Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

Evaluating social networking for information professionals

To aid me in evaluating social networking for information professionals, I will be referring to issues raised in three of my previous posts:

  1. RSS – A new way of keeping informed
  2. Librarian 2.0: Is it anything new?
  3. Social media policies – a lot to think about!

RSS uses push technology, which means that the user only need to visit one feed reader and it will deliver all of the content for the RSS feeds they have subscribed to (Mu, 2008, p. 10). Not only does this help users keep up to date with websites they are interested in, it can be easily changed or customised by the user to meet their changing information needs.

Fast turnaround time is one of the many benefits of RSS. In the past, library clients would wait for a book to be published to receive information. Turnaround times shortened with journals, and the demand is growing for information being available instantly. Using RSS technology, any blog or website can send information to the user as soon as it is published, which helps libraries remain relevant in the age of “any information I want, any time, anywhere I am” (Holvoet, 2006, p. 32). RSS entries also tend to be much shorter in length, allowing the client to quickly determine if the article is of interest, which is always beneficial in the age of Google snippets!

While investigating RSS technologies, I have discovered that my library’s catalogue has RSS capabilities, allowing our clients to set up a RSS feed for any search that they conduct, allowing them to be updated instantly (almost) when relevant items are catalogued. Our email program has an inbuilt feed reader, so it will not take a great deal of training to get our clients used to these technologies and the feed will display every time they open their email.

Training has become an ever increasing issue for library managers. Information professionals in the digital age, or “Librarian 2.0”, need to ensure their skills remain current in the technologies that could be useful to their clients (Allard, 2009, p. 63). The particular challenge in this training requirement is that technologies are developing at a very fast rate and library staff need to be comfortable enough to not only use the technologies for the library services, but also train library clients in the applications of the technologies.

One traditional attribute of information professionals has become vital in the world of social networking and fast-changing technologies: evaluation of tools and resources (Harvey, 2009). Many clients do not have the time or inclination to evaluate a wide range of tools and decide which ones are the most useful for their information and entertainment needs. Therefore, in many instances, it falls to the information professional to develop their evaluative skills and be able to guide clients in the direction of the tools that would be most suited to them. This role as guide may not be a new one, however it is likely to become even more important as technologies and civilisations develop.

Social media is slowly invading many portions of our lives and many have written about the “blurring between the personal and professional life” for people who use these media (Lynch, 2009). While some amount of this blurring has occurred, there are limitations. Library clients may be happy to have some contact with their library via social media, however some studies have shown that a large proportion do not want to be “friended” by librarians (Liu & Barbaux, 2011, p. 1; Harvey, 2009). Information professionals need to use their professional judgment and knowledge of their clients to ensure they are providing information to the client where they are, without becoming too pushy.

One of the ways to determine these types of issues is to implement a social media policy. A policy, if developed with care, will provide guidelines for employees within an organisation and also help clients know what is considered acceptable when communicating with the library or its clients online. A social media policy is not necessarily just a list of rules; it can provide a blueprint for the future of communications in the organisation (Hopkins, 2011, p. 12). For example, when developing the strategy, a need for knowledge sharing within the organisation may be uncovered. Appropriate social media technologies can be investigated to meet this need, and any associated issues covered in the policy, to help encourage knowledge sharing.

A well thought out social media policy will give the information professionals a sense of confidence about using social media, which may in turn help to foster a closer connection between library staff and clients, allowing staff to understand the clients’ needs more clearly and consequently providing more appropriate resources to them (Hopkins, 2011, p. 12).

While drafting a social media policy, it is essential to keep social media ethics in mind: truth, trust, transparency and accountability (Hopkins, 2011, p. 17). If you aim to consistently be truthful in your communications, build a sense of trust between yourself and your clients, are as transparent as possible about your operations and accountable for your actions, your social media experience will be a lot smoother and many risks mitigated.

My Development as a Social Networker and Implications for my Development as an Information Professional

Prior to my studies in INF506, I had a rather rudimentary understanding of social networking concepts and theories. I used Facebook as a purely personal communication tool, and had dabbled in Twitter, but had not delved further into the myriad of social media technologies. I was very excited to learn more about these, although a little unsure of how I would go!

My nerves were abated a great deal by jumping in head first into this blog as an online learning journal (OLJ) and developing my project using wikis for knowledge sharing.

