Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard University students, launched the social networking service known as Facebook in February 2004. Originally designed for college students, teens quickly found the high school version that appeared in 2005. Ultimately, Facebook left other social networks like Myspace in the dust. Currently, 80% of teens use social networking sites (Madden, 2013).
It's time to revisit Facebook in the school library.
While Facebook isn’t as popular as it once was with teens, most young people continue to maintain accounts. Because it’s an easy way for friends and families to maintain contact, many teens have slimmed back their “friends” list to include only those that they check in on regularly. If your library can get on that list, it’s likely that teens will see your postings.
Let's explore some school library examples.
Gunn High School Library is a great example of a school that’s publicized its Facebook page. With nearly 1000 LIKES, it reaches lots of teachers, families, and students with news and information. For example, the page was used to promote new opportunities like their freshly painted green-screen walls in the study rooms and flipcam circulation service.
The Heath High School Library uploaded videos related to library event. Uploading promotional materials, linking to interesting resources, and sharing images and videos is quick and easy with Facebook’s intuitive interface.
West Liberty High School and Middle School Library incorporate many different types of technology into their Facebook page. Think of Facebook as just one of many social media tools in the library’s bag of tricks. Many sharing sites such as Flickr and YouTube allow users to automatically post status updates on Facebook. Many librarians are connecting Facebook with Twitter. If you work in a school with a large African-American community, you’ll find that 39% of your teens use Twitter. While only 24% of online all teens are Twitter users, its use has grown steadily over the past few years (Madden, 2013).
Ballou Library Media Center uses Facebook along with Instagram. Instagram is another social media tool used by many students. Use the tool to post interesting photos and ask questions. For instance, you might show photos of antique tools and ask how they were used. You could ask where in the world a particular photo was taken. Or, you could post a historical photo of a local building and ask students to find it and post the matching “now” photo.
Ateneo High School Library sponsored a Spooky Story Contest connecting their Facebook page with the school website. Over the past decade, teens have become much more comfortable sharing information on social media sites. Students are increasingly willing to post photos, videos, and interests on Facebook.
West Brook High School Library held a Facebook contest to encourage people to “LIKE” the library page. They gave away three iTunes gift cards as prizes. Use online contests, intriguing questions, and other engaging activities to encourage active participation.
Oak Park and River Forest High School Library Facebook page promoted a Teen Read Week program at the public library. Use Facebook as a way to connect the school and public libraries in your area.
New Canaan High School Library page posts book club events. It’s sometimes difficult to know whether your library is having an impact. Circulation statistics, surveys, and interviews are commonly used to help librarians measure the success of the library program. Facebook has built-in tools that help visualize impact. It’s easy to count the number of comments and LIKEs a page or status update receives. When people register for a Facebook Event, you have an immediate count of potential participants.
Staff, parents, and students need a reason to read your status updates and visit your library page. Think about the many ways Facebook can be used to reach beyond the walls of your library.
Montclair High School Library re-posts interesting library-related visuals found on other library pages. When you use the SHARE option in Facebook, credit is automatically given to the page where the image was posted. However, keep in mind that this image may have been shared many times. When possible, cite the original creator. Keep in mind that visuals attract attention. Use photographs, infographics, comics, or other graphic representations to draw interest. For example, a Wordle or Tagxedo word cloud draws interest and is great for guessing contests.
New Trier High School Library asked readers to explore images of some of the most unusual libraries in the world and write about which one was their favorite. Think about ways to engage participants on a regular basis. Rather than simply announcing an event, ask a question or encourage readers to post their thoughts. Ask about a favorite movie, television show, or book. By using a status update as a conversation starter, passive readers become active participants on your Facebook page.
Heath High School Library posts their events in Facebook. Whether posting event announcements or sharing photos of events, use Facebook as a way to communicate with users about your programming. The Facebook Events option is an effective way to spur interest in face-to-face activities such as a book fair, poetry slam, or book club.
Avon Middle/High School Library uses Facebook to promote their online book order and delivery service. From e-book reader circulation to after-school study groups, use Facebook to let students and faculty know about the services you offer.
Moreau Catholic High School Library links to tips for citing social media. From posting a “how-to” guide for using the new photocopier to sharing test preparation ideas, Facebook is a great way to distribute tip-sheets, how-to guides, and other informational resources. Encourage users to comment about their experiences using the new library iPads or taking the SAT.
Mira Costa High School Library uses Facebook to promote their blog entries. They share blog entries such as a library orientation video, electronic databases, and news items on their Facebook page. Many school librarians maintain website and blog, however they are often overlooked by students. Use your Facebook page as a way to promote blog entries.
Fleming County High School Library Media Center uses Facebook to promote events such as book fair.
New Providence Elementary School Learning Commons Facebook page features Kindergarten reading activities, an online newsletter, and library challenges. Keep in mind that Facebook is restricted to people aged 13 and older. Some of the side-bar advertising may be inappropriate for youth. Be vigilant by watching for potential problems and concerns. Encourage students to be attentive to their privacy settings. Many younger students get online with their parents. Design elementary and middle school library Facebook pages with the parent-child relationship in mind.
