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Social media and academic libraries: Current trends and future challenges

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Social media and academic libraries: Current trends and future challenges

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Academic libraries are increasingly using social media tools to promote services and highlight resources to patrons. This longitudinal study examines the social media adoption rates and practices in academic libraries in the province of Ontario over a fourteen month period beginning in April 2010. Findings indicate that while interest in social media technologies amongst librarians has plateaued, patrons of academic libraries are using these tools in increasing numbers. Outcomes suggest libraries should attempt in the future to create more original content in areas of patron interest as well as utilize their preferred platforms with greater regularity.
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Journal of Web Librarianship, 8:48–68, 2014
Published with license by Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1932-2909 print / 1932-2917 online
DOI: 10.1080/19322909.2014.873663
Are Social Media Ubiquitous in Academic
Libraries? A Longitudinal Study
of Adoption and Usage Patterns
GARY COLLINS
Elizabeth Dafoe Library, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
ANABEL QUAN-HAASE
Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
A debate has emerged in library literature concerning the advan-
tages and disadvantages of adopting social media applications in
academic libraries. This research examines the ubiquity of social
media through a longitudinal study of the adoption rates and us-
age patterns of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr at academic
libraries in the Canadian province of Ontario from April 2010 to
April 2012. The findings from this study indicate that large discrep-
ancies exist in adoption rates across libraries, with two-thirds of
Ontario academic libraries maintaining at least one social media
application during the period of examination. Unexpectedly, Twit-
ter and Facebook were equally popular social media tools during
the study period. Despite its low adoption rate and usage, YouTube
was by far the most effective means of reaching patrons. We con-
clude by examining the implications of engaging with patrons via
social media in ways that are effective, engaging, and meaningful.
KEYWORDS social media, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr,
academic libraries, technology adoption
INTRODUCTION
Social media have become an increasingly familiar toolset employed in aca-
demic libraries to market services and resources to current and prospective
© Gary Collins and Anabel Quan-Haase
Received 19 July 2013; accepted 20 August 2013.
Address correspondence to Gary Collins, Elizabeth Dafoe Library, University of Manitoba,
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T2N2, Canada. E-mail: Collins.gary.lib@gmail.com
48
Social Media in Academic Libraries 49
patrons. Until recently, research in this area has primarily focused on earlier
Web 2.0 tools and applications, such as blogs, wikis, and social tagging.
One important finding of these earlier studies is the divergent manner in
which technologies were adopted, used, and applied in various geographic
locations (Linh 2008; Chua and Goh 2010). By describing these differences,
scholars have not only been able to understand the penetration rates of
certain social media tools in specific regions, but have also acquired insight
into the potential environmental and contextual factors shaping the use or
non-use of these applications (Linh 2008; Chua and Goh 2010). Not all tools
are adopted in the same manner across all locations and social milieus,
thus undermining assumptions of technological determinism (Quan-Haase
2013). Technological determinism1refers to the idea that technological de-
velopments will have a strong and uniform effect on society, regardless of
characteristics of the social system.
More recent studies have concentrated on the dichotomy between the
perceived benefits of social media in libraries and the actual impressions,
views, and desires of patrons. Relevant to these studies is the question of
whether social media are cherished more by librarians or by library users
(Kim and Abbas 2010). While librarians have viewed these tools as a method
to connect with patrons and, in the context of academic libraries, to connect
with students specifically, this sentiment is not necessarily reciprocated by
patrons (Burhanna, Seeholzer, and Salem 2009; Chu and Meulemans 2008;
Kim and Abbas 2010). Although libraries must remain current, proactive,
and aware of emerging technologies in order to retain user interest, previous
scholars have suggested that academic librarians must ensure they do not
misallocate personnel and technical resources on an ever-evolving group
of technologies that are largely used for non-academic purposes (Burhanna
et al. 2009; Kim and Abbas 2010; Jacobson 2011). Clearly, there continues
to be debate as to the appropriateness of adopting social media tools in the
context of academic libraries and the degree to which resources must be
allocated to these endeavors.
The objectives of the present study are threefold. First, this study seeks
to perform an examination of the adoption rates and usage patterns of social
media sites by academic libraries in Ontario. It focuses on four popular
social media applications—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr—and
investigates a wide range of measures to assess engagement and outreach,
such as Twitter followers and Facebook likes. Second, the present study
investigates how social media are being integrated into library services over
time and the difficulties involved in this process. To study the trajectory of
social media adoption, a longitudinal approach was employed through the
collection of data in three waves: April 2010, June 2011, and April 2012. This
study compares adoption rates and usage patterns over the study period
and draws conclusions about social media usage trends and challenges in
academic libraries in general, and in Ontario specifically. Third, based on
50 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
the analysis of usage patterns across various social media tools, the study
proposes a set of best practices for the allocation of resources to obtain
the highest level of engagement and outreach, while not overstepping pre-
established social boundaries.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Studies concerning the possibilities and challenges of Web 2.0 in libraries
have received considerable interest from scholars and practitioners. Earlier
research on social media and academic libraries focused on the ability of
libraries to market and promote services, to remain relevant to younger gen-
erations, and to achieve a new level of interactivity between library personnel
and current and prospective users. Within the existing literature, early social
media tools, such as blogs and wikis, have been viewed as ideal sources to
disseminate news and information (Scale and Quan-Haase 2012). For exam-
ple, Jason D. Cooper and Alan May (2009) described the implementation of
a blog at a small academic library in Alabama as an important tool in reach-
ing out to students, regardless of their involvement on campus and previous
experience with the library. Lani Draper and Marthea Turnage’s (2008) sur-
vey of 265 academic librarians found that blogs were used overwhelmingly
to market the library’s services, while Dreanna Belden (2008) observed that
external sites, such as Wikipedia and Myspace, were effective at promoting
the digital collections of a small academic library in Texas.
