Social media seems to me to be a natural tool for librarians to use. At its crux, librarianship is about connecting people with the information they need and the tools they need to use it. Since a tremendous majority of Americans are connected to the internet and engage in social media on one platform or another it is clear that librarians need to be prepared to use those same tools.
The ways that librarians use them will vary from institution to institution. For public libraries social media is a great way for them to announce programs and services, answer simple questions, and generally share the mission of the library. Academic libraries can use social media to reach out to students to let them know what resources are available, what their hours are and when they might change (especially around finals), and connect with other parts of the library and school communities.
At private, closed research libraries like my own, there are very few opportunities for the public to see what we are doing and what kind of treasures we hold. The Huntington has a social media coordinator who runs all of our social media accounts, and she is able to offer people a view behind the scenes, with weekly picks by staff members. The major drawback of the Huntington’s social media strategy is that the Communications department maintains a very tight grip on what can be posted and who can post it. Through the major grant project that I have been working on in the past year, we have launched a crowdsourcing site with Zooniverse, and it was a delicate maneuver to convince Communications that we should have independent Twitter and Instagram, rather than piggybacking on the Huntington’s accounts. In the end we were able to explain that we weren’t just looking to promote the project, but to actively engage with the public and users of the site.
The lectures for this class and the associated reading that I have done prepared me for the role of social media coordinator for the crowdsourcing project by forcing me to think more deeply about the process. I needed to decide what my goals were in using these accounts and how I should interact with others. With my personal Instagram account I like and follow all kinds of people, some more political or controversial in nature. For the project account I am more discerning in the statements that I make and the people I interact with. This class, combined with the experience that I have gained while working on this project, makes me feel confident about including social media knowledge on my resume, and perhaps even on my LinkedIn page.