Although there are many reasons for using Facebook in your library, teacher librarians need to be cautious. Before jumping in, be sure to check the school’s Acceptable Use Policies. Also, consider restrictions on in-school use of smartphones and other student devices.
Get Started. Begin by creating your own Facebook account and spend some time getting to know the system. Explore school library Facebook pages for lots of ideas. Do a Google search for site:facebook.com “high school library” for thousands of examples.
Build Your Page. Create a page for your library. Make an attractive banner and icon for the top of the page. Rather than a photo showing an empty library, be creative. Think about what will attract teens. The J. Frank Dobie High School Library page Facebook banner is literally eye-catching.
Spread the Word. Look for ways to publicize your Facebook page. When doing book-talks or classroom instruction, share the URL. Use random giveaways as an incentive to “like” the page.
Use Facebook Features. Hashtags are the latest addition to Facebook. They are used to turn topics into clickable links in posts on your page. To make a hashtag, write # (the number sign) along with a topic or phrase written as one word. Add this to a post such as Let’s celebrate Banned Book Week! #bannedbookweek. When people click the hashtag, they’ll see posts that share the hashtag.
Be Realistic. Although in some areas practically all students have their own smartphones, this isn’t the case everywhere. Think about whether your library users have access to the technology necessary to participate.
Avoid Drama. Many teens are annoyed by the personal and social “drama” found on Facebook and feel pressured by the social expectations. Some teens are concerned about managing their reputation. Use the library page as a way to model positive uses of social networks.
Think Location. Many smartphones and tablets have built-in GPS and location tracking features. Recently, location information has become popular with teens through tools like FourSquare. According to Madden (2013), 16% of teens automatically include their location in Facebook posts. Many more signal their locations to friends and parents on individual posts. Turn your library, media center, or learning/information commons into “the” place to hang out by encouraging the use of locations in your library.
Form Teen-Parent-Library Connections. Think about the benefits of involving both teens and their parents on the school library Facebook page. Seven in ten teens are Facebook friends with their parents (Madden, 2013). By seeing the same Facebook postings, it’s possible to double the impact of your online promotions. You may be able to convince parents to talk with their teens about library offerings and activities.
Message Students. Many teens prefer to use Facebook’s messaging system rather than e-mail for communication. In addition to your Facebook status updates, think about focused messages you could send to a particular segment of your audience such as teen book clubs, advisory groups, or teachers.
Share Books. Post a book cover and short review of what you’ve been reading. Keep your remarks to a couple of engaging sentences. Rather than simply posting a book review or trailer, get students to talk about their favorite desserts, their love of dystopian literature, or personal fitness tips. Connect these conversations with cookbooks, new fiction, and works of nonfiction.
Post Pathfinders. Track what students are studying in their classes and post useful pathfinders to assist youth with research. The Newton North High School Library Learning Commons posted a pathfinder for students doing research on Spanish speaking countries. Ask users to recommend other materials that could be added to list of resources. Also, think about out-of-school topics such as pathfinders about finding summer jobs or buying a used car.Spread Out the Work. Facebook is a great way to involve staff, teachers, parents, and students in spreading the word about the library. It’s possible to add trusted individuals as Facebook page administrators. These people can post status uploads, photos, videos, and other items to draw interest. They can also help keep track of conversations and respond to inquiries. These Facebook helpers can become important advocates for your library.
Identify Student Interest. Facebook isn’t just about talking, it’s also essential to listen. By asking meaningful questions and carefully monitoring students reactions, you can learn a lot about the wants, needs, and desires of your current and potential library users. Use the Facebook page as a place to address complaints and try out new ideas that have been suggested by users. You can even conduct polls and surveys from your Facebook page.
Increase Visibility. By sharing quality content and igniting interesting conversations, you can quickly gain visibility in your school. The more you interact on Facebook, the more your posts will be seen. However before you jump in, think about how you’d like to library to be perceived. Is it a source of information, instructional, and/or inspiration? What kinds of content and conversations will convey this mission?
Upload Video Tutorials. Create very short instructional videos to address common problems such as downloading e-books or using electronic databases. Share these on Facebook as a way to promote the resources as well as provide basic instruction.
Rather than thinking of Facebook as a replacement for your school library website, think of it was a companion. Keep in mind that you don’t need to use Facebook for everything. You can connect the images you post at Flickr and the videos you publish at YouTube to your Facebook page through the use of status updates.
If you tried using Facebook in your library a few years ago without success, it’s time to try again. With the popularity of smartphones and an increasing number of Facebook users, the technology is maturing and ready to be your “friend”.
Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Cortesi, S., Gasser, U., Duggan, M., Smith, A., & Beaton, Meredith (May 21, 2013). Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. PewResearchCenter. Available: http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Teens-Social-Media-And-Privacy.aspx