Web 2.0 and social media applications have also been highly valued for
their ability to connect libraries with users who may be unaware of existing
resources and services. Tamar Sadeh (2007) argued that implementing a
social media presence is fundamental to remain pertinent and to meet user
expectations, particularly with younger populations. Brian Mathews (2006)
suggested that libraries can create services that are more responsive and
attuned to the changing needs of users. This is especially relevant in the
context of the 21st century learner. Bernie Trilling and Charles Fadel (2009)
described the “framework for 21st century learning” as integrating three
central skills: life and career, learning and innovation, and information and
media technology.
Studies by Nguyen C. Linh (2008); Chen Xu, Fenel Ouyan, and Heting
Chu (2009); Kenneth J. Burhanna, Jamie Seeholzer, and Jamie Salem (2009);
and Yong-Mi Kim and June Abbas (2010) all suggested that libraries take
for granted the level of technological understanding and sophistication of
their users, specifically those who are classified as Millenials or Generation
Y. These groups may use these tools primarily for social purposes and enter-
tainment but may be less familiar with information-seeking skills on the Web
or the methods to use and assess digital resources. Additionally, both Xu and
colleagues (2009) and Kim and Abbas (2010) found that librarians were often
Social Media in Academic Libraries 51
more interested in the library’s social media applications than students. This
is relevant considering that for students, social media are likely perceived
as personal social tools primarily used for interaction between peers, rather
than as conduits for accessing and connecting with library resources and
services.
Studies of Social Media Adoption
Studies of social media adoption within academic libraries have primarily
centered on the adoption of an individual social media application or on a
multitude of popular tools in a single library. Important facets in this area
include the level of technological diffusion and adoption, type of content
provided via these platforms, and how users engage with the library. Zhiping
Han and Yan Quan Liu (2009) noted in their analysis of Web 2.0 use by
Chinese academic libraries that the overall penetration rate and diversity of
products employed by libraries were low. Linh (2008) observed similar issues
in Australasian libraries, where the overall application of Web 2.0 products
was minimal and underdeveloped.
Many of the most popular social media applications used by libraries
are those enabling librarians to keep control over content. Xu and colleagues
(2009) examined the impact of Web 2.0 in 81 university libraries in New York.
Their findings indicated that many Web 2.0 tools are used as Web-based
extensions of traditional library services, such as reference, or to deliver
news about the library. Linh (2008) and Kim and Abbas (2010) described
blogs and RSS feeds as being more popular than interactive tools, such as
folksonomies and social tagging, because these tools enable librarians to
retain custodianship of information and authority over user content.
Geography seems to play an important role in the popularity of spe-
cific technologies and the ensuing types of content supplied through social
media. Alton Chua and Dion Goh (2010) suggested that social media tools
on different continents are embraced in divergent ways. For example, so-
cial tagging, often found in North American academic libraries, was almost
non-existent in European libraries. Blogs, which are tailored toward dissem-
inating news in North American libraries, were more subject-specific and
catered toward specific demographics in European and Australasian libraries
(Chua and Goh 2010; Linh 2008). Additionally, instant messaging, while
popular among North American academic libraries (Xu et al. 2009), was the
least prevalent in Australasian libraries (Linh 2008) and was sparsely used in
European libraries (Chua and Goh 2010). Chua and Goh (2010) also high-
lighted the lag in Internet penetration rates in parts of Europe and Asia in
comparison to North America (especially in the United States and Canada), as
well as the predominance of English as the primary operational language for
many Web 2.0 tools. In sum, social media adoption rates vary geographically,
and different tools seem to be popular in specific geographic regions.
52 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
Challenges Academic Libraries Face in the Adoption of Social
Media Applications
Much of the literature about social media in academic libraries has fixated on
the successes of embedding these tools into the library’s online repertoire.
Largely absent from this discussion has been the role of information ethics
in shaping social media adoption and usage amongst academic libraries.
There has, however, emerged an important body of work that addresses the
challenges academic libraries face in the adoption process. Burhanna and
colleagues (2009) reported that although the majority of students they inter-
viewed expected the library to have a social media presence, their willingness
to interact with library personnel was limited to specific online media, such
as chat reference or course management software. Students visited social
networking sites, such as Facebook, primarily for non-academic purposes,
namely to connect and share digital artifacts with friends, family, and ac-
quaintances (Quan-Haase and Young 2010). Burhanna and colleagues also
noted that it would be most likely a misallocation of resources to emphasize
social media sites like Facebook as a means for providing traditional library
services, such as research assistance, at the expense of other projects.
Melanie Chu and Yvonne Meulemans (2008) corroborated the findings
of Burhanna and colleagues. Their study found that students were uncom-
fortable using social media sites for academic purposes. Students indicated
that they were more likely and more comfortable interacting with academic
personnel, such as librarians and professors, via more professional forms of
communication, such as e-mail. Alongside the work of Burhanna and col-
leagues, Chu and Meulmans’s research suggested the need for librarians to
realize that there can be a collision of contexts when attempts at engagement
intrude into the blurred public-private spheres of students’ lives (Balayeva
and Quan-Haase 2009; Boyd 2006; Tran, Yang, and Raikundalia 2004). These
social factors require consideration and necessitate a careful and comprehen-
sive approach for the implementation of social media in academic libraries.
Aspects of user privacy and social media have been minimally addressed
within the literature. Walt Crawford (2011) noted that a vocal minority within
the library community is concerned about the lack of coordinated respon-
sibility toward social media content, particularly because many projects be-
come abandoned and superseded by new technologies. Similarly, Meredith
Farkas maintained the need for libraries to develop social media policies
due to the “blurred boundaries” that emerge between personal and profes-
sional realms (2009, 35). She contended that social media policies must be
developed with clear guidelines for official content and use in order to
protect the library’s brand. Although noting the potential benefits of social
media, Peter Fernandez (2009) argued that libraries must understand the
consequences of these sites, especially in regard to user privacy and ethi-
cal considerations. In 2008, Amanda Powers also emphasized the need to
Social Media in Academic Libraries 53
address the reality of “ever-changing ethical issues” in library work (192).
