Survey of Canadian academic librarians & their use of social media (2010-2011)

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An actual sample of a social media survey
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See also Research for librarians - portal and Surveys - an introduction to online tools

This wiki entry describes a project awarded a Canadian Association of Research Libraries / Association des bibliothèques de recherche du Canada (CARL/ABRC) Research in Librarianship Grant. (E-mail for the full report.) The proposal was one of three given a CARL Grant - Research in Librarianship, Ottawa, November 2009 (official letter from CARL/ABRC).

Phase II

Phase I

English Version 2010

French Version 2010

Possible titles

  • "A survey of Canadian academic librarians and social media; a quantitative and qualitative research report into attitudes, behaviours and use"
  • "How is social software used by academic librarians? A quantitative and qualitative survey of CARL/ABRC libraries"
  • "Web 2.0 use by academic librarians: a CARL/ABRC survey"
  • "Social media and web 2.0: how Canadian academic librarians use social media in instruction, reference and liaison"

Research questions

  • To what extent are web 2.0 tools adopted by academic librarians in Canada?
  • Which social media are used, for what purposes and to what extent?
  • What are the demographic characteristics of academic librarians who use these tools?
  • What factors influence academic librarians to adopt social media?
  • Are there specific skills and training needs relevant to adopting social media?
  • Is there evidence that social media change academic librarians' behaviours?
  • Is there evidence that academic librarians' perceptions and practices are adapting to social media?
  • What are the ethical and legal implications of using social media to disseminate information i.e. ownership of information, etc
  • What is the relationship between social media and search / discovery tools?


  • Social media is used in university libraries for a variety of reasons
    • To what extent is social media used in Canadian academic libraries? what are the implications of this use in providing new digital forms of library service?
  • Notwithstanding tensions between personal and institutional boundaries, how do academic librarians use social media in their work and current awareness (i.e. coupled with other tools? well-integrated; institutionally-controlled?)
  • What are the drivers (or inhibitors) affecting use of social in Canadian academic libraries???
    • How do Canadian academic librarians react to social media? do they express their approval or disapproval? what attitudes and behaviours can be discerned? is there a general level of readiness and acceptance of social tools?
      • ....attitudes are “inclinations and feelings, prejudices or bias, preconceived notions, ideas, fears and convictions about any specific topic” (Taiwo, 1998). Many have cited Allport (1935), who states that an attititude “is a mental and neutral state of readiness organized through experience exerting a directive or dynamic influences upon individual's response to all objects or situations with which it is associated.”
      • In this study, I am interested in the responses and perceptions of Canadian academic librarians in using social media. Their attitudes represent the conceptual value of these technologies (in the minds of the academics librarians), not their actual value (perceived vs. actual value). According to Spacey, et al. (2003), Fine (1986), and Evald (1996), positive attitudes are fundamental to using new technologies. The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis, 1989) is a way of looking at the relationship between attitudes and behaviours. Other research in this area include Mathieson (1991), Morris and Dillon (1997), and Taylor and Todd (1995). (see
    • literacies- what do they mean by media literacy in a web 2.0 world?
    • What roles & structures, skills set, strategies and policies are required?
    • "What are the best teaching and learning paradigms"
  • what are the major issues? danger of adopting a technological deterministic approach; being beguiled by technology;
  • can we articulate a web 2.0 pedagogy? what models might be useful?
  • we need new models to understand relationship between pedagogy & technology;
  • we need to experiment with these ideas; atomistic (small bits; make sense of them? piecemeal - do we need a schema as a way of representing this kind of atomistic learning) vs. wholistic (principles underpinning or butressing learning/sharing/collaboation)
  • what is the best of web 2.0? what makes it useful for learning? how do these go together with traditional learning?
  • can we bring the best of web 2.0 and evidence based practice to providing library services?

Philosophical considerations

  • are early adopters of social media encultured (subconsciously) to behave as though librarian-user interaction is pre-determined by 'the system' while deluding themselves that they have control?
  • are we vacuously seeking to fulfill the requirements of the system (La Technique, Ellul); while being rewarded for doing so are we losing our core intellectual orientation and even our humanity?

