Monday, December 12, 2011

Biggest Issues on Social Media Faced by Librarians

12 December 2011 :

Prepared by Lisa Surihani Aziz (Senior Librarian/Head, Automation Division) 

Bloggers, what I would like to share today? What is the hot issue? Oh ya, social media using Web 2.0 technologies is a phenomenon in today’s world right?? If we were to just walk around, we would see how many of people are looking at social media especially Facebook, twitter, blogs, chat and Youtube. However, there are several biggest issues faced by librarians personally and professionally need to think.


One of the issues is not all librarians are ready to employ Web 2.0 applications. Some of them do not ‘believe in’ or ‘are fearful of’ using these online tools (Rogers, 2009). The most common reason associated with librarians’ inability to accept and use social media tools are lack of interest, skills, knowledge; lack of understanding of Web 2.0 or social media; and fear of change and fear with technology. Some of the libraries want to increase the use of social media, but the issues is having know one who knows enough about them to implement them. So to make librarians are ready and confident to employ social media such as blogs, Facebook, Youtube, twitter and second life for the library are through education, training, use of successful examples and make them understand of these technologies. These may be can change their minds and they begin slowly implement with all these online tools.

In addition, privacy is a concern as well. For example, the librarians cannot completely control or make it private their answers, message, comments, response and content to the library users through social media. Once they on the social media, everybody can see and access. This is because they are ‘servicing’ and ‘satisficing’ not only the library users, but also the Google community. Besides that, Librarians’ behaviour and content is not only a reflection of themselves but also of to the Library. Librarians must know what they should do and should not do. That means, librarians don’t share secrets, bad mouth, complain, do stupid things, defame and so on through social media. Librarians need also to think about privacy, confidentiality, permission to use other people’s content and show everyone respect.


Having a social media presence is a commitment. Keeping up with the information, constant communication with friends and followers and maintain the quality of social media, so that it always consistent and up-to-date are an issue faced by librarians. These are because a staff and time constraint. The librarians busy are doing their daily duties such as cataloguing, acquisition, reference services, user education programs, etc. and they don’t have a quality time to give their commitments or to do an effective job with these social media. Some of the libraries are understaffed and they don’t have a lot of time to really devote to the development of these social media. Proper library planning and investigating the staff time necessary to participate in theses social media are required for the better future of library services.

Another issue is not every library will benefit from the same social media tools. Librarians need to experiment to see what works for their library and make a library planning based on their users needs. Before plan anything, every Web 2.0 tool needs to go through an evaluation process before it is used in the library. Librarian who is involved in the social media strategy must clearly understand the role and goals of this initiative. There is nothing worse than joining a social network with no purpose, plan or a way to measure what we are doing.

Be serious on planning library strategy using social media. It would be useful if library social media provided information on rights and limitation of library users. For example, if the libraries provide reference chat service, IM or Facebook, the libraries need also to provide a users’ guide that contained information on different issues such as who can use the chat service, types of valid questions, how to create a new entry, how to reply/make a comment to library Facebook, what they’re allowed to say or respond, how to configure chat programs as well as technical support information, and provide solutions for potential technical issues. Not all library users could be familiar with such issues, especially new users. In addition, with this social media, librarians are also sometimes difficult to sort out ‘official’ library use from sanctioned-but-independent use (Rogers, 2009). This is where a social media policy and guidelines come in. The way by making sure everyone who is involved in library’s efforts understands what to do. A specific measurement to measure the social media effectiveness is also required, so that the library’s mission can be achieved.

With this development of social media in the libraries, the role of librarians has also changed. Librarians not only become a cataloguer, information provider, knowledge manager, or information consultant, they are now become a knowledge engineer or information gatekeeper. In this regard, librarians in the today’s world require new skills, knowledge, abilities and competencies to adapt this kind of technologies especially knowledge and skills in web 2.0 applications. We also can refer “Competencies for information professionals of the 21st Century” guidelines developed by the Special Library Association for library staff development and continuing education purposes. This is because without clear guidelines on competencies, a library profession is likely to get lost when marching toward an increasingly dynamic future (Luo, 2007).

Overall, it can be believed that social media and Web 2.0 have proven to be of great use for online communities and sharing online information and resources. They are not only helping communicate a libraries’ message to current and potential customers, but also demonstrates their popularity and impact. From this development, librarians easily can build their own social media authority which may give a good influence on their profession. However, there are two concerns about the library users’ and librarians’ attitude. With this social media, the library users reluctant to come to the library. If this continues, in the not-to-distant future some library users will arrive at universities with no concept of what a library is, or what a library does. While, librarians are becoming heavily reliant on social media, incapable of communication, lose contact with reality, lose their relationships with other people and no real life experience. So, we need to be working together and not undermining the traditional work we still do, that is still overwhelmingly appreciated by the people we serve. Traditional methods are still used because we’re able to reach an extremely wide audience, regardless of their technological skills and they are still relevant. There can be a balance to using new technology to promote, support and enhance traditional, as well as new, programming and resources.


Luo, L. (2007). Chat reference competencies: identification from a literature review and
librarian interviews. Reference Services Review, 35(2), 195-209.
Retrieved November 15, 2011, from Emerald Database.      
libraries. Library Hi Tech, 26(4), 630-653. Retrieved November 13, 2011,
from Emerald Database.
Nielsen. (2011). Nielsen: social media report: Q3 2011. Message posted to
Rogers, C. R. (2009). Social media, libraries, and Web 2.0: how American libraries are using
new tools for public relations and to attract new users. Paper presented at Germany
Library Association Annual Conference. Retrieved November 7, 2011, from


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