The Zimbabwe Library Association (ZimLA) has urged the book sector, including students and institutional libraries, to embrace social media platforms in their conduct of business.
Speaking at a Social Media Day commemoration held at Batanai Mall in Harare recently, ZimLA Mashonaland Branch vice chairperson Macdonald Nhakura said his association invited students and librarians from all walks of life to reflect and honour the growth of social media and the digital revolution.
He added that social media has made it possible to stay connected with and informed about those important people in our lives.
“Reconnecting with classmates, past work associates and more is also a valuable part of social media. It has also made it possible to connect with ancestors and find relatives you never even knew existed. Yes, the family tree has become a social media platform as well. MyHeritage.com and Ancestry.com and many others all supply a social platform where distant family members have the potential to meet and build their family trees,” said Nhakura.
Held under the theme “Social Media in Libraries”, the commemoration had brainstorming sessions inspired by various speakers who showed the different ways social media technologies have revolutionized the world, including the library sector.
In his presentation, Gilchriste Ndongwe from the Zimbabwe Evidence Informed Policy Network (ZEIPNET) urged university or polytechnic college students to use social media as an academic tool.
He said students need to share academic or evaluative knowledge on platforms like Whatsapp and challenged local libraries in particular to use their social media pages as marketing or reference sites.
Grace Msauki, a librarian and research officer at Zimbabwe Economic Policy Analysis and Research Unit (Zeparu), said while social media has changed how libraries now operate everywhere in the world, its uptake in the Zimbabwean library sector has been low due to reasons such as inadequate training opportunities, lack of knowledge, awareness, privacy and security (identity theft) concerns, slow speed of Internet/bandwidth, fear of change/increase in workload, rigid ICT policies/firewalls, lack of managerial support, inadequate ICT Infrastructure due to funding challenges, technophobia (fear of technology), and, like all media, social media can either break you or make you.
However, Msauki reminded the Zimbabwean society that it is not too late to increase social media use in libraries. She said social media policies and skills training workshops can greatly benefit both librarians and library users.
Furthermore, she said the sector can take a leaf from His Excellency the President of Zimbabwe Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa who has urged officials to use the social media.
Joseline Chigwada outlined how social media is being used at an institution like the Bindura University of Science Education.
While her paper titled “The Adoption and Use of Social Media Technologies” focused on the use of social media at the BUSE library, she also echoed recommendations made by Msauki that libraries should “promote the social media tools they use through word of mouth and using links on library webpages, train library staff and patrons, create specialist roles, evaluate the use of social media tools and to always be wary of the pros and cons of social media.
Chigwada said nowadays researchers are in the habit of posting their research output on social media platforms such as Research Gate and Academia.edu, and therefore her institution has actively embraced all social media technologies so that library clients like students can benefit.
The whole local book industry cannot indeed ignore the impact of social media. Zimbabwe Library Association is an associate of IFLA and will be holding a conference in Mutare this month.