Creating an online presence and maintaining one can be a hardship for many librarians and information specialists. Social media can consume valuable resources; staff and time; both of which are valuable commodities. What’s a library to do when they seem to be short on both time and staff? Perhaps they need to research other options. One of them being students. I recently read an article that discussed this untapped resource and feel that it has advantages to both parties involved; the librarians and the students.
According to Dodds (2017) students already have a presence on social media and have used it to connect with their peers. However, many students are not well versed in the differences between social media in the everyday world and social media in a classroom or library setting. The concepts of digital citizenship and digital leadership were introduced in this article. Digital citizenship refers to using the internet in an ethical way and being responsible. Digital leadership, on the other hand, refers to improving the lives of others and their well-being through the use of the internet. Teaching students these two valuable concepts at an early age can be extremely beneficial. Kids can learn appropriate ways to post on social media and how to be decent digital leaders.
Dodds (2017) cited examples of students using social media as young as kindergarten. Students have used Twitter, Instagram, and blogs to play information regarding what is taking place in classrooms and school libraries. By giving students these social media tools and experiences they are learning to express themselves, be civically minded, and become responsible social media users. They are learning to use social media for more than just “social” situations. They learn to discuss current events, academics, and social inequalities.
How could this work in a public library? Librarians would still need to monitor what is being posted; as many social media platforms do have an age requirement. Digital leadership is a skill that takes time and practice to hone. Librarians that help in content creation and discuss the implications of posts with student volunteers can help in creating the digital leaders of tomorrow.
Based on my own personal experience in a public library, I find that the one sect of the population that is missing from the library the most are teens and young adults. This age group does spend quite a bit of time online (I don’t have stats available to back this up but as a mom of three teenagers I can vouch for the fact that much time is spent on social media). Why not ask them to help the library by doing something that they are already doing online and already enjoying? It seems like a win/win situation.
The libraries of yesterday are vastly different than the libraries of today. Many library users never step foot in your door but take full advantage of online resources and services offered by libraries. Libraries need to step up their social media presence and tap into the potential that is there to advertise your library and all that you have to offer. Using students to help develop that presence seems to be beneficial for all those involved.
Dodds, L. (2017). Students as Social Media Content Creators. CSLA Journal, 40(2), 13-16.