In difficult times, an organisation needs to be armed with a sound knowledge of what factors are impacting the organisation, a clear vision of what it is trying to do, before it can decide on the means to achieve the changes that are needed. The role of social media in effecting change therefore, needs to be seen as part of a much wider context and not simply about using different technology.
A SLEPT analysis of the factors impacting the library will be similar to SLEPT analysis of the university as a whole although the impact of these factors will be different. The seismic changes that have and continue to affect higher education, are bound to affect the library whose role is to “underpin the academic objectives of the institution through support for learning, teaching, scholarship and research, achieved through the delivery of effective, efficient and customer-oriented services.” (DMU library website)
Thus, the tough economic climate means that there is less money to go around and we need to find ways to make money go further. Social changes have led to an increasing diverse student population and the need to provide services tailored to a variety of needs. The impact of the decisions of the coalition government with drastic cuts in higher education funding, and rise in students fees also have inevitable consequences on the library. Changes in faculty structure, with courses that are no longer run whilst others are expanding, will require rethinking ways in which to library support is provided. Technological changes have always been important for libraries affecting how resources and services are provided.
How can social media help the library continue to provide a high quality learning experience to students in spite of these changes? The increasing budgetary pressures means that we need to be innovative and find creative ways to provide existing and new services. Using social media in the library could, among others, help us to do the following:
- listen to what our users say about us and respond to to them promptly
- inform them about new services, resources etc..
- engage with our users by communicating with them in real time e.g. through chat on Facebook
- enable staff in the library to communicate across and outside teams to generate ideas.
We already do some of this. However, there has not yet really been a real shift in how we connect to our users and we are still using social media with a web 1.0 mindset, as a broadcasting rather than as conversational tool (comment by Jon Crowley in Spencer Fry’s post). As Spencer Fry comments, the use of social media should be ingrained in the culture’ of the organisation and not simply be an add on to what we do, thrown in for good measure, to keep with the times. It should not be about volume, followers and followers but about what we do with the information etc. As a library, we need to have a strategy about social media, decide on ways to use it and what we aim to gain from it.
The question is: how does the use of social media become ingrained in the culture of the library? More and more staff are using facebook and twitter in their personal lives but these are pockets of use here and there and is not part of the working culture yet. How could it become so? Encouraging staff to communicate within the library by the means of social networks could be a starting point. But this is an initiative which needs to be endorsed and encouraged by senior management who need to see it as a valid way to communicate and not as a way to waste time. Striking the right balance is not easy. Bennett, Pitt and Owers (2010) give examples of a company that has Facebook Friday, giving staff one hour on Fridays to update profile and communicate with colleagues.
Is it simply blue sky thinking? Not really. Companies are now being told to ignore social media at their peril (Li and Bernoff, 2008). However, it may involve reorganising the way we do things and reshuffling resources in a way that we are not ready for. Are we ready to let go and release control? Using social media in organisations involve rethinking the way we do things and, as Bennett Pitt and Owers (2010) comments, need to go even further than this:
“In order for organisations to experience the unequivocal business value of social networking tools, the traditional forms of institutional power and management strategy has to shift to a more horizontal diffused network. This will undoubtedly lead to increased brand reputation, a more open, transparent culture and more effective and efficient way of working. It is essential that employers recognise and understand the potential of the latest innovations and make a concerted effort to incorporate them at a strategic level. Having email and a company intranet is no longer sufficient for a twenty first century workplace” (Bennett, Pitt and Owers, 2010)
BENNETT, K., PITT, M. and OWERS, M. (2010) Workplace impact of social networking. Available from: http://www.ljmu.ac.uk/BLT/BUE_Docs/Amended_PROCEEDINGS_BEAN_2010_WEB_VERSION_07.pdf [Accessed 27/02/11]
FRY, S. (2010) Down with social Weblog [Online] 25th August. Available from: http://spencerfry.com/down-with-social [Accessed 27/02/11]
LI, C., & BERNOFF, J. (2008). Groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.