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework for this study will be a hybrid model of theories and perspectives such as Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology and connectivism. The goal in developing the hybrid is to make logical sense of the relationships between the variables and factors that are relevant or important to the research issue around adoption of social media in academic libraries. The development of a theoretical framework will provide definitions of relationships between variables so that the theorized relationships between variables are made clear and explicit. Put another way, a theoretical framework is really a set of interrelated concepts, similar to a theory but not completely worked-out. A theoretical framework guides research, and helps to determine what you are measuring and the statistical relationships that you are hoping to explore/examine.

Limitations of TAM

  • Journal of Organizational and End User Computing (JOEUC)
    • The technology acceptance model proposes that perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness predict the acceptance of information technology. Since its inception, the model has been tested with various applications in tens of studies and has become the most widely applied model of user acceptance and usage. Nevertheless, the reported findings on the model are mixed in terms of statistical significance, direction, and magnitude. In this study, we conducted a meta-analysis based on 26 selected empirical studies in order to synthesize the empirical evidence. The results suggest that both the correlation between usefulness and acceptance, and that between usefulness and ease of use are somewhat strong. However, the relationship between ease of use and acceptance is weak, and its significance does not pass the fail-safe test.
    • Implementing new information technology in academic libraries depends largely on librarians' attitudes toward it. The application of social media has caused significant changes in libraries: new ways of providing reference, instruction, networking and liaison (outreach) not to mention cataloguing, searching, document delivery and collections-related work.
    • According to Ostrow (1998), the advent of the Internet, digitization, and the ability to access library and research materials from remote locations creates dramatic changes for librarians. Ramzan (2004) says that expert systems, wireless networks, virtual collections, interactive Web interfaces, virtual reference services, and personal web portals have brought changes since the start of the new millennium. There have been fast and significant changes in librarianship, where digital and electronic libraries complement, and in some cases replace, traditional libraries and their services.

Principle Investigator

Research Associate

Survey advisory


As blogs, wikis and online social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly popular and widely-used in the general population (services known as web 2.0), academic librarians have responded accordingly by applying some of these tools in varying degrees to the provision of library services. In July 2008, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published a report entitled "Social software in libraries - SPEC Kit 304" which gives examples of how Canadian and American academic libraries are using social media within their institutions.

However, the report suggests that:

"...while chat and instant messaging have been in use for several years [in ARL libraries], use of other types of social software is very recent. Beyond isolated cases, a steadily increasing number of ARL member libraries began implementing social software in 2005, with the largest rate of adoption being in 2007." (Bejune & Ronan, 2008)

Given the hype around many social or web 2.0 technologies, and the speed of change in the area, it can be confusing for academic librarians to decide which tools to apply to information challenges and problems. The debate about whether librarians should use these tools suffers from weak evidence especially in a Canadian context. Some academic librarians believe that the digital spaces created by social media should be exploited fully (see appendix II "Academic libraries 2.0") while others argue that many web tools are "disruptive" and fall outside the parameters of the field. Both sides of the social media debate (for and against) can be vociferous in their defense of their views. Although a survey of this kind cannot by itself change how many of these tools are perceived (or evaluated), it is nonetheless an important first step in initiating the conversation or debate as we move further into the web 2.0 era.

Statement of problem

As library blogs emerged between 1998-2004, many early-adopters began to experiment with social software tools such as RSS feeds, wikis, chat tools, podcasting, video-sharing and bookmarking. Since then, all kinds of surveys have been conducted in jurisdictions that describe how these tools are used (Aharony, 2009; Chu, 2009; Connell, 2009; Hendrix 2009; Kroski, 2007). In addition, academic librarians regularly report on their use of social media at association meetings and in scholarly papers, but no Canada-wide study has yet been conducted. The library and information sciences literature is filled with applied research, opinion-based case studies and early theoretical research (see Habib (2006)) but generally it lacks a strong empirical base. It is not known, for example, what types of social software are commonly used by CARL/ABRC libraries and whether they have adapted their traditional bibliographic or legacy systems to respond to service expectations created by social media. Finally, there is a need to establish an overall view of innovative uses of social media in Canadian academic libraries for capturing best practices and to apply that information to developing theoretical frameworks and novel services for faculty, staff and students.

