Using social media to create a participatory library service: an Australian study

Kathleen Smeaton, Kate Davis


Public libraries are increasingly using social media in an attempt to meet users in their own spaces. Social media can be useful when used to create a participatory library service emphasising engagement with users. However, there has been little empirical investigation into the success of social media use by public libraries. This article reports on the findings of a research project that explored the use of social media by Australian public libraries.

Two organisations participated in case studies that involved interviews, document analysis, and social media observation. To contextualise the use of social media in the case study organisations, a sub-study was undertaken involving observation of an additional 24 public libraries across Australia. This article focuses on the findings from the observation sub-study. It presents and applies a methodology for classifying social media content to determine whether the sample libraries’ social media use is indicative of a participatory approach to service delivery.

This article explores how a range of social media platforms are used by the sample libraries and considers what best practice in participatory library service looks like. The two case study organisations’ use of social media is highlighted as exemplary practice.


social media; participatory library; public library; Australia;

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ISSN 1756-1086 (Online)