Exploring Peer-to-Peer Library Content and Engagement on a Student-Run Facebook Group

Kaya van Beynen, Camielle Swenson

Abstract

Student-run Facebook groups offer librarians a new means of interacting with students in their native digital domain. Facebook groups, a service launched in 2010 enables university students to create a virtual forum to discuss their concerns, issues, and promote events. While still a relatively new feature, these groups are increasingly being utilized by students in universities and colleges throughout North America. Little research has been done on these groups and how they may be changing the way that students interact with each other and with their university on social media. A student-run university Facebook group was monitored for a year to measure library content and types of engagement. The purpose of this research was to systematically explore whether outreach to these new virtual forums are of value to librarians in term of effort and outcome, and to provide research-based insight into the best practices for librarians when confronted with similar unofficial student-run Facebook groups. Our findings suggest that library employees strategically focus on key periods during the semester and use photographs and contests to increase virtual engagement and spontaneous in-library event participation. Students used the Facebook group both as a source for library information and to thoroughly answer their peers’ general library questions; when confronted with more research-based questions, the students referred each other to the library for help. We conclude, that library outreach on a student-run university Facebook group is manageable and can complement in-house marketing and reference efforts.

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Copyright © 2016 Kaya van Beynen and Camielle Swenson, Attribution-NonCommercial (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) CC BY-NC.


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