Thinking Outside the Fan Box: Promoting Literacy with Facebook and Twitter

Illinois Library Association 2010 Conference
Navy Pier, Chicago
September 29, 2010

Stacey Shah, Presenter
Distance Learning Librarian
Elgin Community College (ECC) Library

Online access to the information covered in this poster session is available at

The Concern

In 2009, I attended a panel session at the Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference entitled Widening the net: a research-based collaboration to foster success among at-risk learners by Librarian Kaijsa Calkins and Lecturer Rick Fisher from the University of Wyoming.

Three major ideas of this session caught my attention:

  1. Studies show the literacy among college students is declining.
  2. Reading is a skill. The more one reads, the better a reader one becomes.
  3. Librarians can help college students by encouraging them to read ANYTHING.

ECC Librarians’ Question: Can we use social networking resources to get students to read more and expose them to valuable online resources?

The Process

  1. Choose a valuable online resource with article of interest to patrons
  2. Copy article URL
  3. Use to shorten URL and create short, enticing description of article
  4. auto feeds post into Twitter; becomes a “Tweet”
  5. Copy “Tweet” and paste into Facebook feed
  6. Facebook auto feeds to Fanbox on library website

The Results

Data Collected

  • 322 resources shared
  • 183 hits this month
  • 3127 hits this year
  • 106 Facebook Friends (doubled after adding Fanbox to library homepage)
  • 77 Twitter followers


  • Encourages students to read
  • Exposes students, faculty, and staff to valuable online resources
  • Allows all librarians to easily update library webpage with good resources
  • Ties together library’s presence in Facebook, Twitter, and the ECC Library Blog
  • Allows librarians to track which resources attract the most interest
  • Promotes the library as well as its resources, services, and events



Facebook Developers Wiki, Like Box (Fan Box) creation instructions,



Calkins, Kaijsa and Rick  Fisher. Widening the net: a research-based collaboration to foster success among at-risk learners. Association of College and Research Libraries National Conference, 14 March 2009.

Romano, Lois. “Literacy of College Graduates Is on Decline: Survey’s Finding of a Drop in Reading Proficiency Is Inexplicable, Experts Say.” The Washington Post, 25 Dec. 2005. Web. 2 Sept. 2010. 


A Librarian and a Hashtag: Embedded Virtually in a Classroom via Twitter

Presenter: Ellen Hampton Filgo, Baylor University

Summary: Presenter experimented with using Twitter as an instructional/learning tool in a small class. Proved to be a great experience – allowed her to be virtually embedded in a live class during the class meeting times and to provide resources to students in a “just in time” manner to students when their interest was ignited. Also, allowed her to form a much stronger connection to the students (she became “our librarian” to them) and to be involve with their research processes from the start.

Other In-Class Experiments with Twitter:

  • Monica Rankin – UT Dallas – used Twitter during lecture class
  • Cole Camplese – Twitter backchannel at Penn State

Her experiment – use Twitter in a smaller class and involve a librarian in the process

  • Worked with Dr. W. Gardner Campbell, director of Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning Used in New Media Studies class
  •   9 students all honors students
  • Intro to new media – using media tools to help learn Required to blog, tag in deliscious, participate in class discussion via Twitter Motherblog

How she managed the project

  • tied everything together Used Tweetdeck –
  • monitored group and hashtag 
  • created a Twitter group – to group as a class
  • instructor asked the students to greet the Librarian in every class
  • sent links to the class as they met – books in catalog – websites, wikipedia – basically related to the author being discussed – google scholar citations
  • explained library resources – explained twitter (RT, @ replies)
  • included some just for fun Tweets
  • invitations to come to ref desk
  • students attended a social media conference at the college – saw a small a model of broadcast tweeting – when it hit home how Tweeting works


  • model what you want your students to do
  • Librarian Jazz – improvisational – join in with the discussion without adding the wrong note –
  • make connections between class and the students own personal knowledge Blogging
  • she made great connection with students –
  • experience enhanced by posting to class blog- posted about library resources – getting at student’s research process a lot earlier – send resources even earlier in the process

Student responses

  • very positive
  • Asked for help in other classes
  • Students very comfortable with asking librarian for help
  • referred to her as “our librarian”
  • Informal survey – good feedback – students more aware of library resources “including librarians themselves”
  • Still gets questions through Twitter and Facebook

Best Practices

  • Use a hashtag
  • Archive class tweets (Library of Congress)  – TwapperKeeper (can’t do it after the fact)
  • Use a URL shortener that uses statistics
  • Considerations: What about “Tweckling”? – heckling the librarian or other participants
  • Need to consider how you will set things up
  • Can just do one class session – time consuming

Points to Consider:

  • Is Twitter just a distraction?
  • modeling good behavior – laptop is more than just notetaking, can learn with
  • Great for both large and small experiences
  • Are certain classes better suited?
  • Not sure yet Future Directions – blogging a lot more – good interaction, more opportunity for interaction
  • how do you scale up?

How to initiate this experience:

  • follow tweets/blogs of students Find profs who use twitter professionally or personally
  • Integrate Twitter into embedded librarian program New media, journalism, educational technology
  • She did follow students and they were required to follow her
  • Students were allowed to lock down account for privacy

Additional tools

  • Tweetmenot – can mute users  discussions
  • Yammer – internal network connected to particular domain
  • Edmoto – educational network
  • Twitter HotSeat – use institutional account