Facebook and Updating the Stereotypical Librarian Image

May 25, 2006 at 4:21 pm 2 comments

I hope everyone enjoyed our hosting of the Carnival of Infosciences and the post a few days ago–special thanks to Janie Hermann for running the show on this for Library Garden. Submitting to the Carnival was fun, although I probably should have limited myself to just one or two of the best posts, but there was so much good “stuff” out there to talk about.

One topic I just loved reading about deals with networking with our students online. I promised in an earlier post that I would come back to this, and today is specifically about Facebook (the summer session is starting at Rider University and some of the students are already communicating with me, even only in quick questions or just in “pokes.”) One of my colleagues at Rider, our fairly new business librarian Diane Campbell, was talking to me about connecting better with our freshmen and graduate business students. We were brainstorming on bringing the library to them, promoting our resources and services. So, I mentioned Facebook, which seems to be pretty hot at Rider. OK, if you don’t know what I am talking about, you must read Brian Mathews’ “Do You Facebook?” article from the just-picked-it-up-from-my-mailbox May 2006 issue of C&RL News (page 306-7). I really appreciated Brian’s take on using Facebook at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Here are some highlights from the beginning of the article for those interested in proactively promoting the library and/or your subject specialty area:

During my time on the reference desk, I discovered many gaps in students’ familiarity with the library. Could the popularity of Facebook be used as a marketing tool? I started by searching within the Georgia Institute of Technology directory on Facebook for the keyword “library” and discovered Sleeping in the Library, a community group whose members share their favorite locations to take a nap. Next I searched globally and found that a handful of other libraries had created profiles.

We all need to see if we have sleeping communities where we work!

Reading further into this “Reaching out” section, Brian mentions that he wanted to be “proactive” but to appear as himself, “rather than a faceless organization.” I totally agree with him on this point. I understand the desire to create a Facebook library community to “push” out information to our students, and I will probably do that, but for now, interacting with our students in this natural environment as a professor-librarian seems to work well.

Anyway, Brian briefly talks about his “plan,” the “payoff” of immediate responses after setting up his account and delivering some messages and photos, and the future of his use of Facebook to reach out to their students at Georgia Institute of Technology.

By using online social networks, librarians can increase campus visibility and update the stereotypical image, but, most importantly, we can let students know what the library is really all about.

Nice job on that, Brian!


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  • 1. Karen@bbpl  |  May 25, 2006 at 6:27 pm

    This reminds me that I wanted to do an update on my earlier post on Myspace (thanks Robert!!). Since posting, I’ve had more students add the Library as a “friend” and even start conversations with me through IM chat clients.
    All these social networking sites really offer an opportunity to reach out to those “sleeping” communities who might not have any other contact with the library. If we have a presence in new and unexpected places, we can bring new people into our libraries.

  • 2. Brian Mathews  |  May 25, 2006 at 6:35 pm

    Glad you liked the article.

    A nice FB feature is that you can target by class. So I intend to send all my freshmen (mech eng & comp sci) a casual message in the Fall.

    You can also join a class– so for example, if you know they have a research assignment, use that as a way reach out to them. I help students in a design class find patents etc.

    Let me know if you have questions about FB or just want to talk it further… I like to hear how others are using it.

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