Revisiting libraries on Facebook

Posted on 17 February 2010 at 10:13 pm in Musings.

Last week David Lee King wrote an excellent blog post on academic libraries and Facebook, and it forced me to rethink some of the assumptions I made a year ago in a blog post on the same subject. At that time, I felt that Facebook was far more useful for networking with other professionals and staying in touch than it was for institutions, but some of the newer features on Facebook have really changed the landscape.

The single biggest change as far as institutions are concerned is that Fanpages can now post updates and have them automatically appear in the Newsfeed of their fans. This was implemented in the spring of 2009 and it allows libraries to create a far more active relationship with their fans. This simple but key difference means that instead of the user needing to visit and revisit the fan page in order to interact with the library, all they have to do is sign up as a fan and the news will come to them. Instead of fans having to post on the wall of the fanpage, they can post comments right on each update, creating a dialog.

That is, as long as the library remembers to post news. And that was the biggest element of King’s post. If libraries want to gain fans and have relevant fanpages, they can’t just set up a page and walk away. They need to keep a frequent stream of updates relevant to their institution, invite their fans to events using Facebook’s Event feature, and add photos and videos, much like an individual uses their personal Facebook page.

I can imagine a few groans now. Who has the time to keep posting these things on Facebook when the library is busy and (likely) understaffed? Well, it’s worth remembering that the library is already creating all this content. It already hosts events. It already publishes guides and pathfinders to its website. Perhaps it already has a blog. All of these things can be fed through Facebook updates with just a few clicks. If the library also has a Twitter feed, the tweets can be linked to the fanpage account and be posted simultaneously in both places.

I’d like to add one point to King’s. Ultimately, a library (or any institutional fanpage) will be most successful if they spread the responsibility between staffmembers. I heard this from two different colleagues in the last week — one my former Technology Tools professor, and the other a former SLIS classmate — and the reasons why are pretty obvious. If only one person is keeping the Facebook page going, any time they go on vacation or get too busy the Facebook page withers away. Instead, if several people are involved it is easier to maintain momentum and vary the content.

Does anyone know of any particularly good library Facebook pages to recommend?

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1 Comment

  1. Comment by Carolyn on February 23, 2010 at 11:08 am.

    While I follow some libraries like UC Irvine (wow are they active!), I find the most interesting Facebook page to be JSTOR’s that has worldwide action and seems to be a resource individuals turn to when individual institutions don’t always fit the bill. The built-in JSTOR search in Facebook doesn’t hurt either. As another comparison, Project Muse’s Twitter updates of new research publications, journal topics, etc is fun to review.

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