Social media is very popular in Singapore. A high percentage of the 5 million inhabitants have Facebook accounts and use smartphones daily, particularly the younger generation in our schools and universities. Due to this huge social media following, our library at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) must have a presence there. If we want to influence our users, we need to be on the same playing field.
One obvious reason for our active involvement in social media is that it provides additional outreach channels. Also, many social media tools have features and capabilities with the potential to develop new or improved ways of delivering information services. Lastly, just as librarians try to engage with the new generation of users through social media, others including professors and administrators are eager to do the same. Our library could provide support and help them to engage with their student clients.
Entering the blogosphere
In NTU Library, we experimented with an internal staff blog in 2006 to get library staff to use a common social media platform, and then set up our Facebook page. Originally, we used our blogs as the foundation for other social media tools. In early 2010, we took advantage of a university project to “create a cool campus” to propose a campus-wide blogging support platform called blogs@NTU. This program is driven by the library, with a cross-departmental team comprising staff from computer support and e-learning, to coordinate the development of blogs on campus. Examples of the university community using blogs with our support include a Nanyang MBA blog for the Business School, blogs for a number of academic courses, an alumni blog to connect with graduates, and library blogs for subject guides and marketing resources and services.
We also set up a mobile information service in early 2011 to allow users with smartphones and portable devices to access library services such as the catalog, our web-scale discovery tool, the facilities booking system, reserved book lists, and some mobile-friendly e-resources. In addition, we utilized mashups of our existing library blogs and RSS feeds, such as subject guides and marketing blogs, to provide regularly refreshed content for mobile devices. With more users carrying smartphones in their pockets or handbags, it is important for us to deliver content in readable and convenient formats to move toward an anywhere, anytime service scenario. This is an area where publishers could do much to provide content formatting options that make full use of the ubiquity of mobile devices.
Making “friends” on Facebook
Practically every organization today has a Facebook page. About two years after setting up our page, our use falls roughly into four categories:
- Publicizing events and news
- Facilitating transactions and interaction
- Building community with our users
- Creating awareness of library resources, tools and services
The last item is particularly important as we continually try to lead people who visit us on Facebook to our library resources and services. Typically, we might highlight a current topic of interest, e.g., news about the release of the movie on Aung San Suu Kyi, and then provide a short list of links to related library resources.
Moving beyond outreach to service delivery
It is clear that social media is important to library work. Although most of the uses focus on outreach and marketing, social media tools also have strong potential for delivering new and existing services. For instance, we are working with a school to explore the use of social media as an e-portfolio system for students. It is therefore important that we develop a coherent strategy to improve, manage and deploy social media tools and channels. We set up the New Media Group late last year to coordinate this effort. The role of the group is to:
- Set strategies and policies
- Explore new developments n Introduce tools and capabilities
- Coordinate deployment
- Set up workflow and procedures
- Provide staff training and advice
We plan to implement the strategy with a whole-of-organization approach, where every librarian uses social media tools in their work. The social media environment is increasingly a place for conversation and virtual interaction, and every librarian needs to be in this space to be effective.