This includes facilitating an open dialogue about technology and ethics to
respond to these challenges. Setting up guidelines either at the professional
level (e.g., through involvement of the ALA or the Ontario Library Association
[OLA]) or at the institutional level (e.g., via policy documents) is important
for libraries to consider.
METHODS
The sample of academic libraries examined in this report is comprised of the
21 member libraries of the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL)
in 2010. OCUL members represent the majority of publicly-funded university
libraries in the province of Ontario. Ontario provides an ideal geographic
context for examining the scope and content of social media in an academic
setting because it features a diverse collection of campuses (urban and rural,
large and small). For the purpose of this study, only libraries located on
the main campus of each OCUL member were analyzed; libraries located
on affiliate campuses were excluded because the majority of resources and
materials for each OCUL member library are located on the main campus.
In situations where the respective university had more than one library on
campus and had subsequently developed separate social media tools for each
facility, the study chose to look at the largest library facility available. For
example, University of Waterloo Libraries had a comprehensive collection
of Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr channels incorporating all the individual
libraries under a single identity. However, the University of Waterloo also
offered individual Facebook pages for each individual library. Thus, in the
case of Facebook at the University of Waterloo, the Dana Porter library (its
largest library) was selected. Learning Commons areas, located within or
outside of the main library, such as the Ontario College of Art and Design’s
Learning Zone, were also excluded, as they are frequently characterized as
collaborative workspaces, rather than traditional library settings.
Most academic libraries are clustered in the southwestern Ontario region
near the U.S. border. Only the libraries’ official social media channels were
monitored. A social media platform was considered part of the university
library if either a link to it was available from the library Web site, or one
of the library’s social media pages provided a link to the resource that could
be readily accessible and identifiable to users.2This was done to ensure the
channel provided a clear association to the library and to filter out personal
accounts in the form of fan pages or parody accounts. For example, York
University’s YouTube channel was excluded because there were no hyper-
links (or references to its channel) on either the York University Library’s
Web site or its other social media channels during this study’s period of
examination.
54 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
For each social media platform, specific types of information were
recorded to better understand the library’s uses of this application, such
as content type, likes, retweets, and views. Statistics were gathered three
different times: April 2010, June 2011, and April 2012. The data were col-
lected in Excel and analyzed using descriptive statistics. The large majority of
collected data consist of quantitative measures; however, relevant qualitative
observations were also noted during data collection.
Facebook is currently the most popular social networking site with about
1.11 billion monthly active users as of March 2013 (Facebook 2013a). Face-
book use is often perceived merely as a pastime activity geared toward
entertainment and fun. However, recent studies have explored its relevance
in education (Roblyer et al. 2010), and academic libraries have seen potential
uses in terms of reaching out to patrons (Chu and Meulemans 2008). Popu-
larity of Facebook library pages was gauged by the amount of likes a page
received at each of the data collection times. The addition of customizable
library-centered functions to the Facebook page was also noted.
YouTube is one of the world’s leading social media Web sites and
the fourth most popular Web site in Canada (Alexa 2012). Created in 2005,
YouTube allows users to share and upload original videos. Videos found on
YouTube channels and library-specific playlists linked from another social
media site or the library Web site were included in the study. The com-
bined total amount of videos and views for original videos uploaded to each
channel was recorded. Because data for the number of views were not col-
lected in 2010, these are missing from the data set. This study followed the
approach taken by Selene Colburn and Laura Haines (2012, 17), for whom
“view counts are important criteria for evaluating the efficacy of online pro-
motional videos,” as “[t]hey serve as a ‘bottom line’ indicator of a given
video’s viewership.” The reach of video content can partly be assessed by
counting total viewership. Even though view counts represent a useful first
measure, they do not portray the entire picture because they fail to capture
the impact videos have on viewers, which would require interviews with
participants or ethnographic work.
Twitter, a microblogging tool, was included in this study because of its
increasing popularity worldwide. The number of followers and tweets were
recorded. In 2010, no retweets were measured, but starting in 2011, retweets
were also collected. Based on retweets, a percentage was computed that
reflected the proportion of retweets in the data set in relation to all tweets
available for each library per wave.
Flickr, a popular social media Web site used to share photographs, was
included in the study as well, because it provides an alternative form of
content provision, with an emphasis on visual information. The existence
of a Flickr page was recorded alongside information concerning the total
number of photographs uploaded and the level of current activity found on
the page. To supplement the quantitative measures, the nature of posts and
Social Media in Academic Libraries 55
user engagement was also examined. An in-depth analysis of Flickr content
was not included because it was beyond the scope of the present study.
FINDINGS
Adoption Rates
Social media were most widely and actively used in the more populous
region of southwestern Ontario, where a majority of the libraries are lo-
cated. Moreover, Table 1 shows that libraries located in eastern and northern
TABLE 1 Social Media Adoption by Ontario Academic Libraries, 2010-12
University Facebook Twitter YouTube Flickr
(University Adoption
Population1) 2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012 score3
Algoma
(656)
011011000000 0.3
Brock
(15,169)
111111111111 0.8
Guelph
(23,307)
000011000111 0.2
Wilfrid Laurier
(15,081)
011011000000 0.3
McMaster
(25,955)
111111111111 0.8
Nipissing
(5,675)
000011000000 0.2
Queen’s
(21,482)
111000000111 0.3
Ryerson
(27,605)
111111111111 0.8
Trent
(7,272)
111000000000 0.3
Toronto
(70,975)
000111000000 0.3
Waterloo
(29,769)
111111111111 0.8
Western
(34,001)
011011111000 0.6
Windsor
(14,413)
111111000111 0.5
York
(46,714)
011111000000 0.4
Totals 7111171212555777
Ratio20.33 0.52 0.52 0.33 0.57 0.57 0.24 0.24 0.24 0.33 0.33 0.33
Percentage 33 52 52 33 57 57 24 24 24 33 33 33
1University Population in FTE 2011 data.
