There are libraries that don’t blog, tweet, have a Facebook presence, etc. because they aren’t quite sure how to be safe in that environment. By safe I’m talking about being sure that staff are clear on the ways social media can and should be used in a professional setting for professional purposes.

Isn’t the choice not to use social media for this reason similar to not purchasing materials because staff might make mistakes in the selection process? But, staff do purchase materials because they are expected to know the needs of customers and because they are considered to be professionals and respected as such. Along with that, most libraries have a collection development policy that supports and guides staff in making collection decisions.

A social media policy can and should do the same thing. A social media policy is something that every library should have. A social media policy:

  • Lays out the purpose of posting on sites like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube as a library staff member.
  • “Forces” the library to think about what they want to achieve when using social media.
  • Gives all staff the knowledge of how they are expected to use social media when doing so in their staff role.
  • Helps to inform the community about the library’s use of social media.

There are some very useful resources that provide examples of social media policies and information on what to include in a social media policy. Two to check out right away are Social Media in the Workplace: Does Your Nonprofit Organization Need a Social Media Policy and Should Your Company Have a Social Media Policy.

Keep in mind that really what you want to develop is a social media policy that is the legal document approved by the governing body, and therefore is not very flexible, and a set of guidelines that do not require the same legal approval and can be more easily updated and revised.

In a library social media policy and associated set of guidelines you’ll want to think about including:

  • Information on the purpose of the library’s social media use.
  • A comparison between posting as a library employee and posting within a more personal context.
  • Examples of the type of content a staff member might post in a social media environment.

Think carefully about how specific you get in the policy as you don’t want to limit yourself and colleagues too much. If you write in the policy that specific tools should be used, then you make it hard to start using something new that might appear on the scene. In the guidelines you create you can mention specific tools and update that regularly to reflect the current state of social media.

By the way, YALSA’s next webinar is on social media policies and you can still sign-up. Also, the YALSA Board just approved their own social media policy. You might want to check that out to get some ideas.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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