Social Networking Competencies for Librarians and Community Managers

The following abstract is from “Social Networking Literacy Competencies for Librarians: Exploring Considerations and Engaging Participation”, Contributed Paper, ACRL 14th National Conference, Pushing the Edge: Explore, Engage, Extend, 14th March 2009 by Joe Murphy and Heather Moulaison.

I thought it worth replicating and promoting here since it provides a consolidated perspective on some core competencies for social networking applicable to Librarians (the original intended audience) , and also Community of Practice facilitators/moderators or community managers who’s skill-set should embrace many aspects of the traditional Librarian role. The bracketed inserts are my own.

The following competencies are a suggested set of skills that librarians (and community managers) should possess as social networking literate information professionals capable of implementing library services and utilising information within social networking sites. These include skills for interacting with patrons within the sites, understanding and articulating the nature of social networking sites and their potential roles related to library services, creating presences and content, evaluating and applying information, and having the ability to assist patrons with gaining and applying these skills. Librarians (and community managers) possessing these skills are capable of efficiently and effectively navigating online social networking sites and applying their expertise to services with and within this now central realm for interacting with information.

Understanding and Articulating Social Networking Sites and Their Roles

The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) is capable of articulating the nature and roles of online social networking sites and their importance in scholarly research and communication, and the information cycle. Librarians (and community managers) should be familiar with a diversity of social networking sites and social media including those most relevant to their patrons. Librarians (and community managers) also need to be able to articulate the importance of online social networking sites and their applications for libraries to peers, administrators, and patrons.

Creating Content

The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) is capable of creating, contributing, and revising content in various formats including images, text, audio, video, links, and more within and beyond the presence of their library in a variety of social networking sites with various tools. This extends to creating the library presence including pages, groups, profiles, and applications.

Evaluating Information

The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) is capable of critically evaluating information encountered in social networking sites on the basis of authority, currency, and bias etc. Librarians (and community managers) also need to be able to assist patrons in gaining and applying these skills to evaluate information they encounter in various online social networks.

Applying Information Ethically and Legally

The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) applies information in social networking sites ethically and legally. They respect copyright and intellectual property of information encountered and applied in social networking sites, and conscious of the unique cultural norms. This includes applying information found in social networking sites to other media and applying information to projects within social networking sites.

Searching and Navigating

The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) knows how to effectively search and browse various online social networks for known and unknown contacts, and for information and resources in a variety of formats. This includes understanding the search tools available within the sites, knowledge of using outside search engines to search the sites, and an understanding of what information and fields are searchable. Skills for navigating and browsing within the sites and between a variety of individual networks and outside websites is also important.


The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) is familiar with the diverse methods of communicating with social networking sites and is aware of and able to apply the unique cultural norms and expectations of each communication method. All social networking sites allow for varying degrees of interactivity that can serve as avenues for connecting with patrons.

Communication channels include messaging within the sites, posts on profile walls, comments on status updates, notes, pictures, posted items and blogs, and the sites’ various synchronous chat features.

Also important are the skills for interacting over the various mobile communication channels popular with some social networking sites. Librarians (and community managers) should posses the skills for interacting with patrons in these sites via smart phone applications, mobile webpages, email, software and third party clients, and text message.


The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) is capable of teaching these skills to library patrons and peers. This includes guiding and training patrons through targeted aspects of social networking sites that arise in their use as resources and tools, teaching about the use of social networking sites for scholarly purposes, and teaching faculty and instructors about the role of social networking sites and considerations for issues affecting their students’ work.

Providing Services

The social networking literate librarian (and community manager) utilises a variety of online social networking sites to provide quality library services. They evaluate social network sites and choose which are most appropriate to establish a library presence in. They are capable of building and managing the library’s presence in the form of profiles or applications, developing work flows for services, marketing services, weeding spam, understanding and working with privacy levels, assessing the library’s presence and services, leveraging tagging and favouriting, understanding and engaging vendor and other third party applications, and being aware of relevant security topics. It is important that librarians are familiar with the steps and etiquette for initiating and responding to friend requests in building networks.


Flexibility is the defining skill for librarians (and community managers) engaging people and information through social networking sites. Librarians (and community managers) must be able to apply the above skills to unique and novel social networking sites as they emerge and evolve. Familiarity with each of the above skills in multiple social networking sites will help librarians (and community managers) be flexible in applying these skills to future sites and services.

The most important, and possibly hardest to develop, skill is the ability to look ahead, visualise, create, and manage robust library (and community) services in full consideration of and within social networking sites. This takes vision, creativity, and a constant thumb on the pulse of the social web, its users, and their behaviours.

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