For information professionals, engagement with library users is critical. One of the ways to engage with library users is through social media, which is a free way to market and promote library programming and library services. In this blog post, I interviewed Kelsa Bartley, Education and Outreach Librarian at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, about the importance of using social media to engage with students and how she stays up to date on the latest social media trends.
Jamia: Why do you think it is vital for librarians to engage students by using social media?
Kelsa: As a librarian, I think it is extremely important to engage library patrons where they are, and they are all over the social media landscape, now more than ever before. The pandemic has made this way of connecting to each other necessary; it is no longer just for entertainment but a huge information source. Many of our students see information and misinformation first on social media. As information professionals, we must use this avenue to provide reputable information options for our patrons. Social media includes traditional platforms, but also video platforms such as YouTube. The “University of YouTube” is a massive platform for information and misinformation. People use the information they learn from watching videos to solve real-life problems and communicate with the content creators and each other. It is imperative that librarians and libraries include themselves on this platform specifically for these same reasons. However, it is important to do research on which platforms students use. We don’t want to waste time creating amazing content that nobody ever sees.
Jamia: In the book Planning and Promoting Events in Health Sciences Libraries: Success Stories and Best Practices (edited by Shalu Gillum and Natasha Williams), you wrote a book chapter called “Case Study: Using Contests on Social Media to Grow Your Audience and Increase Engagement” where you provided information professionals with insight on how to grow our audience and student engagement by using social media. As an expert in social media engagement, how do you stay up to date on the latest social media trends?
Kelsa: Social media has been trending toward videos for quite some time. It is quite an effective tool in getting entertaining content and important information out there. Since writing this chapter, there have been several new and improved platforms for the average user to create and post content, such as the rise of TikTok with its millions of viral videos and content creators to match. This has coincided with ever-improving smartphone technology, making it even easier to create and upload media. I think it is just as important to keep up with image and video creating technology, in addition to the platforms themselves. Learning the tools to create engaging, entertaining, and impactful content is just as important as where it will be seen. Social media platforms and technology continue to evolve rapidly. Still, the ability to tell a great story with images will always win over the viewers, whether it is for entertainment or information. Having a background in photography and being able to use those creative skills to tell the library’s stories has definitely helped me in that regard. I try to be open to learning and using new social platforms to see how they can be used for marketing to our patrons and to learn about new and creative ways to create and integrate content across platforms.
Kelsa Bartley, MSI, is the Education and Outreach Librarian in the Learning, Research & Clinical Information Services Department at the Louis Calder Memorial Library, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Her role includes providing education, research services, and support, in addition to outreach and promotion of library services and resources. Kelsa is active in the Medical Library Association (MLA), serving as 2020–2021 Chair of the African American Medical Librarians Alliance Caucus (AAMLA), and currently serves on MLA’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee. She is also a member of the Journal of the Medical Library Association’s (JMLA) Editorial Board and Equity Work Group. Her research interests include diversity, equity, and inclusion in libraries; library marketing, outreach, and social media; technology for health information promotion; and library instruction and instructional design.
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