It appears that initial usage of social media by libraries focused on promotion and communication between librarians and patrons. For example, social networking sites, podcasts, and blogs were used to share library information and news (e.g., location, hours, new collections, events, etc.).
Libraries are also using social media to build a sense of community around the library through such means as book blogs and online forums (for example, a book club). Rather than focus on specific technologies, Rutherford attempted to examine the role of social media by libraries (2008). She interviewed public librarians and found social media used for four main purposes: 1) community development, 2) patron outreach and acquisition, 3) communication expansion, and 4) power distribution.
Rutherford found on the whole, that social media was not often used by libraries, and when it was, that it was used predominantly in a limited way. For example, libraries are allowing patrons to comment on library information or submit questions in new ways, but are not offering users the functionality to create content. This may be due to the profession wishing to maintain expertise and information authority and accuracy standards (Rutherford, 2008).
My review of the literature revealed the following types of social media usage by libraries:
- collaborative information filtering and recommendation via user-generated ratings and reviews and collective usage data)
- enhanced information retrieval via user-generated metadata and social search
- content and annotation creation by users individually and collectively (e.g., via wikis, blogs)
- information sharing via social networking sites and syndication.
In January 2010, Library Thing released their Library Anywhere mobile application that connects a library's online public access catalog (OPAC with Library Thing’s user-supplied rating and review data.
Similarly, SirsiDynix upgraded their BookMyne mobile application in November 2010 to add social recommendation data provided by the book social network Goodreads. Such user-generated metadata has been added as an information overlay of OPAC displays before. This functionality allows users to see how others have tagged a book and browse resources tagged similarly.
In addition to social metadata, researchers have found that mobile users want to annotate information resources for individual organization and/or social sharing. Amazon has demonstrated the potential of harnessing collective annotations Their e-Reader, Kindle, has a highlights feature that allows users to upload their e-book highlights. Amazon aggregates these highlights to display the collective sense of a work’s key passages.
The importance for libraries to offer similarly innovative functionality is highlighted by Lippincott who wonders,
Will libraries move quickly to implement strategies for mobile devices, moving beyond pilot projects, such as SMS text message in reference, that address only one segment of user needs? Will the library be perceived as less and less central to the academy’s content needs? (p. 212)