Aim of survey

The aim of this survey is to gather empirical data of social media usage by academic librarians in Canada. The goal is to establish factual information and reveal the nature and extent of social media usage by Canadian academic librarians for the purposes of communication, networking and marketing. The survey will be designed to elicit opinions of academic librarians from twenty-nine (29) Canadian university libraries within CARL/ABRC. The descriptive statistics will include what factors influence the adoption of social media such as demographics, professional titles and attitudes. This data will be cross-tabulated to identify dominant themes and issues of concern such as what barriers (ie. lack of time, knowledge or institutional support) currently restrict the use of social media. It must be said that an underlying problem for librarians who use web 2.0 technologies is the lack of a practice framework - and not just within a Canadian context. In the absence of supporting theories and strategic planning for web 2.0, it is unlikely that academic librarians will ever be able to obtain the type of support they need to integrate social media effectively. Therefore, a baseline of descriptive data will be indispensible both for understanding the state-of-the-art of social media and what might be required of university libraries in terms of allocating optimal infrastructure support and resources. The publication of this information will enable academic librarians in Canada to analyze viewpoints and to compare their use of social media with peers from across the country. Canadian library associations and educators can refer to this data in order to identify new areas for research and continuing education for professional librarians.

Literature review

The principle investigator is currently teaching a 13-week course called Social media for information professionals. The course is for graduate students within the MLIS and MAS programmes at the University of British Columbia's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (SLAIS). The readings and bibliographies below will be kept up to date and synthesized in preparation for the development of the survey questionnaire.

Relevant websites

Study methodology

  • This paper adopts the survey as an investigative technique. In the framework of research, this is a useful way to get quantitative data
  • The research process includes a comprehensive literature review of different resources such as journals, documents, and web pages
  • In the survey phases, academic librarians were first asked to rate their agreement with statements on a five point Likert. In phase II, interviews were conducted with a sample from the first survey. Each interview took about one hour.
  • The authors considered the recommendations from Creswell (1998) for interview development: (a) take into account the purpose of the study; (b) determine what kind of interview qualifies; (c) record the interview; (d) design the questions and decide the place of the interview; and (e) obtain consent of participants before asking questions.
  • The interviews were carried out in the work area. The questions included in the interview were subdivided into the following categories: usage, awareness, and experiences of social media; institutional supports, benefits.
  • To compile the information a triangulation was made using different sources of information (Lucca, Berríos; 2003). In addition to the interviews, other documents were used.
  • Each library’s web site was observed, including the organization of contents and the services offered. The collection of all this data took approximately two months. There were no interruptions to the data collection process

Preliminary planning

  • The principle investigator and a research assistant will update bibliographies on academic libraries 2.0, library 2.0, web 2.0 and social software
  • Investigators will design an online survey (semi-structured questionnaire) of 20-25 questions with the assistance of UBC's ARES unit
  • The survey will be in two-phases and a 'stepped' methodology
    • Phase I survey will be piloted and validated by a small sample group
    • Phase II survey will have more in-depth questions (and a small randomized sample of 20 librarians will be interviewed)
  • This survey will examine attitudes and experiences of Canadian academic librarians who use/do not use social media
  • Survey tool called "Vovici" will be used; online software program is supported by the University of British Columbia
    • Institutional and demographic information will be gathered; phase I survey will include closed and open-ended questions
  • Invitations to complete Phase I survey will be sent to listservs such as CACUL, CAUT, CLA and directly to contacts at CARL libraries
  • Ethics approval for both phases will be required ('behavioural studies')
  • Phase I data will ask participants to agree to an interview in Phase II (a random sample of 20 librarians)
  • Phase II will include in-depth questions and room for more sharing of opinions, viewpoints and perspectives




See also


See also Academic libraries 2.0


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