Social Network Service and Facebook

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Brief communications: Hendrix et al.

Use of Facebook in academic health sciences libraries
Dean Hendrix, MLIS; Deborah Chiarella, MLS; Linda Hasman, MSLS; Sharon Murphy, MLS, RN; Michelle L. Zafron, MLS See end of article for authors’ affiliations. DOI: 10.3163/1536-5050.97.1.008

INTRODUCTION Originally founded to link students at Harvard University, the social networking application, Facebook, has evolved into the most visited social networking site in the world with over 90 million active users. Specializing in regional and scholastic networks, Facebook boasts an 85% market share at universities and colleges in the United States [1], and a recent study of more than 800 University of Florida medical students and residents determined that 44.5% use Facebook [2]. As academic health sciences libraries explore social networking technologies to create and market library services, Facebook provides a flexible space to interface with a large number of students. Homegrown applications for Facebook have been created by libraries to answer reference questions, search online public access catalogs, and host multimedia collections. For health sciences libraries, whose users are often widely dispersed, Facebook offers several opportunities for outreach and instruction. For example, self-organizing groups of users (i.e., medical student class of 2010, pharmaceutical sciences undergraduates) afford targeted marketing opportunities despite their distributed locations (i.e., teaching hospitals, rural clinics, commercial pharmaceutical laboratories). Additionally, Facebook encourages developers to create applications that could be useful in a health sciences setting (i.e., PubMed Search application), form affinity groups (i.e., Medical Library Association Facebook group), and fashion library fan pages.

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J Med Libr Assoc 97(1) January 2009

Brief communications: Hendrix et al.

Despite an abundance of literature about the social networking site Facebook in newspapers, magazines, and other popular publications, Facebook as a topic in the library literature is scarce. A review of the literature revealed that the majority of published articles provided an introduction to the application and social networking in general. Particularly lacking were research-based articles on Facebook’s use in libraries. Searching specifically for research relating to the presence of health sciences libraries on Facebook yielded no results. To partially fill this void, this study was designed to determine the extent and nature of institutional Facebook use by academic health sciences libraries. Secondarily, the authors sought to gauge the perceived success of institutional Facebook pages. The authors recognized that many librarians used Facebook personally and professionally; however, these types of individual use were not the focus of this study. Omitting descriptive and editorial communications, this literature review summarizes some representative research-oriented studies on libraries and Facebook found in the database, Library Literature. Mack et al.’s article, ‘‘Reaching Students with Facebook: Data and Best Practices,’’ discussed a librarian’s use of Facebook as a means to collect and answer reference questions [3]. The lead author promoted his Facebook profile during subject-specific library sessions with undergraduates, along with his availability for consultation via Facebook. During the fall 2006 semester, reference inquiries were counted by email, telephone, instant messenger, and Facebook and in person. Out of the 441 received reference questions, the most reference questions were collected through Facebook (126), followed closely by email (122) and in-person consultations (112). The authors recommended that libraries create a Facebook group as a ‘‘fun way to find out who your library fans are out there.’’ In ‘‘Internet Reviews: Social Networking Software Follow-up: Facebook and MySpace (and more),’’ Greenwell and Kraemer discussed...
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