“Getting Our Voices Heard”: Creating a Library Community Through the Use of Social Media.

Most people are familiar with the recent trend of libraries utilizing various social media outlets in order to promote programs and services. Currently, I subscribe to my own library district’s facebook page to keep abreast on what’s new at my local library. This widespread use of social media is an excellent way to quickly get information out to patrons and keep them interested in the goings on at their local branch.

Lately, however, libraries are starting to use social media as an outlet for the community to voice their opinions regarding what they wish to see at their local branches. These opinions range from the usual requests of more quiet study space and a better variety of books and media to suggesting how the physical structure of the library is arranged to make it not only more visually appealing but more useful as well. In addition, patrons can use the library’s social media outlets to be more active in programs by participating online.

Intrigued by the idea of a library’s social media page being used as a virtual “suggestion box”, I looked at a couple of libraries that have successfully used social media in this way. The first of these is the Surrey City Centre Library near Vancouver, BC. When the Canadian government awarded a $36 million grant to Bing Thom Architects for the construction of a new library, it was under the condition that the library had to be built within 18 months. With no time to conduct board meetings in order to determine what should be included in the building, library officials turned to social media. They created what was dubbed the “Ideabook” which incorporated Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and the library’s own blog to gather input regarding the design of the new library. The community posted pictures on Flickr of architecture they liked or left comments on Facebook suggesting the kinds of materials they would enjoy best. The result of all of this feedback was a beautiful new library based on a people-centered design and is a building that the community can be proud of considering they had a hand in its construction!

Then there is the LibraryYou project developed by Donna Feddern of the Escondido Public Library just north of San Diego, CA. LibraryYou is described as an “online university for the people, by the people,” and it allows community members the opportunity to contribute their own ideas and programming via podcasts and YouTube videos. Unlike most traditional library programming that consists of patrons coming to the library to participate, LibraryYou allows users to log into the library’s website and watch demonstrations on how to make balloon animals or create a podcast on how they survived the Holocaust. This is a great way for the library to celebrate their community by allowing them to show off their talents or share their life stories with others!

Allowing patrons to have their voices heard through their library’s social media outlets gives people a sense of community and pride in their libraries. It may even serve to bring those who are unable to physically visit the library a chance to participate as well. For example, Susan Chaves recently blogged on TechSoup about how to hold a Tweet Chat at your library. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful alternative for physically disabled patrons to still participate in book clubs and board meetings by accessing live events via Tweet Chat?

With social media so prevalent in our society, it only makes sense for libraries to use it to their advantage to not only get the word out on upcoming programs and services but to allow members of the community to share with each other and voice their opinions. The possibilities for how social media can be used creatively are endless!


Bayliss, S. (2012, June 11). Case Study: How Social Media Built a Library. Retrieved from Library Journal: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/06/buildings/lbd/case-study-how-social-media-built-a-library-library-by-design/

Chaves, S. (2011, November 15). How to Run a Tweet Chat. Retrieved from Techsoup: http://forums.techsoup.org/cs/community/b/tsblog/archive/2011/11/15/how-to-run-a-tweet-chat.aspx

LibraryYou. (2012, September 29). Retrieved from LibraryYou – Sharing Local Knowledge: http://libraryyou.escondido.org/


13 thoughts on ““Getting Our Voices Heard”: Creating a Library Community Through the Use of Social Media.

  1. k Reilly says:

    I usually think of Facebook mostly as a social and activities update. It is nice to see that it was used to increase community communication and work towards the goal of designing a library to meet the people’s needs. It makes you realize that facebook has greater potential as a tool to bring ideas and people together.

  2. Bethany Boutin says:

    A “virtual suggestion box” sounds like an intriguing update on the traditional method, yet I wonder about how a library should contain or moderate such social sites. Positive discussions and feedback, along with constructive criticism, would be great to see on a social media site. But what happens if a user decides to post vehemently vicious thoughts and opinions that attack other library users and staff? Do we allow all users to voice their opinions publicly? Does this follow the ALA protocol of adhering to free speech? Or do we need to exercise control over what discussion we allow on a social site? A private and anonymous setting for suggestions might provide a safer and more conducive feedback. Some people may not feel comfortable expressing an honest opinion for all to see and comment upon, while others might use such a public platform to spout destructive comments.

    On another note, I love the idea you discussed of using interactive media like Tweet Chat (or others like Adobe Connect) to enable home-bound patrons to participate in events like book club discussions. My concern is that many of the targeted users might be individuals like the disabled elderly, who may need assistance and training to use such platforms to interact virtually with the library. This is where marketing comes in–as Chapter 8 in our textbook discusses, it’s important for a library to do market research to learn about the demographics of the population the library serves and create appropriate methods and materials to promote to the clientele. LibraryYOU has taken a good approach: it is not only a site for posting videos and podcasts; it also provides training classes on creating these videos and podcasts so that the public can do so on the site.

