Reasons why school libraries should be using social media

Using social media to enhance service provision can be a difficult prospect for school libraries because there are often a number of hurdles in the way. These hurdles may include:

  • Fear of the misuse and abuse of these technologies – schools have a responsibility to keep students safe and often the fear of students accessing inappropriate information online, unsafe behaviours and cyber bullying results in schools developing policies that restrict technologies and social media use.
  • Fear of academic distraction – keeping classroom disruptions to a minimum is a key goal of teachers and possible interruptions caused by phones, devices, texting and social media is a significant issue that schools need to consider.
  • Giving away intellectual property – schools &/or education systems own the copyright on all resources produced for their context. Some administrators have difficulty in adopting an open source model and may restrict online sharing and collaboration.
  • It’s all too hard – there may be a lack of knowledge, experience and understanding of how to use social media for library services and taking that first step seems just too hard for some.

These hurdles suggest there are many reasons why school libraries are not on social media. Nevertheless, there are many examples of libraries, in and out of the school sector, using social media to successfully enhance their services. Three examples of these are presented in the following infographic:


These examples demonstrate how libraries can use social media. If Teacher-Librarians are going to be persuaded into the social media landscape, however, they will need to be convinced why it is a good idea. Here are some good reasons why school libraries should use social media:

  • Social media can provide online channels for broadcasting library content and drawing attention to the collection material. The National library of Australia believe that these media also provide high-value word-of-mouth marketing and are a successful method of reputation management and brand strengthening (Dellit & Schindeler, 2012, p.3)
  • Through social media, libraries can interact with users and provide opportunities for them to join groups and share ideas and information. When discussing why she blogs, Terri Bennett, a public library director from New York says that blogs “have the power to break down the institutional wall between libraries and their community members” (in Brookover, 2007, p.28). Furthermore, social media can provide opportunities for libraries to respond to feedback, both positive and negative, and to engage in conversation with patrons and better understand their needs (Burkhardt, 2009, para.3 & 5).
  • Digital Citizenship education – Teacher-Librarians are in a great position to be leaders of digital citizenship practices in their schools and teaching social media can be one method of enacting this. Joyce Valenza believes that using social media for learning will open students to:
    • respect for and creative use of intellectual property;
    • operating search tools so they work harder for them – receiving pushed information through feeds and widgets;
    • understanding their digital footprint;
    • building their own Professional Learning Networks (PLNs);
    • connecting with authors and experts;
    • communicating research; and
    • valuing intellectual freedom (2009).
  • Crowd sourcing involves individuals contributing to the collective to create a product that is far greater that the sum of individual achievements (Thomas & Seely Brown, 2011, olc.767). Wikipedia is a great example of this. Trove, an online library service of the National Library of Australia, is a world leader in crowd sourcing. They believe libraries can use crowd sourcing to facilitate participation and contribution to the work of an organisation, advocating this enriches their collections in ways previously not possible (Dellit & Schindeler, 2012, p2).

For school libraries contemplating going down the path of using social media, there are some important considerations that need to be kept in mind, including:

  • Strategies – a social media strategy is important as it articulates what individual libraries wish to gain from using social media. This will then inform the tools chosen, the types of conversations that will take place and the time and energy invested in these communications.
  • Policies – having guidelines for social media use is particularly important in the school setting where the age of students, institutional values and parental concerns necessitate consideration. Sharlyn Lauby’s blog post, 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy, contains good advice for those considering a social media policy.  If libraries are contemplating patron/student-generated content through crowd sourcing, this also necessitates the establishment a clear set of guidelines. The New York Public Library’s Policy on patron-generated web content is an excellent example of such policies.
  • Licensing – when publishing to social media, school libraries need to adhere to the ethical use of the creative materials they share and attribute sources appropriately. This can be a legal issue as well as role modelling good practices for students. Teacher-Librarians should also consider having a discussion with their school principal about licensing the work they publish and participating in a creative commons culture of sharing information with the view that access to information has always been a core value of libraries.
  • Staff roles – good social media communications take time. When libraries are sure their reasons for using social media mirror their core values, staff roles need to be redefined in order to allocate time in the working day for staff to learn these technologies and then engage in these environments on behalf of the library.
  • Risk & trust – mistakes can be made and when these are online the potential audience is always large. Letting go of the culture of perfect and trusting users to play a role in library services are essential to the successful use of social media which at it’s core must be about understanding, connecting with and involving users (Farkas, 2008, para.16).


Brookover, S. (2007). Why we blog. Library Journal132(19), 28.

Burkhardt, A. (2009, August 25). Four reasons libraries should be on social media [Web log post]. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from

Dellit, A., & Schindeler, S. (2012, February 7). VALA2012 concurrent session 2: Discovery. In Trove: The Terrors and Triumphs of Service-based Social Media. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from

Farkas, M. (2008, January 24). The essence of Library 2.0? [Web log post]. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from

Lauby, S. (2009, April 27). Should your company have a social media policy? [Web log post]. Retrieved February 2, 2015, from

New York Public Library. (2015). Policy on patron-generated web content. Retrieved February 2, 2015, from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.


1 Comment on Reasons why school libraries should be using social media

  1. Chantal Hochstrasser
    April 4, 2016 at 4:33 am (4 years ago)

    Hi, I would like to reference this blog post for a reference list that i am creating, but cannot find your name on any of your posts. Would you mind letting me know?
    PS. I am a current KNDI student myself.


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