I had encountered Facebook fan pages and knew many companies used Twitter to communicate with their clients, however I was curious to see how the different technologies could be used by libraries, particularly Flickr, Delicious and Second Life (all of which I had virtually no experience). My interaction with these technologies has whetted my appetite and I am amazed at the potential. I now can see the powerful training and current awareness applications of these technologies. I have become slightly obsessed with Delicious, although I may need to find a new social bookmarking tool to obsess over if the reports of Delicious’ impending demise prove accurate!

Towards the end of this subject I attended the ALIA Information Online conference in Sydney and I discovered that many of the conference papers were about social media, particularly how different libraries were using these technologies. I was particularly impressed by the work that UTS have done in the social media arena, as can be seen by the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, RSS, Foursquare, Flickr, blog and iGoogle gadget icons that are shown on their homepage (; McDonald & McDonald, 2011). My study of social media in the preceding months helped immensely as I already had a good overview of the technologies and could focus on the applications that the libraries had undertaken. I came away from the conference with a number of ideas, which would not have been possible without my previous study.

This subject has, without a doubt had the biggest impact on my professional life of any subjects I have studied at a university level. Firstly, the timing was quite opportune as my organisation had just started to discuss whether we should have a Facebook presence and oh, hang on, we will need a social media policy before we do that! As organisationally speaking, I sit within the IT team; it has given me a good opportunity to share my newfound knowledge and resources with the IT manager.

In addition to the potential new social media policy, I have been asked to develop a library strategy to chart the future of library services in our organisation over the next few years. To be honest, I had not even considered the social media aspect of this, and I feel that my strategy will now have an added depth and help to ensure that we move in the right direction.

After having a play with Twitter throughout the subject and learning more about the ways in which information professionals are using Twitter at the ALIA conference (Doessel & Freedman, 2011), I decided to take the plunge. I have created a Twitter account for my professional life and have “followed” quite a number of information professionals that I met at the conference and others who have been suggested to me. The impact of being able to easily see what other library professionals are doing and ask questions or make comments is profound for someone working in a one person library!

I have taken to heart the advice of using RSS feeds to keep up to date and as a means to undertake current awareness activities. I spent some time researching RSS feeds for subjects that are of interest to my library clients, particularly in the areas of government policy, auditing and sector related information; and have subscribed to these. At this stage I am simply forwarding links to the relevant client, however I will be creating a blog and adding them to that once our social media policy is in place and I have approval.

The importance of continuous learning has been reinforced throughout this subject (Broady-Preston, 2009, p. 265). I have not been keeping up with the many technological changes and this has prevented me from exploiting all the opportunities they provide for both my professional development and for my library clients. My newfound appreciation for continuous learning will help me drive the future of my library service, instead of simply reacting to things as they become issues.

In reflection of the knowledge that I have gained and my new enthusiasm for social media specifically and learning in general, I would like to finish with a quote that really made me stop and think over the last week or so. I am looking forward to a more “literate” future!

 “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.” –Alvin Toffler


Image sourced from

Reference List 

  1. Allard, S. (2009). Library managers and information in World 2.0. Library Management, 30(1/2), p. 57-68.
  2. Broady-Preston, J. (2009). Professional education, development and training in a Web 2.0 environment. New Library World, 110(5/6), p. 265-279.
  3. Doessel, N. & Freedman, K. (2011). How to write a paper in 140 characters or less: Social media for professional development. ALIA Information Online Conference. Retrieved from
  4. Harvey, M. (2009). What does it mean to be a Science Librarian 2.0? Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (Summer). Retrieved from
  5. Holvoet, K. (2006). What is RSS and how can libraries use it to improve patron service? Library Hi Tech News, 8, p. 32-33.
  6. Hopkins, L. (2011). Making social media work for your business. London: Ark Group.
  7. Liu, M. & Barbaux, M-T. (2011). Location, location, location! Meeting students where they seek information. ALIA Information Online Conference. Retrieved from
  8. Lynch, C. G. (2009). Twitter tips: How to safely blend the personal and the professional. CIO, 8 April. Retrieved from
  9. McDonald, S. & McDonald, J. (2011). Information literacy for ubiquitous learning. ALIA Information Online Conference. Retrieved from
  10. Mu, C. (2008). Using RSS feeds and social bookmarking tools to keep current. Library Hi Tech News, 9, p. 10-11.