2Ratio of University Libraries with social media presence to all 21 academic libraries in Ontario.
3The adoption score shows the extent to which the libraries adopted multiple social media tools. A score
of 1.0 indicates full adoption of all four social media tools studied.
56 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
TABLE 2 Twitter Usage by Ontario Academic Libraries
Twitter followers Number of tweets Retweets % Retweets
School Name 2010 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012
Algoma 0 10 19 0 6 9 0 0 0 0
Brock 238 428 701 213 361 268 32 107 9 40
Guelph 0 150 228 0 101 55 0 0 0 0
Laurier 0 11290 9571 3115
McMaster 444 795 1,049 148 216 37 2 8 1 22
Nipissing 0 63 133 0 97 64 16 3 16 5
Ryerson 207 635 1,050 81 208 449 10 214 5 48
Toronto 206 1,044 1,845 38 205 179 33 55 16 31
Waterloo 216 598 996 85 157 85 2 5 1 6
Western 0 297 638 0 317 189 0 23 0 12
Windsor 51 184 361 52 166 70 10 3 6 4
York 239 439 766 166 258 310 77 46 30 15
Totals 1,601 4,654 7,815 783 2,101 1,772 183 467 8 16
Ontario, with the lowest school populations, tend to be slow adopters and do
not employ as many social media tools. For instance, Algoma University’s li-
brary only had six tweets in 2011 and nine tweets in 2012; on the other hand,
Ryerson University, a university located in the southwestern Ontario city of
Toronto, had 208 and 449 within the same time period (see Table 2). The
study’s findings suggest that the geographical location of an academic library
potentially has an impact on the adoption and usage patterns of social media.
Of the 21 academic libraries, there were 11 libraries in 2010, 14 libraries in
2011, and 14 libraries in 2012 that had at least one social media channel (see
Table 3). During the interim period, three universities previously without a
social media presence acquired one (Wilfrid Laurier, Nipissing, and Algoma).
Table 1 shows the social media adoption by Ontario university libraries
for the three waves of data collection. The far-right column shows the adop-
tion score for each library, which reflects the extent to which the libraries
adopted multiple social media tools. A score of 1.0 indicates full adoption of
all four social media tools studied. Libraries that had not adopted any of the
TABLE 3 Number of Social Media Applications Adopted by Ontario Academic Libraries,
2010-12
Number of social media applications 2010 2011 2012
01077
1 544
2 133
3 133
4 444
At least 1 11 14 14
Social Media in Academic Libraries 57
social media tools examined in the present study were not included in the
table (their adoption score would be 0). Facebook was expected to be by
far the most frequently used platform, but the findings show that Twitter and
Facebook were almost equally popular social media tools: In 2012, eleven
academic libraries adopted Facebook and twelve adopted Twitter. YouTube
was the least widely used social media tool by academic libraries, and Flickr
use was moderate. Some of the library social media channels examined were
neglected or abandoned for long periods of time. Future research examining
the reasons why these sites are sometimes discarded would be of interest to
those administering social media tools.
The most active social media sites (measured in terms of frequency
of updates) generally had the most followers and viewers. An exception
to this trend was YouTube. YouTube content posted by academic libraries
continued to see increases in viewing figures despite a lack of activity and
new content. This suggests that YouTube is an efficient means of reaching
out to current and prospective library users, without requiring continuous
updates.
Facebook Usage
Between April 2010 and April 2012, the number of academic libraries using
Facebook increased from seven to eleven. However, there were no new con-
verts to Facebook after June 2011 (see Table 1). From the preliminary analysis
of content posted, Ontario’s academic libraries use Facebook to distribute
library news, display photographs, and provide information about library
resources and services. This suggests that Facebook is primarily used as an
information repository and less as a means to communicate and network.
Table 4 shows Facebook use by Ontario university libraries in terms of
fan page likes, page customization, and the display of photos. Total likes for
Facebook fan pages may represent a potential indicator of popularity by pro-
viding an indicator of the number of followers for a particular page (Glazer
2012; Facebook 2013b). The mean number of likes across all academic
libraries using Facebook in 2011 and 2012 was 253 and 330, respectively.
The increase was less than 100 likes over the one-year period. The num-
ber of likes given to specific libraries did not change much from year to
year; libraries with numerous likes in one year also had many likes in the
following year. The library with the most likes in 2012 was the University
of Windsor with 1,004; Algoma University’s recently created Facebook page
had the fewest, with 52. Western University and Laurier had low numbers
for likes as well. The range in likes from Windsor’s 1,004 to Algoma’s 52
shows the discrepancy existing between the popularity of library Facebook
pages as measured in likes.
When examining popularity, there appears to be no significant correla-
tion between the size of a university’s full-time student population and the
58 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
TABLE 4 Facebook Use by Ontario Academic Libraries
Facebook
likes
Customized
page
Number of
photos Facebook adoption
School Name 2011 2012 2011 2012 2011 2012 2010 2011 2012
Algoma 30520018011
Brock 153 194 1 1 12 12 1 1 1
Laurier 45 77 1 1 6 5 0 1 1
McMaster 117 137 1 1 1 3 1 1 1
Queen’s 121 163 0 0 1 3 1 1 1
Ryerson 700 924 0 1 16 17 1 1 1
Trent 353 516 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Waterloo 349 387 0 0 65 66 1 1 1
Western 36 53 0 0 10 12 0 1 1
Windsor 787 1,004 0 0 6 8 1 1 1
York 94 120 0 0 52 55 0 1 1
Totals 2,785 3,627 4 5 171 190 7 11 11
popularity of its library’s Facebook page. The Pearson correlation between
the number of likes in 2011 and 2012 and the university population was
r=.07 and r=.1, respectively. Every library with a Facebook page had at
least one photograph on it in 2011 and 2012, with the University of Water-
loo’s Dana Porter library having the most (65 in total in 2011 and 66 in total
in 2012). Both Brock and Trent University had embedded videos on their
Facebook pages in 2011.
