Well, this assignment produced quite a few surprises for me! After my research and reflection, I think that academic libraries need to be prepared to conduct advance research and planning if they want to jump on the Instagram bandwagon, which I don’t recommend as appropriate for every academic library.
My analysis paper discusses how social media has become the means of library–student engagement, with Instagram widely touted as the most effective platform. Why should academic libraries set up an Instagram account? Because Instagram’s photo–sharing format appeals to students, who are accustomed to and like the visual presentation of information. Yet, Instagram demands a continual cycle of attention to maintain followers and relevance: snapshot, filter, edit, post, like, comment, repost, follow, and so on.
From an informatics perspective, Instagram helps academic libraries communicate with and connect to students since each incoming college class will consist of exponentially more Instagram users. Academic library Instagram accounts are most successful when staff administrators remember that they are conveying information to young adult students, who follow social media trends and campus events. I found that Instagram’s use by academic libraries also serves pedagogical purposes. Instructional librarians should consider integrating Instagram into library class sessions because it coincides with two ACRL frames: authority is constructed and contextual and information creation as a process. Finally, in an educational environment where return–on–investment has reached paramount status, academic libraries must demonstrate their connection to student success, and I think library Instagram accounts can function as either formal or informal altmetrics.
I concluded that, despite many positive aspects of academic libraries using Instagram, this social media tool often proves to be a case of elusive success. Brookbank (2015) asks, “Does it necessarily follow, however, that college students will want to interact with their library via social media?” (p. 236). For academic libraries with limited staff, assessing student interest in an official library Instagram account and the type of content to be posted, such as research tips or library resources, is crucial. Ultimately, I believe that academic libraries using Instagram should think of it as an experiment, which can provide more insight about the underlying links between libraries and students as well as how the library–student relationship can be improved.
*See my paper (link above) for a more detailed analysis and my complete references.