Why do librarians tweet about cake?

I’ve taken on a challenging/fun writing project for 2016: summing up social media in libraries 2010-2015, for the next edition of British Librarianship and Information Work.  Crumbs!

How appropriate!  The Bodleian Library in cake form, courtesy Sally Crossthwaite's flickr stream under licence CC BY NC ND 2.0
Mmmm, cake.  The Radcliffe Camera (part of the Bodleian Library), courtesy Sally Crossthwaite’s flickr stream under licence CC BY NC ND 2.0

The deadline is autumn 2016, but I’ve started work already as the piece will need a great deal of planning, research and reflection. Finding information and evidence so that I’m not just rehashing anecdotes and personal experience will be vital – and difficult.  There’s plenty of “how to” and “why you should” when it comes to social media in libraries, but not a great deal of analysis or reflection.  I’ll need to take a creative and flexible approach to sources, which poses problems for a reference book i.e. online sources are incredibly prone to link rot.

Here’s some of the many, many fascinating questions I’ll be considering:

  1. What is distinctive about the way libraries/librarians engage with social media?
  2. What has been the impact of the rise of the smartphone and the app, and of creative commons and other licencing which allows sharing of images?
  3. Whatever happened to web 2.0?
  4. Is social media in libraries mature technology/core business?
  5. How have social networking platforms been used in librarians’ professional development?
  6. How are librarians teaching and supporting their readers in using social media?
  7. How are librarians choosing which platforms to use to interact with users?  How are they evaluating and justifying this use?
Good advice!  A typical library adaptation of a meme - Keep Calm etc etc became ubiquitous and "jumped the shark" during the time period my chapter will cover.  Courtesy Robert Burdock's flickr stream, licence CC BY NC ND 2.0.
Typical library adaptation of the Keep Calm meme which rose and “jumped the shark” during the time period of my chapter. Courtesy Robert Burdock’s flickr stream, licence CC BY NC ND 2.0.

8. And of course, why DOES cake feature so heavily in librarianly social networking?  Plenty of reasons – it’s lovely, shareable, doesn’t need plates etc,  photogenic, and can be formed into library shapes such as buildings or books.  I guess the revival of craftiness, Bake Off etc also plays a part as we have a large population of librarians who bake.

Anyway, I’d be very grateful for any hints, tips, references or comments, especially from librarians outside the worlds of higher education or special collections.  It would be great to hear from social media refuseniks, though I doubt they’ll be reading this.  I’ll be seeking them out via email lists later on!


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