rotas because ‘it is hard to be spontaneously amusing and informative in the style needed for social media when forced to by a rota.’

Q: Are enquiries received through social media and scheduled posts dealt with by the same or different staff?

A: Several libraries had the same staff posting and responding to enquiries, a couple didn’t, and the others didn’t specify. A common theme was that the people on the rota usually dealt with enquiries, only referring on to senior or specialist colleagues in more complex cases.

Q: How actively do students engage with your library on social media?

A: Trends were difficult to identify for this one because libraries each used a different combination of social media, but some interesting points came through. One library noted that more engagement with students happened through Twitter than Instagram, for another it was the other way around. Facebook seemed to be less popular with students than Twitter and Instagram, generally speaking. There was correlation as well between activity and engagement, with regular posts generating more interest.

Library social media clearly varies a lot from place to place, but there are commonalities of seeking a real dialogue with our users, a willingness to be innovative, and drawing on knowledge from across different specialisms to do both. knowledge from across different specialisms to do both.

Follow Sheffield Hallam University Library at hallamlibrary on Instagram and @hallamlibrary on Twitter.

Many thanks to Tom for sharing the results of his survey with us.  If you are interested in learning more about using Social & New Media to transform teaching & learning in your Library/LRC, MmIT and ARLG-SW are running a hands-on, collaboration and networking session in Exeter on Thu 18 October 2018.



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