Before investigating the world of social media, it is wise for organisations to develop and implement a policy that will determine how these new technologies may be used. While some organisations only focus on the mitigating risks and not having a social media public relations issue (similar to Commbank did recently), a policy can also act as a guideline for all employees and give them a sense of how they can use social media technologies to communicate both personally and professionally.

Developing a social media policy is something that needs to be considered as carefully as any other policy, to ensure that all aspects are covered. Below are just a few things to consider when creating the policy.

1. Teamwork – a cross functional team should be created to work on the policy to ensure a wide range of experience and viewpoints. It would be useful to have someone from management to lend credence to the policy, as well as someone from the marketing or communications team, an advisor from the legal team and the HR team, as well as a couple of employees. Ideally, the team would include people from different generations, to help cover the issues as they may be faced by different employees.

2. Consultation – To determine what content needs to be covered in the policy, it is important to consult widely with the organisation and understand how employees use social media. Once that is done, an appropriate plan for that usage can be worked out.

3. Risk Management – Any risks need to be identified, planned for and managed carefully. Some of the more critical risks include the release of confidential or sensitive information, lost productivity due to employees using social media excessively, harassment between colleagues or inappropriate behaviour between employees and members of the public.

4. Terms of Use – guidelines need to be decided upon and advertised widely both within the organisation and externally. These guidelines would cover acceptable behaviour, values and there should be clearly defined ramifications for non-compliance, which are dealt with immediately.

5. Policy Review – Once these guidelines have been developed, any existing organisational policies need to be reviewed and amended as necessary. Policies that may be influenced by social media use include records management, IT, information security, privacy and HR/code of conduct.

With a carefully thought out social media policy, organisations may find they have a much deeper connection with their community and greater brand recognition.

Reading List

With the advent of Web 2.0, it seems that the “2.0” moniker has been used for all sorts of concepts, including Government 2.0, Bank 2.0, Vegemite’s iSnack 2.0(!), as well as Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0. This has caused some confusion about the skills and attributes required by library professionals in the 2.0 world.


With so many new technologies and resources being developed every day, librarians need to be adaptable, continuously learning and evaluating new technologies to find the ones that work for our clients. We can not be risk averse; rather, we need to trust in our evaluative skills and our knowledge of our clients to find the best path forward.


In order to find the best solutions for our clients, we need to experiment, play with new resources and tools and communicate with our clients about what they need and what works for them. We need to be confident about providing their information needs, even if that means using resources that are not traditionally found in libraries (i.e. links to Google Books, Amazon or so on). In the Web 2.0 world, our clients will find their information one way or another, so we have the opportunity to market ourselves as being able to provide information anytime, anywhere and on any technology our clients use.


We need to collaborate and communicate with our clients on a much broader scale, using a wide variety of mediums, including in person, telephone, library website, social networking sites, blogs/wikis, VOIP, mashups, and anything else that they use. In order to do that, we need to keep our technology skills up to date and continuously learning. Training skills will be even more important as we help clients become familiar with some of these tools.


Trusting our users is vital. We need their input on what works for them and their collaboration will help to make our collections and knowledge a lot more relevant to the community as a whole. In fact, many of the skills required by a Librarian 2.0 are skills that information professionals have been obtaining for many years. The biggest change however, may be the closer relationships we have with our clients and the level of influence they have into our libraries.


Reading List


Library websites have come a long way in the past ten years, however there are still advances that can be made. While reading a number of articles (as listed in the references below), I have compiled a list of ten criteria for effective library website design.

  1. Simple navigation with search box on each page for easy access to resources
  2. Regularly updated website to help engage clients
  3. Promoting library resources
  4. Segment website to market to different groups of users – kids, teens, adults
  5. Use bright colours, animation, sounds for kids to promote a fun, happy experience
  6. Mobile friendly pages – text only options
  7. Using social networking to deliver targeted messaging to different groups of clients and promote two way communications
  8. Using social networking for reference services (Ask A Librarian)
  9. Allowing interaction in form of wikis or blogs etc (Trust your users)
  10. Not only allowing feedback, but posting feedback and responses on website 

To test out my criteria, I investigated the Melbourne Library Service website ( to see how it used website design to meet its library clients’ needs.

