Social media and the school library

Social media provides a range of online tools the school library can use for students to connect, collaborate, communicate, and create anywhere, anytime.


Introduction to social media and the school library
How social media may enhance school library services
Planning the library’s social media presence
Types of social media tools
Further reading on social media use in schools

Introduction to social media and the school library

When you develop a Modern Library Learning Environment (MLLE) think about how the school library will create and sustain its online presence as an extension of its physical space. Social media provides a range of readily accessible online tools you can use to connect students to library services. Such library services are developed in alignment with the school’s social media policy and strategy.

Read more about Modern Library Learning Environments

How social media may enhance school library services

You can use social media to enhance and consolidate the library’s services relating to inquiry-based learning, engaging readers and digital citizenship. It’s all about building connections and creating communities that promote interest, curiosity, and welcome student involvement.

“You plan educationally meaningful ways to incorporate student excitement (and your own) for social networking.” -Joyce Valenza, Toward a 21st century school library media program, p.106.

Building connections

Social media is about using web and mobile based technologies and communities to create online connections and interaction between individuals, groups and institutions - locally, nationally, and globally. These interactions may be instant, live, short or long-term and exist for a variety of purposes including:

  • knowledge sharing
  • information gathering
  • communication
  • social networking.

fall iPad U
fall iPad U

Image: Fall IPad U by Heather Temske on Flickr

Social media can be a useful way to build connections with parents and caregivers. Building home-school partnerships is an essential role for schools and can be enhanced by social media.

Watch the video Engaging through technologies with Jane Danielson, Principal at Hingaia Peninsula School.

You can also use social media to enhance literacy initiatives. An article in School library journal, for example, describes how social media is being used to encourage more fathers to read to their children. By hooking into a globally used hashtag, librarians can have input into a bigger project.

Developing and using social media has the added benefit of promoting the library’s brand and services. This helps increase recognition and uptake of library services and creates new opportunities for advocacy.

School staff gain additional benefits when they use social media to increase their professional learning opportunities within and outside of the school.

Initially, many new users of social media will “lurk” for some time, before taking the leap into contributing. Lurking is an important step in confidence building, and provides valuable professional learning.

Creating communities of learning

Educators can harness the collaborative nature of social media to build communities of learning in a dynamic, responsive, and timely manner. The motivation for students’ use of social media is wide ranging from the social and informal through to intellectual and formal.

Some ideas for for using social media to collaborate include the following videos:

A student explains her use of Google Docs as a collaborative working space for learning with her classmates.

Celebrate International Dot Day,based on a picture book, shows a wonderful collaboration between two schools using multiple social media tools.

John Green's Crash Course’ YouTube channel delivers cross-curricular content to students in an innovative, interesting and engaging way.

Digital citizenship

To participate and contribute safely and responsibly online, digital citizenship is an essential part of every student’s learning. Using social media tools gives the library team opportunities to collaborate with teachers to develop the skills, habits, and attitudes students require to be contributing and effective digital citizens.

Read more about digital citizenship.

The Mysteries of Harris Burdick - Skype discussion
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick - Skype discussion

Image by BCrosby

Planning the library’s social media presence

As a starting point, we have identified the following 7 steps to help you plan and implement a social media presence for your school library:

  1. Agree your goals and objectives first. This fundamental step will give you the framework for the rest of your social media planning.
  2. Form your planning team – identify key stakeholders and agree on roles and responsibilities, including who will contribute to, and take long-term responsibility for, your social media.
  3. Understand your learners and learning focus – the reason for using social media.
  4. Align your social media presence with the school’s social media policy and integrate it with existing online environment for ease of student access. Be sure to address the intended benefits and possible risks for your students.
  5. Select the social media tools you’ll begin with, along with content and approach – according to learning needs and learning styles.
  6. Plan for ongoing management including resources your school will need to ensure sustainability.
  7. Establish how you will trial, launch, promote, evaluate and report on the uptake and success of your social media.

Read School libraries: developing an online presence, which suggests a process for planning and developing a school library online presence and planning templates.

Read the Department of Internal Affairs Social Media hands-on toolkit, which provides helpful advice, especially in the section entitled, Before you start, from page 6.

There are a number of useful approaches that will complement the planning process. It's useful to keep the following points in mind:

  • Collaboration – the school library becomes stronger when you build allies and relationships across the school
  • Experimentation – tools are just that and require comparison, trialling and testing to identify benefits, issues and risks
  • Time management – good things take time, others can help you, but be realistic about ongoing time requirements
  • Community – it’s all about the people, remember to talk with staff, students and the school community along the way
  • Flexibility – it doesn’t have to be perfect, things change, be prepared to adapt and respond as the need arises, especially in response to changing trends

Types of social media tools

With such an extensive range of social media tools available it can be difficult to decide which tool to begin with. Social media tools and practices encompass a range of content, approaches, and formats that can accommodate students’ individual learning styles. Different social media tools may be developed and used for different purposes at different times.

Tim Grahl provides a useful overview of The 6 Types of Social Media, which helps to clarify the key purpose and audience for each type of tool.

Information gathering strategies

  • Talk to others and ask questions. This can help provide a starting point, particularly when there are existing social media tools within the school that the library might adopt.
  • Carry out some research online. This is always another good way to learn more and start to see patterns of use, as well as learning from the experience of others.
  • Check each social media tool’s help guide and tutorials. Most provide useful help pages and examples of their use to support new users.
  • Consider how your school library’s social media accounts will complement each other, and align with your school’s social media strategy and policies.

fall iPad U
fall iPad U

Image by Heather Temske

Examples of great social media use in school libraries

For some inspiration and ideas about how the school library might integrate and use social media, here are a few examples.

Further reading on social media use in schools

Social media tools

Using social media tools