The purpose of this study was to investigate how users of a special collection library of an academic institution in South Africa sought information and how social media could play a role in library service provision. Data for the empirical component was collected in September 2015. The study used a mixed methods approach to collect quantitative data which was analysed using Excel spreadsheets and qualitative data which was analysed using thematic analysis. A total of 36 self-administered printed questionnaires were used to solicit information on how users of the special collection library sought information for academic purposes using social media. Information was collected on the concerns, barriers and motivations that influence or deter users from using social media for academic purposes. Semi-structured interviews involving 11 participants were used to collect information on the views, experiences, thoughts and opinions of participants as regards the role that social media can play in providing library services. The study used purposive sampling in selecting participants for both the quantitative and qualitative study. Participants were users visiting the Special Collection Library at Institution A (a tertiary institution in South Africa), as well as users recommended by librarians of the Special Collection Library at Institution A. The participants included researchers, academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students at the academic institution as well as outside users (users not enrolled at Institution A or not staff members). The key findings include: (a) The most preferred social media tool used for academic purposes was Twitter, used mainly for sharing information and notification purposes. (b) Most preferred features of social media were those that provided for more engaging communication. (c) Users preferred more subject specific information on social media. (d) The concern listed as very significant by the largest number of participants was breach of privacy. Based on the findings of this study, recommendations were made for the library to give greater support to diversity of expression of knowledge and foster participation with the user as content creator and not just a consumer of knowledge. Also, the library should consider using strategies that promote the discoverability of the special collections. Such strategies include: using the social media tool of the users’ preference (for example Twitter in this case) to raise awareness of the collections (such as, maps and artefacts) that are unique to the library; using social media such as WhatsApp to post reference lists related to particular topics that refer users to the special collection resources such as manuscripts and artefacts. Using WhatsApp also provides opportunity to start conversations/chats around special collection resources. Training should be developed and provided to librarians and users that focus on those features that promote the display of special collections resources such as the uploading of photographs. Recommendations were made for further research.
Mini Dissertation (MIT)-University of Pretoria, 2016.