Wednesday, August 20, 2008

SPEC Kit 304: Social Software in Libraries

Social Software in Libraries: SPEC Kit 304 Published by ARL

Matthew Bejune and Jana Ronan / July 2008 / ISBN 1-59407-803-3 / 196 pp. / $45 ($35 ARL members)

Washington DC—The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has published Social Software in Libraries, SPEC Kit 304, which provides an overview of ARL libraries’ implementation of software that people use to connect with one another online.

In the last few years, the use of social software has grown enormously. attracted more than 114 million visitors in June 2007, a 72% increase from June 2006, while Facebook grew 270%, to 52.2 million visitors, according to comScore. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports 48% of adults have visited video-sharing sites such as YouTube. Many authors who write about online social software emphasize the community of such sites, where users mingle for social, political, or research purposes, creating and sharing information or just having fun. These sites “allow individuals to present themselves, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with others.”

While a growing number of libraries have adopted social software as a way to further interact with library patrons and library staff, many things are unclear about the use of social software in ARL member libraries. This SPEC survey was designed to discover how many libraries and library staff are using social software and for what purposes, how those activities are organized and managed, and the benefits and challenges of using social software, among other questions.

This survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in February 2008. Sixty-four libraries completed the survey by the March 14 deadline for a response rate of 52%. All but three of the responding libraries report that their library staff uses social software (95%) and one of those three plans to begin using social software in the future.

Survey results indicate that the most broadly adopted social software—chat or instant messaging—was also the earliest implemented social software. While one respondent was using instant messaging for reference and another was using chat for internal communication as early as 1998, the earliest use of this type of social software dates back to 1993.

While chat and instant messaging have been in use for several years, use of other types of social software in libraries is very recent. Beyond isolated cases, a steadily increasing number of ARL member libraries began implementing social software in 2005, with the largest rate of adoption being in 2007.

This SPEC Kit includes documentation from respondents of examples of Web sites that show how each of the 10 types of social software is used.


Table of Contents and Executive Summary and Representative Documents


  • University at Buffalo, SUNY ; Facebook: University at Buffalo Libraries / 116

  • University of California, Irvine ; ’Facebook: UCI Libraries / 117

  • University of Georgia ; Facebook: UGA Student Learning Center / 118

  • Indiana University Bloomington; Facebook: Herman B. Wells / 119

  • University of Manitoba ; Virtual Learning Commons / 120

  • University of Michigan ; Facebook: Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library / 121

  • Southern Illinois University Carbondale ; MySpace: Morris Library / 122


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