Share and Share Alike – Libraries are Encouraging Social Media Literacy

Since libraries are the original, classic sharers, distributors and sources of information, I am curious to look and think at how libraries, such as our own Ottawa Public Library,  and nearby Toronto’s public library use social media.


JPhoto: Inside yväskylä_library – Source:

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) is in fact the largest bilingual library in North America with 34 branches – 33 of them physical locations with stacks of books and other items – and 1 of them virtual. Interestingly, the OPL considers its website to be a virtual branch in that it is through the website that library services can be delivered, library card holders can access their account, request holds, renew loans, search the catalogue, access databases and connect to online learning tools for technology, languages, job searchers and many more areas. Library users or customers can also ask for information or help via a centralized Information Service email address.

The OPL also has a fairly large number of bloggers who either work at or with the Library who share their insights, book recommendations or critiques, inspirational tips or informational pointers on a wide range of subjects. These blogs reflect the different communities, groups and areas of interest the library tries to serve with its lending, teaching and programming activities.

The OPL is quite active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where it does a good job of responding to comments and shares and of course actively encourages its followers to participate in OPL activities and to share news about the OPL to its followers networks. The stated purpose of the OPL’s social media channels is very much aligned with the learning and information sharing raison d’être of the Library, to facilitates “an environment for library staff and library users to share opinions and information about library-related subjects or issues.” And though the OPL recognizes and respects differences in opinion and holds intellectual freedom as a core value, the Library does monitor comments and will remove posts that contravene its mission, or the law. For example, posts that are obscene or racist; personal attacks, insults, or threatening language; libelous statements or plagiarized material will be removed, according to the OPL’s social media policy and the poster of these unacceptable contributions will be barred.

Similarly, the Toronto Public Library also states that its use of online and social media channels is to extend the Library’s welcoming and supportive service environment online in a way that is consistent with its mission, services and values. The TPL clearly states that it uses social media to promote its services and reputation as an institution as well as to deliver library services and information, while encouraging and promoting accessibility and inclusivity.  The TPL is active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, You Tube, Flickr and has a number of blogs by its librarians on a variety of subject areas ranging from health and wellness, to personal finance to history and geneaology. Many of these subject areas are aimed at specific groups served by the Library such as parents of pre-school children, newcomers to Canada, teens or French-speakers.

Other libraries across Canada and North America have understandably embraced the information-sharing, community-building and service-delivery potential of social media and have, often with small budgets and teams done a good job in adapting to the changing communications media landscape by not only actively participating in the social media and on-line worlds but also by providing their customers and communities with online learning resources, learning tools and training sessions so those they serve can participate in this growing dimension.


Photo: Source: Public Policy Institute of California

In this way, libraries are working to ensure their communities are not lost or disadvantaged by being stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Blog Post 6 COM0011– Rachael Duplisea

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