Social Networking Sites: Changing Roles, Skills and Use by Librarians in Tertiary Institutions in Nigeria.

Author:Semode, Felicia D.


Social networking sites (SNSs) have grown astoundingly over the past few years. According to social media statistics, there are over 1.15 Billion Facebook users compared to 700 million in 2011, over 500 million Twitter users compared to 250 million in 2011; over 238 million LinkedIn users compared to 115 million in 2011; and there are over 500 million Google plus users compared to 25 million users in 2011 (Digital Insight, 2013). Libraries of all types including academic libraries around the world are moving towards using social networking sites such as: Blogs, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Google plus, Instragram, Maship, LinkedIn, Wikis and a host of others. Presently, so many librarians are now using social media to fulfill a variety of objectives, with most of them focused on promotion of library services and resources. Social media is also increasingly being seen as a collection management tool, offering flexible ways to present resources. For example, YouTube for video delivery and is categorized as Folksonomies. Outreach is also seen as important - for example, helping librarians increase their visibility and connections within the broader library community and also for assisting in the promotion of the work of the faculty... (Taylor and Francis Group, 2014).

In today's social networking era, millions of people are turning to the internet to keep in touch with their friends, family and colleagues. Social networking tools make staying involved quicker, easier and more fun than ever before. These SNSs have millions of users, with ever increasing number of users every day. Farkas (2007a) explained how the social web has led to the birth of what is known as the read/write web or Web 2.0. The author also introduced the term "social software", which refers to any software that lets people have a two-way conversation. She explained that many users spend almost all the time online to visit SNS due to the advantages of those sites, which include:

* allowing people to communicate and build community online;

* facilitating syndication by sharing and reusing; and

* capitalizing the knowledge of others and helping people learn easily.

As the social networking sites become more widespread in the information world, its adoption in the library becomes both interesting and challenging as librarians role will change to satisfying their online community. This study therefore explores the extent to which librarians in tertiary institutions (Universities, Colleges of Education, and Polytechnics) in Nigeria use SNSs. In other to achieve this objective, the researchers set the following research questions to guide the study.

Research Questions

  1. Which among the existing social networking sites librarians have account with?

  2. For what purposes do the librarians use the social networking sites?

  3. To what extent will the librarians rate their level of skills to use SNSs?

  4. Through what means do the librarians acquired the skills?

  5. What are some of the challenges of using SNSs.

Literature Review

Librarians and Social Networking Sites

Presently, for libraries to go where their patrons are hanging - out, they have started utilizing newer communication channels like blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and now SNSs to extend their reach. Social networking tools enable people to connect, collaborate and form virtual communities via the internet. Social networking sites are those that provide opportunities to interact, they allow visitors to send e-mail, post comments build web content and/or take part in live chats (YALSA, 2011). There are a number of ways that libraries can use social networking tools (5 Minute Guide: SNSs, 2014) for strengthening their services so that they can make the users feel benefited. Libraries can:

* use these social networking tools to mobilize their services;

* create fan clubs, so that the popularity of the library can be measured over time;

* facilitate access to librarians and the library's resources;

* advertise special programs and events;

* highlight parts of the collection, such as new items, to a specific group;

* make users aware of activities relevant to them and the latest library developments so that users can feel excitement and want to visit the library; and

* prove that libraries are not afraid to use cutting-edge technology.

Librarians are responding to the popularity of social networking sites and their expanding role in the creation, use and sharing of information by engaging them as a central medium for interacting with library patrons and providing services to meet their information needs.

Uses of Social Media for Library Services

In Nigeria, the use of social media is increasing day-by-day. According to the statistics of 2015, 67 million of the population are internet users, out of which 6.6 million are Facebook users (Internet World Stats, 2015). In other words, librarians and students are among the 6.6 million Facebook users in Nigeria. For example, the study by Baro, Idiodi and Godfrey (2013) revealed that the most frequently used Web 2.0 tool is Facebook. It was used by 46.6% of the librarians in Nigeria. The authors added that 66.5% of the librarians in university libraries in Nigeria use Web 2.0 tools like the Facebook mostly for online reference services. Adeleke and Habila (2012) reported that librarians in Nigeria have fully embraced the benefits and use of weblogs for library services and operations. The researchers attributed this to be partly due to the state of internet penetration and use in Nigeria. In the same vein, Ofili and Emwanta (2014) studied Facebook use in John Harris Library, Benin, Nigeria. The study based on the perceptual experiences of the John Harris Library staff that had Facebook accounts and took part in the library's Facebook group activities. The findings show that connecting with colleagues and students ranked highest as all the respondents engaged in this. The researchers concluded that the use of Facebook proved to be a professional tool for marketing the library services, communication across staff and patrons, and rendering information services.

Khan and Bhatti (2012) collected data on application of social media in marketing of library and information services in Pakistan from librarians and LIS school academics working at Bahauddin Zakariya University of Multan and the Islamia University of Bahamalpur. The study revealed that respondents' attitude was positive. That is, the majority agreed that the use of social media is important to capture the attention of online users and help in distance learning and knowledge sharing. There are number of libraries that used Wikis, Flickr, or Blogs for publishing historical photos and ask people to identify people, places, or events pictured. Different libraries use Wikis for content creation and to create a collaborative relation between library and the community (Convertive, 2011). U.S libraries of all types are increasingly using social media tools and Web 2.0 applications to connect with library users and to make library programs and services accessible (ALA, 2001). The National Library of Australia (NLA) uses a variety of social media for notifying news, relevant items from collection and library events. Facebook is used by the library to inform the library users about major events, activities and recent acquisitions through posting photos, videos and links to resources about the library. The library uses YouTube for sharing videos of many of the events held at the library (NLA, 2010).

Social media has the potential to facilitate much closer relationship between libraries and their patrons. Social media will likely play an increasingly important role in library service provision and outreach in the future (Taylor and Francis Group, 2014). Dickson and Holley (2010) noted that social networking can be an effective method of student outreach in academic libraries if libraries take care to respect students' privacy and to provide equal coverage for all subject areas. The study by Bhatt and Kumar (2014) revealed that the majority (94.0%) of the students use SNSs to stay in touch with their friends. The study also revealed that the majority (66.4%) of the students feel that librarians should connect with them through SNSs.

A 2008 EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR)'s study (Salamay, Caruso and Nelson, 2008) found that 85.2% of college undergraduate use one or more SNSs, and of these, more than 89% use Facebook. It has long been a goal of university libraries and higher education in general, to "go to the students", or to offer resources and services in the media commonly used by students. Sachs, Eckel and Langan, (2011) reported that in January 2009, librarians at Western Michigan University decided to create a library presence on social networking sites. The librarians had three goals for the sites (1) to promote and market library resources and services; (2) to offer reference help; and (3) to provide asynchronous instruction tips on research concepts. According to the researchers, "by January 2011, the Waldo Library Facebook profile had over 1500 friends including current and former students, faculty, staff community members, and other interested individuals around the world. According to Jain (2013) "Flickr is an excellent marketing tool librarians can use it to market general library services to their users" (p7).

Purpose of Using Social Media by Librarians

Social media is being used world-wide for diverse purposes in libraries: marketing, branding, building customer relationships, reference services, quick dissemination of news e.t.c.

The table below illustrates some of the ways social media tools are being used by librarians

Social Uses Media Twitter * Distribute library news and information. * Provide customer service. * Build connections with researchers. * Build connections...

To continue reading