  1. The website is very easy to navigate, with a simple menu down the left hand side. The search box at the top of the page is shown on every page on the site. It provides a simple search of the entire library’s collection. An advanced search is also available.
  2. The home page contains news of the latest events, which is updated very regularly, along with other news, such as the recent refurbishment of one of the branches. It would be helpful if the pages included a last updated date on the bottom to show currency.
  3. The library promotes its services well. On the home page, they currently have advertisements for their new Japanese collection, Online Information and Elibrary downloads. These advertisements change regularly.
  4. The City Library has two pages targeting particular age groups, a kids page and a teen page. The kids page appears to be targeted more towards parents, rather than the kids themselves. The teens page has lots of links to resources for teens, but it is not designed in a way that teens would be engaged with it.
  5. Both the kids and teens pages need to be redesigned using design features and technology that will attract these groups, including games, video and sound.
  6. The website does not have a mobile friendly or text only option.
  7. Melbourne Library Service have a Facebook fan page ( where the staff interact with clients and promote their resources.
  8. The website does not include an online reference service, either on their website or via their Facebook fan page.
  9. City Library does not have any wikis or blogs that clients can interact with staff on. There is this feature on the Facebook fan page however.
  10. There is a feedback form on the library website, however previous feedback and responses have not been published. Publishing this information will help promote transparency and help clients trust that the library is listening and responding to their comments.


Well… not quite A to Z… but a few things to think about…

Active – you need to use social networking on a regular basis

 As I work in a one person library, there are considerable time constraints in my daily work. I would endeavour to use this forum of media as often as possible, but it would be proportional to the interest shown and usage by my library clients (after some initial work and marketing duties).

Direction – what are you planning to accomplish for your library with social networking?

My manager and I are planning to develop and implement a social networking strategy for the entire organisation. This would include any social networking activities undertaken by the library staff (myself). We are not planning on using social networking until this strategy is in place, so that standard processes are followed.

Ebooks – these can be shared on social networking to increase their exposure.

At this stage, we do not have any ebooks available to library clients. One of our longer term strategies for the library, however, is to move our collection to a greater proportion of digital resources, as our staff spend a lot of their working hours off site with clients. Our plan is to evaluate a number of ebook readers before we start purchasing ebook collections.

Facebook – Having a presence on FB with a fan page is a must. It is expected due to Facebook’s popularity

We do not currently have a fanpage on Facebook. Our organisation is very particular about security of information, so if we were to develop a page, it would need to be in the form of a group that is only available to library clients. If we obtain approval to implement this, it would be very useful, as Facebook is currently the third highest site in usage statistics for our organisation.

Reference – can offer the answers to FAQs as a form of reference services on social networking sites

 I am very interested in using social media to share the answers to regularly asked questions. Our staff tend to work on very short timeframes, in isolation, and so I often get asked for the same information from different people. We do not have any knowledge sharing strategies in place and I am keen to implement any form of knowledge sharing that I can.

These are just a few issues that I will need to consider when implementing social networking.

(List taken from A to Z of Social Networking for Libraries. 30 November 2010. Retrieved from )

Before starting this university subject I had come across RSS feeds, but had not spent much time investigating them. I had subscribed to one or two RSS feeds sin the past, however these were more out of general interest, and I did not continue looking at them. I had not considered using RSS feeds for either my own personal information needs, or using them within my library for the requirements of my clients.

RSS feeds can be used by libraries to keep their clients up to date with the resources that have been added to the library collection or information resources online or elsewhere. Many libraries use RSS technology for this purpose, including the Australian federal Parliamentary Library ( and the University of Melbourne( These feeds are updated regularly, meaning that clients do not have to remember to check the library catalogue for new items. This type of RSS feed is a brilliant marketing tool, reminding clients of the ever increasing library collection, and helping them to find new resources of interest to them.

The Parliamentary Library also uses an RSS feed to create a digest of newly proposed bills. It describes the bill and its purpose, background, any financial implications and other issues. Other RSS feeds update monthly statistics such as demographics, wages, and employment, amongst others.

An interesting use for RSS is to instruct clients in various library related technologies and resources. The University of Melbourne uses RSS to instruct clients about using library software and tools. It includes tips for the catalogue, journal databases, searching online, as well as information about different technologies such as ebook readers etc. This allows them to reach a significantly wider portion of their clients, without the burden that would have been placed on staff workloads.

After investigating library RSS feeds and thinking about their potential, I am considering how they could best be used in my library. My hope is that we will soon be implementing this technology to help my clients keep up to date as easily as possible.