Social media: Can you tell if it’s working yet?

On Friday 1st July I jumped on a train up to Manchester to attend an ARLG NW event called Social media: Can you tell if it’s working yet? I always look forward to these courses, partly because social media in libraries is one of my main areas of interest, but also because it’s good to meet other academic librarians and hear about their experiences.

My journey through Manchester was eventful; it was the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and there was a big afternoon procession due to start from the Central Library where I was heading, meaning many roads were blocked off.  I’m terrible with directions anyway, and despite a printed map, Google maps on my phone, *and* written instructions, I got completely lost and had to ask a proper grown-up for help. I arrived with 10 minutes to spare, spending 5 minutes admiring the giant cannons outside ready for the procession, and 5 minutes admiring the beautiful atrium of the Central Library. I’d certainly advocate a visit to this venue – it’s a gorgeous old domed/pillared building, with a clean, modern and bright interior.


After the cannon-fire subsided, the course got going.  Sarah Mallen from the University of Manchester Careers Service, and Michelle Bond from Liverpool Hope University spoke about their experiences of using social media, with a common theme of learning to hone their social media presence over time in response to changing audiences and channels, using a strategy or framework to make the whole process manageable and easier to evaluate.  They were followed by Tom Mason, Social Media Coordinator at the University of Manchester, who demonstrated the value of a social media framework and also showed us how he manages a large social media presence for an entire university.  I really appreciated his expertise from a marketing perspective, and it was actually the opposite of what I’d learned from previous social media courses.  Whereas those courses had focused on systematically crafting different content suitable for each channel, Tom spoke of deciding upon the message first, and then disseminating it through the appropriate channels. This makes sense to me – if you decide on what you want to say first (let’s say we’re talking about study space) then you can decide how best to communicate the information to the people who need to know about it (perhaps pictures and maps of the different spaces) and then decide on the best channel (a photo-sharing site i.e. Instagram plus cross-sharing across platforms).

The final part of the day was the bit that had sold the course to me – working in groups to create a social media framework.  My group discussed our experiences more than working on the framework, but this was valuable in itself and I came away with not only a way forward in terms of our own social media strategy, but loads of great ideas (and things to avoid!) from my group.

Overall it was a very positive day out, and I’m really glad I went. I’m now brimming with renewed enthusiasm for the huge potentials that social media can offer us.



LIKE event – April 2016


On Friday 29th April 2016 Library and Learning Resources staff held their second LIKE event at Mary Seacole Library. The purpose of the event is to bring staff together from all areas of the service to report back on conferences and courses, and discuss topics related to the profession as a whole.  The event is very informal and relaxed, with no agenda and plenty of coffee and cakes!

In brief, we talked about the following topics:

  • Ethnography and the world of libraries
  • Spacefinder software and how we can better serve our students
  • An Erasmus trip to University College Ghent
  • The impact of the Teaching Excellence Framework
  • The International Librarians Network
  • Provision of core texts for students

As you can see, we discussed a huge variety of topics! Each of these inspired discussions within the group, and it was great that a number of our new(er) staff participated because it meant they could bring in some outside perspective.

Thinking internationally

Liaison Librarian Carol went on an Erasmus trip organised by the Business School to Ghent in Belgium, where she visited a couple of their libraries.  We were fascinated to hear how the staff there are diversifying the service; 3D printers, green screens, and wood sample collections were just a few of the ways in which their library service has grown and changed with the times! It just goes to show that university libraries extend far beyond the traditional remit of ‘books and journals’.  It certainly got me thinking about how in an age when more and more resources are available electronically, our physical space could (and should) grow and change to incorporate new technology and curation of non-traditional resources.  Carol highly recommended the Erasmus programme and it sounded like a really useful and enlightening experience.

Assistant Liaison Librarian Laura recommended the International Librarians Network as another way of learning about the experiences of others. This is an online peer mentoring scheme which matches participants up with somebody from elsewhere in the world, and invites them to share their experiences on given topics each week.

Engaging with the library

Two different types of engagement were discussed. The first was using ethnographic research methodologies in libraries, as reported by Research Fellow Jo from a session she attended at the UKSG 2016 conference.  This involves observing students in their use of the library, which the group related back to our own experiences of working with students on the iCity redesign and other projects.  The conclusions are seemingly that students have very differing needs from one another, however this helps us understand the wide-ranging scope of service we need to offer.  We talked about the current issues with study space and how some students prefer a traditional quiet space, yet others enjoy social learning.  Encouraging students to explore the library in unfamiliar ways is a technique to help them to learn; we thought the idea of students creating their own A-Z of the library in order to engage with us was a fantastic idea!

The second discussion came from a session that Head of E-Library team Paul had attended at the Talis Insight 2016 conference, regarding the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). By changing the institutional approach from learning to teaching as part of the TEF, academic libraries need to prove their value within the teaching agenda, moving from a service delivery model to one of engaged/independent learning – all this whilst also raising their profile and getting academic staff to buy into libraries further.  Liaison Librarian Janice reported that the Learning and Teaching team are participating in a scheme to engage with local Year 12 pupils to familiarise them with independent learning.  It was mentioned that many university libraries have similar ongoing schemes with local schools for developing links with future learners, and all agreed that this would be a positive move should something be developed in our area.

Watch this space!

We’ve really enjoyed running the LIKE events, and judging by the comments we received after this session the attendees found it worthwhile as well.  BCU Library and Learning Resources staff should keep an eye on What’s Happening for upcoming events, and blog readers should watch this space for reviews and information regarding all events that we participate in!