“Okay, this is just too weird”: Identifying outreach opportunities in Facebook


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The tremendous popularity of social networking sites like Facebook presents libraries with unique opportunities for reaching students. What many organizations fail to realize, however, is that the presence of professors, librarians, or parents in this social space is often perceived as intrusive, unwelcome, or just plain "weird". Researchers at a small university library decided to take a step back and ask a critical question: what do our students really want? That is, how do our students really use Facebook, and what part can the library play in this social environment? The library literature provides some insights; many of these recommendations, however, are from the perspective of librarians and do not reflect students' expectations, experiences, or preferences. Researchers conducted a mixed methods study of students' use of Facebook, focusing on the intersection of students' academic and social lives in this platform. Results indicated that students are uncertain about the library and librarians using Facebook, but are willing to consider accessing the library through this platform in the right circumstances. By listening to students' concerns and identifying standards for interaction, the researchers made recommendations for restructuring the library's Facebook initiatives. This panel will offer an overview of this study and its implications for library outreach efforts in Facebook. This panel will explore the conflict between the literature's best practices and students' expectations for library behavior in Facebook. A discussion of the library's experiences in implementing and refining its Facebook campaign will facilitate a broader consideration of the opportunities social networking sites present for libraries.

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  • Let’s see a show of hands. How many of you are members of Facebook? How many of you have connected with coworkers through Facebook? Family members? Long-lost friends or classmates? What about patrons? Is your library currently using Facebook? (introductions) We’re here to talk to you today about our library’s experience with Facebook. In the next hour, we’ll give you a sense of what libraries are currently doing with Facebook – and what students really think about it based on our research. We’ll make recommendations and suggestions that you can take back to your library based on this research – and we’ll leave plenty of time for questions at the end.
  • “Okay, this is just too weird”: Identifying outreach opportunities in Facebook

