Protypical Academic Library (PAL) - social media needs assessment
Prototypical Academic Library
Prototypical Academic Library (PAL)
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PAL social media committee:
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The Prototypical Academic Library (PAL) has a collection of over 35,000 print books,
200 journal, magazine, and newspaper subscriptions, 500 music CDs, 1,500 popular and
educational films on DVD and 450 databases available to approximately 14,000 students, staff,
and faculty. The Prototypical Academic Library (PAL) consists of one campus, offers traditional
and distance learning environments, and prides itself on meeting students’ educational and
learning needs. Recently, library staff has been faced with some barriers to information literacy
in the digital age as few have developed technological skills or experience using social media
and Web 2.0 tools. In order to remain relevant, useful and an integral point in student and
faculty’s core functions, the PAL must find new ways to train their staff to meet the needs and
connect with its users in the physical and virtual environments.
To gauge the feelings, comfort levels and knowledge of staff regarding social media, the
decision was to conduct a survey. The survey was designed to gather a rough idea of the feelings
and skill-set about social media. It was determined that a new training program encompassing
some of the more popular social media tools would be developed for the library staff. The
training program was not designed to target a specific group; therefore, the survey is a cursory
examination of staff’s general knowledge, use and comfort level with social media in general,
with some sections focusing on specific tools. The survey is designed to gauge staff interest level
in a social media training plan and whether they believe that the use of social media will help the
library connect with students.
The online survey was created using the free tool SurveyMonkey
(http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FCLJ66S%. All PAL staff were invited to participate in the
survey, and a 95% response rate was achieved. The results indicated that in both their personal
and professional lives staff did not use many social media tools, however, they were familiar
with some of them. Social Networking Sites (SNSs) were the most common type of social media
used, with 55% of respondents indicating that they have used an SNS within the past month. No
staff members indicated they used wikis or social bookmarking tools on a regular basis, and the
staff responded that in their professional life, 40% used blogs.
Overall, the results of the survey indicated the majority of staff have basic or introductory
levels of knowledge about social media but do not feel comfortable using the tools. When asked
about how much knowledge they had about social media 25% indicated they knew a fair amount
to a lot about social media tools and 10% said they did not have any knowledge at all. Twenty-
five (25%) of respondents said they did not have a high level of knowledge about social media
but they do recognize some of the tools. The most significant response was that 40% feels they
know something about social media and its tools. Staff felt they had the most knowledge about
SNSs, blogs and media-sharing.
With regard to comfort level using social media, the results were similar. Ten (10%) of
staff indicated they do not use social media and are not comfortable with tools. Thirty (30%)
indicated they use 3-5 types of tools and are comfortable using specific tools. 45% of staff
responded that they use only 1 or 2 types of tools, but are comfortable using those tools. Staff felt
the most comfortable using SNSs and media sharing and the least comfortable using social
bookmarking and micro-blogging tools.
Eighty-three (83%) of staff indicated that they would like to see a social media training
program, and would use a training manual at the PAL. Staff indicated, however, that they would
prefer an online training program with several in-person meetings. The staff responded that they
were most interested in learning about blogs, media sharing, bookmarking wikis, and instant
messaging. The survey showed that library staff feels the use of social media would enhance the
relationship between the library and users. Seventy-four (74%) feel that social media might be
very or extremely successful in enhancing library/user relations. Only 16% feel that social media
would not be successful or only minimally.
After completing the survey, staff participated in departmental focus groups on social
media, tools and expressing their comfort levels. Department heads communicated the results to
one another in a meeting. The discussion from this meeting reflected the results obtained from
the survey which indicated many that library staff felt unprepared for advances in social media
technologies; they did not have high levels of knowledge about social media tools or how to use
them, were concerned about the pace of technological growth and older staff felt they had less
experience using social media tools. Finally, some staff were not sure these tools would be useful
in connecting with patrons. Many staff communicated a desire to learn more about social media
because they felt it may help improve the library’s relationship with its users, but the staff felt
overwhelmed by trying to learn how to use social media on their own. Overall, department heads
felt that staff were interested in learning about social media and needed to receive a professional
development training program to help them gain more familiarity and comfort with it.
Developing a social media training program
After analyzing the steps taken by other post-secondary institutions to introduce social
media and Web 2.0 technologies to libraries and classrooms around the world, it was decided
that a social media handbook and a social media training program for library staff would reflect
both the trends in the field and the needs of the PAL. A social media implementation and training
committee (SMITC) was formed comprised of librarians, library technicians, faculty and staff
who volunteered to participate in the project.
The SMITC examined other universities, colleges, schools, and public libraries’ usage of
social media tools, and decided which tools would be used for both external and internal use.
Some tools might be beneficial for communicating and connecting with staff internally, while
others for connecting with students and faculty externally. Training modules were discussed by
taking into account the tools used by other institutions, the value for internal and external use, the
ease of use for staff and the knowledge of those teaching the courses.
In the social media handbook, eight modules were created to introduce social media tools
and technologies to staff such as blogs, instant messaging, media-sharing, micro-blogging, social
bookmarking/cataloguing, SNSs and wikis. Each module will have an overview of what the tool
is, how it functions, how the user interacts with it and a basic ‘how to get started’ lesson.
Examples of how other libraries are using the tool will be provided, as well as an informative
video to provide alternate learning styles for individuals. The training plan can be used with the
PowerPoint for more examples. One module will be presented each week for library staff, with
the educational series lasting 8 weeks. Library staff familiar with some tools but not others will
be able to sign-up for specific topics during certain weeks. Training sessions will last two to
three hours in length, and will occur in an asynchronous virtual or online environment. Training
for each module will be provided by those staff specializing or comfortable with each topic. The
Digital Services Librarian, Reference Librarian and Systems Librarian will be in charge of
instructional lessons, and will work closely with two library technicians and other staff on the
SMITC to create module presentation materials.
At the end of each 8-week cycle members who participated in each module will be given
the opportunity to fill out a survey and provide feedback about the modules. This survey will be
available via SurveyMonkey.com and also by paper; it will consist of five basic questions about
whether the learning objectives were met. Questions will include whether library staff learned
new skills and opportunities for learners to provide comments and suggestions for improvement.
As our program develops further, it is our hope that other library staff and eventually
members of other university faculties can participate in its development. Initially, the social
media training program will only be available to librarians and library technicians during the first
offering of the learning series. The social media training manual will be posted on the library
web site and will be made available to the whole library and university community.
As the social media training program progresses over time, it will require some ongoing
analysis and evaluation to stay current. A librarian must be in-charge to oversee changes and
updates that will need to be introduced as specific social media tools change and new ones are
introduced. In time, more modules may need to be developed for improving the program. The
ongoing goal of this project is to ensure that the PAL maintains its presence on the social web
and that liaison librarians continue to develop their knowledge about the benefits of social media
for learners. The liaison librarians may find ways of using social media that are specifically
related to the subject areas they represent. For example, Twitter lists, Facebook groups and
subject-related blogs and wikis.
The PAL should continue to promote itself in the digital era and remain relevant to its
users by using many of the tools they use. The PAL librarians see themselves as central in the
area of social media and want to promote their roles as information investigators and
disseminators (Rethlefsen, Engard, Chang, Haytko, 2006). To achieve our goals, we must
ensure that library staff members are not merely using the same tools but engaging as full
partners with the conversations and knowledge-sharing of the social revolution of web 2.0.
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