Libraries need to be careful in their approach when it comes to proactively reaching out to students in online spaces. By all means, libraries should have a social media presence. They should grow their presence by promoting their links to their social media pages on their library home page and put them in their email signatures (Burkhardt, 2009). Burkhardt also mentions talking to people, letting students in instruction sessions, suggesting a page to friends on Facebook and following people in the community via social networks.
However, research has shown that it may not be the best approach to seek out students and add them as Facebook friends (Mack et al, 2007). Rather than reaching out to them, it would be preferable to let students decide when and where to reach libraries since doing otherwise may intimate and scare them. A Facebook profile needs to sound as personal as possible without divulging too much information on the profile updater’s personal beliefs and biases—better to create a group of library supporters/friends of the library as opposed to simply creating a profile for the physical space of the library.
As long as libraries focus on providing support for students when they need it, they should be successful. Students who write a post or tweet should get a response back in a reasonably short amount of time so that they can carry on a conversation. Posting items that students generally need or are interested in, such as subject guides, podcasts, tutorials, and media clips, could be very effective in building an online community and following (Mack et al, 2007). The key is balancing between outreach and going overboard to the point where a student feels personally intruded upon.
Burkhardt, A. (2009). “How to Grow Your Library’s Social Media Presence.” Information Tyrannosaur.
Mack, D., et al. (2007, Summer). “Reaching Students with Facebook: Data and Best Practices.” Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, 8.