Between April 2010 and April 2011, four libraries (Brock, Wilfrid Laurier,
McMaster, and Trent) had customized their Facebook pages to include func-
tions enabling visitors to engage in either chat reference with a librarian,
view instructional materials, or search the library catalog. A fifth (Ryerson)
added a link to its Flickr account after July 2011. Most libraries using Face-
book did not feature user wall postings on their pages. Hence, the ability to
customize a Facebook page to reflect the unique information-based needs
of a library’s academic community is mostly underdeveloped. For example,
in 2011, Brock’s page featured customized icons and tools supplying links
to content on the library’s Web site and also provided embedded video con-
tent. Most libraries had Facebook pages that included minimal information
about digital resources available as part of the library. Libraries primarily
posted information on activities, events, and resources found in the physi-
cal library. This is surprising, because the authors expected that academic
libraries would be using social media primarily to showcase digital resources
and expand offerings available in the physical library.
The low number of Facebook likes for fan pages at some academic
libraries may be due to a lack of awareness of (or interest in) the library’s
Facebook page, or users “un-liking” a fan page when it no longer meets
their needs due to factors like graduation or a lack of relevant content.
Social Media in Academic Libraries 59
It is also plausible that in some instances library users are adopting alter-
native social media applications provided by the library, such as Twitter.
Although this study did not examine likes for individual posts or levels of
interactivity through comments, this idea might be useful for future research.
Twitter Usage
In April 2010, seven of Ontario’s 21 university libraries had a Twitter feed (33
percent). By June 2011, this number had increased to twelve (57 percent),
and in 2012 there was no change (see Table 1). Interest in library Twitter
accounts among users has also shown a marked increase. In April 2010,
the seven university libraries averaged 229 followers. By June 2011, those
same seven original libraries averaged 589 followers: a two-and-a-half times
increase in followers. In 2012, those seven libraries averaged more than 967
followers. The average number of followers for all academic libraries with
a Twitter account was 388 and 651 for 2011 and 2012, respectively. This
is considerably lower than the average for academic libraries that adopted
Twitter early. In April 2010, McMaster had the most Twitter followers, at
444. Two years later, more than half the academic libraries in Ontario with
a Twitter account had more than 400 followers. Twitter is clearly becoming
a popular means to connect Ontario academic libraries with patrons (and
interested followers).
Between June 2011 and April 2012, there were exceptional changes in
how Twitter was used by Ontario academic libraries (see Table 2); specifi-
cally, there has been an upsurge in retweeting of content.3The majority of
retweets are positive comments about the library from students (who are of-
ten physically present at the library). Prior to July 2011, only York University
had more than a quarter of its Twitter output in the form of retweets. By
April 2012, 31 percent of the University of Toronto’s, 40 percent of Brock’s,
and 48 percent of Ryerson’s Twitter output was in the form of retweets (see
Table 2). This suggests that the reach of these accounts is increasing as they
continue to attract more followers.
Interestingly, the libraries that regularly retweeted content had some of
the biggest gains in terms of Twitter followership between June 2011 and
April 2012. To what extent retweets and an increase in followers are linked
remains debatable, but it suggests that retweets may help in promoting the
channel. There is also the possibility that social media services are gaining
popularity by being promoted in person (e.g., during information literacy ses-
sions) or through cross-promotion with other institutional social media chan-
nels. Additionally, some users may seek out the library’s Twitter feed for rele-
vant information but opt not to follow it. Future research could further exam-
ine why students follow some library social media channels more than others.
Over time, libraries are also responding to students’ concerns and ques-
tions more often via Twitter. All but two of the university libraries using
60 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
the medium responded to questions and comments on Twitter between July
2011 and April 2012, whereas prior to July 2011, only two libraries had re-
sponded to comments or questions posted on Twitter. By April 2012, more
than a fifth of the tweets produced by Brock, Waterloo, Ryerson, and Toronto
were in response to comments or questions from patrons. This represents
an increase in direct communication that other forms of social media do not
afford. News and announcement tweets during the period comprised around
50 percent of the Twitter output at only three libraries (Guelph, Nipissing,
and McMaster), while content promotion tweets declined considerably with
only Algoma University, the University of Windsor, and Western University
having at least a quarter of their tweets focusing on promoting library re-
sources. This shows that Twitter is used across Ontario academic libraries for
a range of purposes, such as promoting library resources, content promotion,
and news.
YouTube Usage
Ontario’s academic libraries primarily used YouTube to promote services,
host lectures, and provide information literacy demonstrations for highlight-
ing best practices for conducting research and navigating through specific
databases. Despite the extensive global popularity of YouTube, only five
academic libraries in Ontario had adopted a YouTube channel dedicated to
videos associated with and created by the library during the entire study
period ranging from 2010 to 2012 (see Table 1): Brock, McMaster, Ryerson,
University of Waterloo, and Western University. Western University’s use of
YouTube is unique because it has a specific playlist for its videos available
on its official YouTube channel. Beginning in October 2011, the University
of Waterloo also added a separate library playlist on its institutional YouTube
channel. During the study period, no additional YouTube channels were cre-
ated by the main campuses at any of the 21 university libraries (see Table 1).
The number of videos each academic library had posted was also exam-
ined. In both 2011 and 2012, Brock had the highest number of total videos
posted with 45 and 48, respectively. McMaster had the second highest total
number of videos posted, with 25 total videos in both 2011 and 2012. An
examination of the video content at the aforementioned libraries revealed
that initially, promotional videos featuring competitions or comedic themes
obtained more views than those demonstrating library resources or services.
