Fairfield University DiMenna-Nyselius Library wins a 2009 Connecticut Library Association Award for its Facebook page


When librarians at Fairfield University's DiMenna-Nyselius Library learned that a large portion of the student body regularly uses Facebook, they saw an opportunity. They decided to create a presence on Facebook, the popular social network site, to give students easy accessibility to library research tools and resources in a familiar environment.

It's proved to be a success in more ways than one. The Connecticut Library Association (CLA) recently awarded the DiMenna-Nyselius Library a 2009 Publicity Award for the Facebook page.

It is proving to be a popular avenue of entry into the library's rich online resources and databases. Jackie Kremer, senior reference and outreach librarian, and Brittany Martin, a sophomore and library work study student, created the page, which won in the non-print category of CLA's annual competition. Their research revealed networks such as Facebook and MySpace are vital for interacting with college-age students and young adults. The growing Facebook site has a reported 175 million users around the world. As a primarily residential, wireless campus, librarians knew Fairfield would be conducive to such an online tool.

A survey conducted by the Information Services Division at the University in 2007 also gave them great reason to create the Facebook page. That year, the incoming Fairfield University freshmen class were surveyed about Facebook, and 88% responded that they had a Facebook account, with 53% noting that they checked it daily, and 31 % responding that they checked it every few days. The remaining 16% responded that they checked Facebook weekly. Only 36% of the then freshmen - who are now sophomores - had MySpace accounts, with only 21% of those checking it daily. Fairfield undergraduates, ages 18-22, are the primary target market of the Facebook page.

The goal of the Library's Facebook page was to enable students to use library tools through an online platform they prefer, one that allows them to gain the help they need through easier access to librarians and search engines. Martin said a Facebook presence is important. "Through our Facebook page, the library is able to get information to students in a format that they are familiar with and regularly use."

Like the library's web site on the Internet, the Facebook page is a portal for advertising library events and resources. It serves as a way for students to access library information, and makes research assistance available to them. Kremer said students are able to contact a librarian directly from the Facebook page, and events are now better known to them via notifications over Facebook.

Joan Overfield, director of Library Services, said anyone can see the library's page without being a "fan" or a "friend," so it is hard to measure if students are using it as their primary portal. A Facebook page is different from a personal profile. If you know someone you want to communicate with on Facebook, you ask him or her to be your "friend." If he/she accepts you, you can see his/her page and he/she can see your -personal profile, complete with the messages and photos posted there. There is a distinction between fans and friends. The creator of a page can invite individuals to become a fan or individuals can become fans when they view the page. This is different from becoming friends with someone on Facebook. Overfield said, "With fans, the library can't see their personal pages as we don't want students to think we are intruding in their private space. I think the idea is more to be where students are as a convenience for them."

So far, the Library has 209 fans, a very good number considering that the university library with the most - Harvard Law School - has 569 fans. The University of North Carolina, Davis is fourth with 310 fans. The award will be presented to Fairfield librarians at the organization's annual convention on April 30.

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on February 26, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 226