    1. 1. “ Okay, This is Just Too Weird” Identifying Outreach Opportunities in Facebook David Bietila Elizabeth Edwards The George Washington University
    2. 2. Facebook: What is It? <ul><li>A social networking site </li></ul><ul><li>A community of more than 90 million active users </li></ul><ul><li>A development platform </li></ul><ul><li>“ A social utility that connects you with the people around you.” </li></ul>
    3. 3. Facebook: Why Should I Care? <ul><li>As of 2006, 55% of all teens who use social networking sites have used Facebook or MySpace, and 48% visit daily or more often. </li></ul><ul><li>“ The fastest growing demographic is those 25 years and older.” </li></ul><ul><li>One of those “trends of our users that we just can't ignore” </li></ul>
    4. 4. Creating this Study <ul><li>Who we are </li></ul><ul><li>Our background with Facebook </li></ul><ul><li>Formulating research questions </li></ul><ul><li>Crafting a methodology </li></ul>
    5. 5. Our Library <ul><li>System of three libraries </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Major social hub for students on campus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Typical weekly gate counts of over 37,000 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Collections </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Over 2 million items </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research collections in: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Washingtoniana, Judaica, journalism, labor history, Asian studies, Eastern European studies </li></ul></ul></ul>
    6. 6. Our Students <ul><li>GWU </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Private </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Urban campus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>4 blocks from the White House </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>High tuition </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>10,800 undergrads </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>13,700 grad </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>4,000 off-campus </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Large % of Int’l students </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Strong programs in: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>International Affairs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communications </li></ul></ul>
    7. 7. Existing Services <ul><li>IM </li></ul><ul><li>Email </li></ul><ul><li>Web </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning Modules </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Our Usage of Facebook <ul><li>At the time of this study (Fall '07) Reference staff had just completed &quot;The Librarian is Your Friend&quot; campaign </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most library instruction is done in conjunction with our freshman writing program </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Those students, in particular, were encouraged to friend the librarian liaison working with their section </li></ul></ul>
    9. 9. Our Usage of Facebook <ul><li>About half of the reference staff had individual profiles on Facebook </li></ul><ul><li>Despite the profiles and the campaign, no student had yet friended a librarian </li></ul>
    10. 10. Research Questions <ul><li>We had just completed an anthropological study on the use of space in the library </li></ul><ul><ul><li>This study demonstrated the social dimensions of space in the library </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How research is mediated by institutional practices </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We intended to do a study of the social aspects of technology use in the library </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Saw Facebook as a focused topic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Addressed an immediate issue at our library </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tied into broader concerns in the profession about social media in libraries </li></ul></ul>
    11. 11. Research Questions <ul><li>What role does technology play in our students' study habits? </li></ul><ul><li>What role does Facebook play in our students' lives, in general? </li></ul><ul><li>How can the library use Facebook to connect with GW students? </li></ul>
    12. 12. Ethnography <ul><li>Ethnographic methods suited to find social structures and rules in this environment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seeks to identify meanings of observed behavior </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Meaning are not always directly articulated </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Survey data supplemented by informal interviews, focused “hanging out” </li></ul></ul>
    13. 13. Researchers <ul><li>Research Team </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Two librarians </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recent anthropology graduate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Did thesis on Facebook </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Conducted all of our interviews </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>As non-librarian, was able to get less biased answers </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Collaborated with us to draft questions, and interpret results </li></ul></ul></ul>
    14. 14. Methodology <ul><li>Methodology contained three segments </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Review of librarian profiles </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Observation of student activity on Facebook </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Survey of GW students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interviews with Facebook users at GW </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Questions crafted based on findings from the survey </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Casual, but in-depth </li></ul></ul></ul>
    15. 15. Survey Questions
    16. 16. Survey Questions
    17. 17. Interview Questions <ul><li>How does Facebook as a recreational practice impact your study habits and academic life? </li></ul><ul><li>What sort of information would you expect/want to find on a librarian’s profile page (social or practical)? </li></ul><ul><li>How would you feel if a librarian “friended” you? Under what circumstances would you feel comfortable “friending” a librarian or accepting a librarian’s friend request? </li></ul>
    18. 18. Students and Facebook Literature versus Reality
    19. 19. Home is where the Students Are <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>Students use university websites, including course management systems, the library’s website, and other student portals, when they have to - but spend time on Facebook because they want to. </li></ul>
    20. 20. Home is where the Students Are <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    21. 21. Home is where the Students Are <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    22. 22. Students and Relationships <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>“Students use Facebook primarily to maintain existing offline relationships or to solidify what would otherwise be ephemeral, temporary acquaintanceships.” </li></ul>
    23. 23. Students and Relationships <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    24. 24. Social and/or Academic? <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>“When asked if Facebook serves any academic purpose, 54% of [librarians] surveyed indicated that it does not.” </li></ul>
    25. 25. Social and/or Academic? <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    26. 26. Social and/or Academic? <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    27. 27. Social and/or Academic? <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul><ul><li>“Facebook breaks” are seen as a reward for (or distraction from) studying. </li></ul>
    28. 28. Social and/or Academic? <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    29. 29. Figures of Authority <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>Students recognize that it is easier to communicate with professors electronically – but they are hesitant to do so for a variety of reasons. </li></ul><ul><li>Students aren’t really interested in communicating with the library through Facebook or other social networking sites. </li></ul>
    30. 30. Figures of Authority <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    31. 31. Figures of Authority <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    32. 32. Librarians and Facebook Literature versus Reality
    33. 33. Profiles <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>“The purpose of the profile is to let students know what their librarians do…so that they might begin to identify their librarians as approachable individuals.” </li></ul>
    34. 34. Profiles <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul>
    35. 35. “ Friending” <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>Be proactive about contacting students. </li></ul><ul><li>“Friend all of the student workers at your library. This will make you more visible to them and their Friends.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Friend new students at your fall welcome festival by making a laptop available or by taking names on a sheet of paper. ” </li></ul>
    36. 36. “ Friending” <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul><ul><li>When asked how they would respond if a librarian “friended” them, most participants expressed varying degrees of discomfort. </li></ul>
    37. 37. Ideally… <ul><li>The literature told us… </li></ul><ul><li>“We might envision librarians in a Facebook repartee with students, answering late night questions ranging from trivia to last-minute, paper-due-in-the-morning information emergencies.” </li></ul><ul><li>“Librarians can effectively use Facebook to reach out to students to ‘be where they are.’” </li></ul>
    38. 38. In Reality… <ul><li>Students said… </li></ul><ul><li>“Just please don't start Poking us kids.” </li></ul>
    39. 39. Recommendations
    40. 40. Central Pages <ul><li>We recommend creating an institutional, formal-looking library fan page that students and librarians alike can join. </li></ul>
    41. 41. Profiles <ul><li>Personal/Professional Balance </li></ul><ul><li>Subject Expertise </li></ul><ul><li>Include Picture </li></ul>
    42. 42. Friending <ul><li>Students are much more likely to friend librarians if they interact with them in-person. Use research appointments and reference desk interactions as resources for building Facebook relationships. </li></ul>
    43. 43. Applications <ul><li>Many students said they were inclined to use Facebook’s library applications. </li></ul>
    44. 44. Suggest Books <ul><li>A book recommendation application on librarians' profiles appeals to many students </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Occupies a middle ground between professional and personal spheres </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fits into students’ common expectations about librarians </li></ul></ul>The Books IRead application
    45. 45. Advertise! <ul><li>Many students are unaware that librarians are on Facebook </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Most students who were aware of the program at Gelman had seen signs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Successful ads will play on tropes and distinctions meaningful to students </li></ul></ul>
    46. 46. Avoiding Facebook Faux Pas <ul><li>How to use… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The wall </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Notes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Messages </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Poking </li></ul></ul>
    47. 47. Research <ul><li>Talk to your patrons </li></ul><ul><li>Your own research will have the most applicability for you </li></ul>
    48. 48. Epilogue - Up to the present… <ul><li>Our research was done at a particular moment, while Facebook continues to change </li></ul><ul><li>Changes in Facebook </li></ul><ul><ul><li>New interfaces for web and iPhone </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Changing demographics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Teens and 25-34 range users growing quickly, though 17-25 users are still the preponderance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Greater commercial saturation of Facebook </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Marketing tactics for use of Facebook have been codified </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>More outside organizations making themselves known </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Dynamic environment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>May become more friendly to librarian involvement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Libraries may be able to make their presence the norm </li></ul></ul>
    49. 49. Additional Resources <ul><li>Facebook Apps for Librarians </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2469777131 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Gelman Fan Page </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-DC/Gelman-Library/10557079749 </li></ul></ul>
    50. 50. Thank you <ul><li>David Bietila </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>Elizabeth Edwards </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>or find us on Facebook! </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.facebook.com/pages/Washington-DC/Gelman-Library/10557079749 </li></ul>