Figure 3 shows the total number of views for 2011 and 2012.4During our
examination, McMaster had the most popular YouTube channel of all the
Ontario university libraries, perhaps thanks to its successful and humorous
promotional sketches. Its channel had 19,314 and 23,418 views in 2011 and
2012, respectively. McMaster was closely followed by Brock with 8,236 and
17,599 views in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Ryerson had the least views
in 2011 (1,567), which perhaps reflects the fact that it also had the fewest
Social Media in Academic Libraries 61
0
5,000
10,000
15,000
20,000
25,000
Brock McMaster Ryerson Waterloo A Waterloo B Western
2011 2012
Number of Views
FIGURE 1 Number of YouTube views, 2011-12.
number of uploaded videos that year (nine videos). Certainly, as Colburn
and Haines noted, a drawback of view counts is the inability to convey “the
actions taken by individuals after watching videos” (2012, 18). However, the
increase in view counts, as evidenced in Figure 1, is congruent with Colburn
and Haines’s findings that a growth in views suggests the likelihood of a
longer shelf life for social media content than generally expected. Overall,
YouTube appears to be a successful tool for reaching out to patrons because
it is easily scalable without requiring frequent updates once a video has
been uploaded, unlike Facebook or Twitter, which require regular updates
to maintain user interest.
Flickr Usage
University libraries in Ontario employed Flickr to display historic pho-
tographs of library or university facilities, record annual events, and doc-
ument original exhibitions held at the library. Flickr was among the earliest
forms of social media adopted by Ontario’s academic libraries, along with
Facebook and Twitter; the University of Windsor created a Flickr page as
early as November 2005. One-third of academic libraries in Ontario (seven
in total) had a Flickr presence in 2010, and this number did not increase in
2011 or 2012 (see Table 1). McMaster University was by far the most prolific
user of Flickr in this study: Its photostream contained over 3,000 pictures
capturing library locations, events, and social functions (see Figure 2).
Even though Flickr was among the first social media applications
adopted by libraries in Ontario, its growth stagnated between April 2010
62 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
0
500
1,000
1,500
2,000
2,500
3,000
3,500
4,000
Brock Guelph McMaster Queen's Ryerson Waterloo Windsor
2011 2012
Total Photographs
FIGURE 2 Number of photographs on Flickr.
and April 2012. Flickr use appeared to be largely sporadic and is subject to
long stretches between the uploading of new content. Flickr perhaps repre-
sents an example of a social media tool that has been superseded by other
media that can better meet the unique needs of libraries. The rise of similar
social media tools, such as Pinterest, may diminish the future adoption of
Flickr by Ontario’s university libraries.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
The present study examined the adoption patterns and extent of usage of four
popular social media tools—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr—by
academic libraries located in the province of Ontario during three data col-
lection periods: April 2010, June 2011, and April 2012. Despite the popularity
of social media in North American society and particularly among univer-
sity students (Quan-Haase and Young 2010), the adoption of these tools by
Ontario university libraries remains largely slow in overall growth: About a
third of academic libraries in Ontario do not have any of the social media
applications included in the present study. Also, the rate of adoption for
these tools has largely plateaued since April 2010, with only three libraries
adding a social media presence between 2010 and 2011 and there being no
change between 2011 and 2012 (see Table 3). This suggests that the seven
Social Media in Academic Libraries 63
academic libraries that have yet to adopt a social media tool either do not
intend to adopt one, or are what Everett Rogers (2003, 284) would refer
to as “laggards,” or slow adopters. The majority of academic libraries that
have a limited or non-existent social media presence are located in northern
and eastern Ontario. There are several possible reasons for this divide in
adoption. Most notably, southwestern Ontario features a larger and denser
population, which can create more demand for social media than in other
areas of the province. Possible additional barriers to developing social media
services could include limited access to affordable and reliable wireless or
mobile services amongst patrons, difficulty delivering equal services in En-
glish and French in bilingual communities, or an inability to secure funding
for new technologies or training opportunities. Libraries may also be unable
to deliver these services due to frequent staff turnover, a lack of interest or
skills amongst library personnel, or a feeling of social media fatigue among
staff.
The comparison of the use of these four social media tools by Ontario
libraries revealed three important findings. First, at the time of this study,
Twitter and Facebook were the most widely adopted social media sites by
academic libraries in Ontario. Twitter’s popularity could be linked to its ease
of use coupled with its relatively low maintenance. Second, even though
Flickr was fairly popular in 2010, by 2012 it no longer seemed to play a
central role in Ontario academic libraries’ social media strategies. Since 2010,
no additional libraries had adopted Flickr. Additionally, academic libraries
maintaining Flickr accounts did not use them extensively. Third, YouTube
was only used by five academic libraries in Ontario. This finding is fairly
surprising considering the popularity of video among young people and its
potential as a tool to reach out to current and future patrons.
Taking a closer look at the low usage of YouTube among academic
libraries in Ontario is important. The libraries that have adopted YouTube
have reached a wide audience. For instance, McMaster’s videos had more
than 23,000 views in 2012, although the library had posted only 25 videos.
This suggests that a video post has a wider reach than any other static, textual-
based content, such as tweets or Facebook posts. Moreover, the findings are
in line with the work of Colburn and Haines (2012, 18), who indicated that
YouTube content has “a longer shelf life than prognostications about Internet
audiences’ need for ever-fresh content might lead one to believe, but still
speaks to the need to keep messages up-to-date and evolving over time.”
As mentioned previously, YouTube is a social media platform involving an
initial investment in the creation of content, but henceforth does not require
constant management or updating. This can be beneficial for small libraries
because staff may be unable to manage an account on a day-to-day basis. The
other benefit of YouTube content is that it engages users without requiring
them to add or like librarians or libraries (e.g., Facebook) or follow them
(e.g., Twitter). This evades overstepping pre-established social boundaries,
64 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
while providing current and future patrons with means to connect to the
library and its resources.
Despite its low-cost nature, social media may require the purchase and
licensing of additional software and necessitate additional training. This may
be one possible explanation for the lack of YouTube presence in many
academic libraries in Ontario, particularly if libraries have neither funding
for costly video-editing software nor staff who are either interested or qual-
ified in developing such services. However, providing more video-based
services is one area of potential expansion that could greatly assist in the
promotion of library services, resources, and research skills to a new gen-
eration of students who have grown up with social media and other digital
technologies.