    • Matt McQuillan says:

      I like the thought in the first paragraph about potential problems with open feedback. Using private feedback as you mentioned would certainly negate the problem of 3rd parties reading inappropriate posts. On the other side, one of the main benefits of social networking and other Web 2.0 technologies is the wide ranging discussion that can occur not only between patrons and library staff, but between patrons themselves. What do you think can be implemented to protect against the concern you raise while also allow patron to patron discussion about the library?

      I would also argue that free speech is limited. Is making inappropriate comments on a web forum any different from shouting obscenities in the library itself? A librarian would have a duty to stop that type of speech wouldn’t they? Food for thought and I appreciate the comments.

    • Mandi King says:

      I would imagine that if someone posts nasty things on a library’s facebook page that is offensive for the sake of being offensive, that the library should be able to moderate and delete those comments (especially if a staff member or patron is being personally attacked) Of course, it is difficult to please everyone so I would expect there to be some negative comments on the the site along with the positive feedback. But that can be a good thing as well. The library may not know that there is a problem until someone brings it up. Patrons may feel more comfortable expressing their opinion online rather than face-to-face.
      And yeah, I see the problems in using something like Tweet Chat for older patrons. Many homebound patrons will still want to be involved but may be intimidated by the technology. Perhaps a “How to” video would be helpful for them?

  3. Susan Maunz says:

    It is great to see facebook being used to facilitate ideas of innovation. Facebook is also getting involved with book discussion groups some of those utilizing Skype. Let’s hope that the training of these technological tools can be shared with people of all ages and needs.

  4. Susan Maunz says:

    Social networking has really fused boundaries and brought together diverse groups of people from all over the world with similar likes and interests. But where are the boundary now? Can we maintain any boundaries?
    How will social networking affect raising funds for special libraries, and museums? Are people as willing to donate to their cause when it is all accessed from their personal computers?

    • Mandi King says:

      See, I feel the opposite. I think that the use of social media to spread the word on fundraising efforts would be more beneficial because it reaches a wider audience. Also, a neat feature for patrons would to be able to select where your dollars are going. For example, a patron would be presented with several areas where funding is needed and they can select “collection development” or “programming” or whatever else they want to support. When I donate to a cause I usually use the organization’s website rather than going directly to the institution to write a check. I think the convenience of being able to donate online will spur more people to give.

  5. angelo says:

    Very informative and interesting post! After reading this article: https://group3janik.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/to-facebook-or-not-to-facebook-that-is-the-question-2/#comment-14 , I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that while sites like Facebook are complicated and not necessarily always “good,” the fact of that matter is that millions upon millions of library users, and/or potential library users, are on Facebook, and therefore it is our duty as librarians to be there as well. In this sense it makes total sense to use Facebook as a sort of “suggestion box.” I believe that facebook-as-a-suggstion-box could compliment very nicely a real suggestion box, public forums, and the everyday face to face suggestions of the patrons.

    Thanks for an informative post!

    • angelo says:

      Something I forgot to mention-as I was reading this I was wondering if social media could play any sort of role gaining community input for the crafting of both vision and mission statements? We learned from lecture 5B that all libraries must have these things-they must do strategic planning, so that the tone is set for the Director, the Board and the staff to do their work. I wonder if there are any examples of a library using social media in these efforts?

    • Mandi King says:

      I just heard on the news recently that 1 in 7 people on the planet has a facebook account! This is the new way people are communicating and receiving their information so it only makes sense that librarys take advantage of this technology! It’s so much easier to be on facebook and tell a company/library how you feel rather than stand there and write out your thoughts on paper and stick them in a box where they may sit neglected for an indefinate amount of time. At least you know that when you post a comment on facebook, a bunch of other people will see it too and possibly agree with you (in the form of a “like”). People may feel more secure in the fact that their voices are indeed getting heard if they post on a social media site rather than fill out a comment form.

  6. Jessica says:

    I am so incredibly impressed with how some of these libraries are doing huge things with their social media outlet. To be able to say that a library was created and cherished by the community because they had a hand in building is simply awe-inspiring. Great post; thanks for bringing it to our attention!

    • Mandi King says:

      Thanks Jessica! Yeah, I was truly amazed at the LibraryYou project. What a great way for the people to get more involved in their library as well as their community. I think that community members getting the opportunity to learn from each other will open minds (and hearts) and teach tolerance for other cultures and viewpoints. When we talk about libraries creating a sense of value I cannot imagine a better way than to have a program such as LibraryYou. Very inspirational!

  7. Lori Mangan says:

    I think that the LibraryYou project is a wonderful idea but I wonder if another great potential audience for this would be the younger and tech savy patron. I know that the library systems that I have struggled to get more young professionals interested in the library. These are people that may think that they do not need to use the library and may not see the benefits that the library can provide. I think that there could be a place for programs that appeal to these people. I know I myself keep running into new programs and software that I need to know more about. I also agree with the points that have been made about using Facebook as a “suggestion box” I think that could be a great way to allow public input on the library’s strategic plan but I also agree that this discussion must be monderated. I agree that a patron leaving nasty or offensive comments is the same as a patron saying them to other patrons in the library itself. We have a respnsibility to create an enviroment where patrons feel comfortable. It does not matter if this enviroment is physical or virtual.

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