Social Networking in Libraries: Do Students want Librarians in Their Turf?
Jenny Emanuel, University of Central Missouri

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Focus group results indicated that students use social networking sites as their
personal home page and link out from ther...
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Social Networking in Libraries: Do Students want Librarians in Their Turf?

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Poster text for 2007 ACRL Conference

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Social Networking in Libraries: Do Students want Librarians in Their Turf?

  1. 1. Social Networking in Libraries: Do Students want Librarians in Their Turf? Jenny Emanuel, University of Central Missouri For several years, academic librarians have discussed creating library social networks in various popular websites in order to reach students in a new media. However, as a younger librarian, I had to ask whether or not students actually wanted to have librarians in their social networks. These websites, including Facebook and Myspace, have become the social spheres for today’s college student, but should libraries have a part within them? As a librarian between generations X and Y, I did not think that librarians should use social networking to interact with students. Social networking is not a place for academic activity; it is purely social and students do not want school to be a part of it. Method In the fall of 2006, a survey, created using SurveyMonkey online software, was posted to the University of Central Missouri library website (http://library.cmsu.edu). The five question survey was designed to quickly gauge how students use social networks and whether or not they would be interested in adding a librarian to their network. In two weeks, 50 valid responses were collected and to participate, the respondents had to be a UCM student. Additionally, a focus group was held with 12 students in a Freshman Seminar class. From this group, anecdotal data was gathered that supported the results of the survey. Results Fully 80% of respondents had social networking accounts, which is actually less than expected and shows that there are still students who are not interacting this way. Students have accounts in the following social networks: Facebook (85%), MySpace (78%), Friendster, LiveJournal, HI5, Xanga. Only 34% of students would add a librarian as a friend; 18% would not; and 48% indicated a maybe. When asked what library information students may be interested in receiving through a social network, results varied. 68% wanted links to resources in their major; 63% wanted to ask a librarian a question; 62% wanted to search for library materials; and 59% wanted links to other library resources. 15% indicated that they did not want any linked content and there were no other information types specified.
  2. 2. Focus group results indicated that students use social networking sites as their personal home page and link out from there to everything they use online. However, they did not want those in authority to be able to see their party pictures and know personal details. Conclusions This study provided mixed results on what role student want librarians to have in social networks. There definitely is a group that wants some unobtrusive library information, but there is also a group that does not want an authority figure in their network. I recommend that libraries become familiar with social networks and how their students are using them. It is fine for a librarian to have a presence in a network—just give the students the option of adding you to their friends list. It is not the role of the librarian to make friends among students, and it is important to maintain the hierarchical relationship between the two.

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