Very few library Facebook pages offered either a method of searching
the catalog or audiovisual materials providing library instruction. This is
relevant considering that the vast majority of news items posted on library
Facebook walls concerned activities, events, and resources found in the
physical library setting rather than Web-based resources and services offered
by the library. This suggests that the focus of these social media resources
is primarily on the physical library rather than being a conduit for accessing
digital Web-based resources.
With the exception of Twitter, social media applications appear to be
more widely used by Ontario university libraries as a vehicle for supplying
information and not so much as a mode of social interaction. This con-
curs with previous findings by Linh (2008) and Kim and Abbas (2010) who
found that news-oriented platforms were more widely accepted by libraries,
because they allow libraries to maintain custodianship of information and
authority over user content. Facebook’s primary status as an interactive so-
cial space to virtually converse with friends in a non-academic setting, rather
than a news-delivery service, is one possible reason for Facebook’s moder-
ate popularity amongst Ontario university libraries. A secondary factor could
be connected to well-documented privacy issues related to the site (Martin
2012; Young and Quan-Haase 2013). Twitter, by contrast, seems to occupy
a niche space in the social media strategy of Ontario’s academic libraries
because it is used for direct communication and interaction with patrons.
Even though the multiplicity of social media sites represents an increasing
allocation of resources for academic libraries, each affords different kinds of
interaction and information provision (e.g., text, video, or visual). As a result,
academic libraries must integrate various social media tools to develop and
maintain successful social media profiles.
LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH
This study examined the adoption and usage patterns of academic libraries
located in the province of Ontario. This limits the generalizability of the
Social Media in Academic Libraries 65
findings for academic libraries located in other geographical areas. Future
research could expand the present findings by examining academic libraries
in other regions or libraries that represent varied cultural backgrounds or
languages, because past research has suggested that these factors lead to
considerable differences in social media adoption and usage patterns (Chua
and Goh 2010; Han and Liu 2009; Linh 2008). The present article provides
an overview of what social media applications Ontario libraries are adopting
and how these patterns are changing over time. As a result, the present
study lacks detailed information about why certain decisions were made at
each of the libraries. Future research could engage in ethnographic work
aimed at uncovering what factors affect specific decisions in the adoption
and usage of social media tools. Moreover, it was beyond the scope of
the present study to examine in more depth the content each library had
posted online, but future research could focus on material within Facebook
posts, tweets, Flickr pictures, and YouTube videos. During the study, more
than one institution restarted one of their existing social media channels by
deleting earlier content or opting for a brand new channel. As a result, the
ability to catalog such changes beyond the timeframe of this study was made
more difficult. In corroboration with previous research, this study found that
some library social media sites were at some points neglected or abandoned
for long periods of time. This observation calls for more research to examine
the reasons why this occurs.
Social media functions as a useful tool for libraries to reach out to
current and prospective patrons outside of the physical library setting.
Using social media can enable libraries to distribute information through
a medium many patrons are already familiar with. However, social me-
dia use by academic libraries requires content creators and distributors to
be diligent. Libraries must ensure the forms of social media they employ
and the subsequent content they produce are relevant to the interests and
information-based needs of their audience. Academic libraries must use so-
cial media in a manner that is not overly intrusive and acknowledge the
increasingly blurred boundaries between public and private space within
online spheres. Furthermore, as social media evolves and expands into new
forms, academic libraries would benefit from establishing guidelines for how
to connect with patrons, for administering and transitioning content up-
loaded to social media channels, and for maintaining up-to-date content and
information.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This article was supported by a Social Science and Humanities Research
Council (SSHRC) of Canada Insight Grant given to A. Quan-Haase (No.
R3603A13). A previous version of this article was presented as a poster at
the 2012 Meeting of the Association for Information Science and Technology
66 G. Collins and A. Quan-Haase
(ASIS&T). We would like to thank Andrew Nevin, two anonymous review-
ers, and Jody Condit Fagan (Editor, Journal of Web Librarianship) for their
insightful comments and expert feedback.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Gary Collins is a Liaison Librarian for Kinesiology and Psychology at the
University of Manitoba. His research interests are in emerging technologies
and digital divides in academic libraries.
Anabel Quan-Haase is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Information
and Media Studies and the Department of Sociology, Western University. Dr.
Quan-Haase holds a MSc in Psychology from Humboldt University, Berlin
and a PhD in Information Studies from the University of Toronto. Her inter-
ests lie in the area of technology and social change, with a particular focus
on social networks, social media, and scholarship. Her book Technology and
Society: Inequality, Power, and Social Networks was published in 2013 with
Oxford University Press.
NOTES
1. The concept of technological determinism has received considerable attention in the literature
on science and technology, as it questions general assumptions about how technology and society are
interrelated. For further reading, see Andrew Feenberg (1999).
2. The method of locating links or searching through the library Web site to find official materials
has been previously used by Chua and Goh (2010) and Linh (2008). Due to the nature of social media
as an outreach tool, this approach was expanded to include links to social media channels located on
existing social media.
3. No retweets were collected in 2010; therefore, these data are missing.
4. The number of views was not collected in the first data collection period and is therefore missing
from the chart.
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This chapter is on relevance of Web 2.0 for library services in digital era. Web 2.0 tools play crucial role in effective service delivery of librarians. The study covers awareness, utilization, benefits, and challenges that affect the use of Web 2.0 by librarians for effective service delivery. The concepts generally implied that Web 2.0 can be used by librarians as information acquisition tools to gather information from sources outside libraries (e.g., blogs and wikis), information dissemination tools (such as RSS feeds), information organization tools that facilitate storage and subsequent retrieval of information (social bookmarking and tagging), and information sharing tools that facilitate the bilateral flow of information between libraries and patrons (social networking and media sharing sites). This chapter examines the concept of digital libraries and highlights the major features of a digital library and how it can be used. The potentials of digital library are very crucial as means of access to knowledge and information that will facilitate development.
