Harry Galloway Prize winner for 2015 – Louise Cowan

The annual Harry Galloway award (see earlier posting here) is presented to mark outstanding achievements on the part of students on the MSc in Information and Library Management at the University of the West of England. The current award was presented to Louise Cowan at the CILIPSW Annual General Meeting and Members’ Day at Exeter Central Library on 14th March 2016. We are delighted to congratulate Louise. Here Louise gives us the background to her winning work.

 

I studied for my MSc at UWE part-time from 2012 to 2015. The course provided a good theoretical grounding in library management, often focusing on the knowledge and skills highlighted in CILIP’s PKSB. What I learned in the taught part of the course is continuing to prove invaluable as I now move on to Chartership.

The subject of my dissertation was ‘Social Media and Academic Libraries’; my interest in the topic had grown from my experience volunteering at Sunderland University Library in 2011 and seeing first-hand the great work their marketing team was doing to promote the services the library offered to students. I also managed the social media accounts at St Hugh’s College Library in Oxford, where I worked as a Senior Library Assistant while completing my MSc.

Louise Cowan taken by Kay Ecclestone 14 Mar 2016

Emma Wellard (left), Chair of CILIP SWMN, presents this year’s award to Louise Cowan at Exeter Library (photograph by Kay Ecclestone) 

A lot of literature is highly critical of the way libraries use social media to engage their students so I wanted to understand how users were currently interacting with academic libraries on social media, in order to highlight ways further engagement could be generated and maintained. Focusing on three academic libraries, I analysed the content of posts from their Facebook and Twitter pages that had generated user engagement. I found that, while users were much more active on library social media platforms than previously suggested in literature, more could be done to encourage meaningful conversations with students. Engagement was highest when social media content had a specific value to users; thematically, these posts revolved around Community, Feedback, Education and Enjoyment. While each library’s users prioritised different themes; strategically, libraries could look to promote posts that endeavour to build a community with users through shared interests, regularly engage with feedback to improve services, provide educational support and encourage a little fun!

The understanding of social media I gained from my dissertation helped me to prepare for my current role. Although I am primarily a liaison librarian, my work also involves supporting the management of social media for Reading University’s Special Collections Library and Archive.

I was thrilled when I received the news that I had won the Harry Galloway Memorial Prize – it has made the achievement of my MSc even more meaningful and memorable.

Louise Cowan

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