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As Facebook has come to dominate the social networking site arena, more libraries have created their own library pages on Facebook to create library awareness and to function as a marketing tool. This paper examines reported versus actual use of Facebook in libraries to identify discrepancies between intended goals and actual use. The results of a 2009 study about the use of Facebook in libraries are used as a guide to gauge the perceived and actual uses for Facebook in this study. Results of the test reveal that the two ranks are not statistically different, but that there is a noticeable difference when looking at the perceived and actual rankings qualitatively.
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Within a given conversation or information exchange, do privacy expectations change based on the technology used? Firms regularly require users, customers, and employees to shift existing relationships onto new information technology, yet little is known as about how technology impacts established privacy expectations and norms. Coworkers are asked to use new information technology, users of gmail are asked to use GoogleBuzz, patients and doctors are asked to record health records online, etc. Understanding how privacy expectations change, if at all, and the mechanisms by which such a variance is produced will help organizations make such transitions. This paper examines whether and how privacy expectations change based on the technological platform of an information exchange. The results suggest that privacy expectations are significantly distinct when the information exchange is located on a novel technology as compared to a more established technology. Furthermore, this difference is best explained when modeled by a shift in privacy expectations rather than fully technology-specific privacy norms. These results suggest that privacy expectations online are connected to privacy offline with a different base privacy expectation. Surprisingly, out of the five locations tested, respondents consistently assign information on email the greatest privacy protection. In addition, while undergraduate students differ from non-undergraduates when assessing a social networking site, no difference is found when judging an exchange on email. In sum, the findings suggest that novel technology may introduce temporary conceptual muddles rather than permanent privacy vacuums. The results reported here challenge conventional views about how privacy expectations differ online versus offline. Traditionally, management scholarship examines privacy online or with a specific new technology platform in isolation and without reference to the same information exchange offline. However, in the present study, individuals appear to have a shift in their privacy expectations but retain similar factors and their relative importance—the privacy equation by which they form judgments—across technologies. These findings suggest that privacy scholarship should make use of existing privacy norms within contexts when analyzing and studying privacy in a new technological platform.
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Several experts share their views on the concepts and tools behind Library 2.0 ensuring its improvement in the future. The UK academic librarian, who blogs at librarytwopoint-zero, deals with the 2010, post, 'Is Library 2.0 Dead?'. The post follows the closure of the Library 2.0 Ning and an apparent decrease in blog posts on the topic. Andy Woodworth offered 'Deconstructing Library 2.0' on Feb. 19, 2010, at Agnostic, Maybe that started a multipart conversation on his blog and elsewhere. He suggests that the definition was written before the rise of the current social media and Web 2.0 tools and websites. Peter Bromberg mentions that the principles of Library 2.0 includes transparency, using technology to extend services into social networking spheres, connecting with the customers where they are, helping customers connect and share with each other.
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How are college students using and communicating with online social networking? How can these technologies be utilized by libraries and librarians? A review of the literature provides current context of social networking sites, the usage and viability of related technologies in academic libraries, and the role of computer-mediated communication (CMC) in facilitating student learning. Data from a survey and focus group provide insight into how students are using MySpace and Facebook, two widely adopted social networking sites. Findings are discussed to consider appropriate implementations of MySpace/Facebook in a university library setting, specifically on the pedagogical and practical feasibility of integrating social software in library instruction, reference, and outreach.
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Web logs (blogs) and other Web 2.0 tools are becoming more popular as a means for academic libraries to communicate with their students. This article explores the medium and its use in marketing academic library services. The article also reports on a study of academic librarians currently using blogs. Librarians respond to questions about intended audience, statistics and other issues concerning marketing of blogs.
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Purpose – This paper aims to provide an overall picture of the application of Web 2.0 technologies in Australasian university libraries. The focus of the research was what types of Web 2.0 technologies were applied in such libraries as well as their purposes and features. Design/methodology/approach – Content analysis was used in terms of quantitative approach. A checklist as the main research instrument was developed based on other checklists and questionnaires, and synthesized ideas from literature. Data were collected by accessing all Australasian university library web sites within two weeks. Then, Microsoft Excel was utilized as a main tool to synthesize and analyze data, and present results. Findings – At least two-thirds of Australasian university libraries deployed one or more Web 2.0 technologies. Only four Web 2.0 technologies were used for specific purposes and with some basic features. The general Web 2.0 application indexes were still low as the mean application index was 12 points and the highest index was 37 points (out of 100). Research limitations/implications – A combination of content analysis with survey and/or interview may enable future researchers to analyze other aspects (e.g. the application of internal wikis or the use of instant messaging for reference services) of Web 2.0 that a single method of content analysis could not gain. Originality/value – This unique study explores the application of Web 2.0 in a wide scope including any Australasian university libraries that deployed any types of Web 2.0 technologies. This study is useful for Australasian university libraries in evaluating/deploying Web 2.0. Library managers, librarians and other university libraries may also find this helpful once they want to implement such technologies in their libraries.
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to offer some insight into changes that are occurring in the expectations and behaviour of researchers seeking scholarly information and the ways in which libraries and vendors are addressing these changes in light of the availability of Web 2.0 technologies. Design/methodology/approach – The paper investigates current trends in information seeking, defines and describes factors that contribute to an up-to-date, user-centric library experience, and examines the movement of vendors and libraries toward such a library experience. Findings – The paper identifies aspects of new library interfaces that attempt to satisfy the needs of today's information seekers and describes a new approach for creating a user experience layer for library collections. The Primo® discovery and delivery system from Ex Libris serves as an example of a library interface that was designed in light of this new approach. Originality/value – As more organisations become concerned about the decreasing use of their library collections, this paper suggests ways in which libraries can adapt to the changing user expectations and maintain the relevance of their collections and services for today's information seekers.