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Thursday, 6 September 2018

WhatsApp a Librarian

By: Nontobeko Sikhosana
The developing fame of online life apparatuses has persuaded scientists to investigate the parts such media play in ordinary life and in the public.

What if our users used WhatsApp as a means of communication with us? This will be a direct and user-friendly service for Library users to use WhatsApp to contact librarians, to locate general library information and seek assistance when using the Library. After a session we give students our communication details so that they can contact us if they have any queries or if they need any further assistance but they will often say ‘There is no cell phone number there, don’t worry we won’t send a please call me we will just send a WhatsApp message”. So again, what will happen if our students communicated with us via WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a mobile instant messaging tool of social media. It make people connect in real time and most people spend a lot of time using this application. This application is free to use and it offers various capabilities for sharing media: text messages, images, audio clips, videos, documents, contacts and even location data.  In some countries such as India, Zimbabwe and Hong Kong to name a few, libraries are already using this App as a means of communication.

 Most of those people who are engaged in mobile instant messaging do so in order to maintain connections and relationships with colleagues, family and friends.

WhatsApp has its own advantages for service delivery in libraries and information centres such as:
  • WhatsApp will encourage partnership and advance powerful correspondence between librarians and their users.
  • Financially the costs of WhatsApp are perceived to be low, and using WhatsApp requires little training.
  • Information about new developments in the library can be easily, quickly and cheaply disseminated.
  • WhatsApp can increase the engagement and interactions among Librarians and their users.
  • Librarians can create group chats with different disciplines and interact with students regarding new material, assignment help, reviews, new publications, new acquisitions or any useful information that a librarian has posted on Libguides: you will be promoting your Libguide at the same time.
There will also be a few challenges along the way, for example:
  • WhatsApp requires considerable time commitment from library staff
  • There are limited funds available in libraries to support more advanced social media tools and the training that may be required to enable this.
  • Librarians may not post PDFs of electronic books or articles on WhatsApp but may give instructions to users on how to access them via the library website or the Libguide. 
  • Students may suffer with data availability when they are not on campus but data for WhatsApp is cheaper than sending an email.
 Information technology has changed the nature of library services. Smartphone is the essential tool for today’s life and we can use WhatsApp on smartphones to provide library services to users.
We at UKZN can be “smart librarians” through WhatsApp.

Ansari, M. S. & Tripathi, A. 2017. Use of WhatsApp for effective delivery of library and information services. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 37, 360.
Lingnan University Library. 2018. Service guidelines on WhatsApp a librarian [Online]. Available: http://www.library.ln.edu.hk/research/whatsapp-guidelines [Accessed 5 August 2018].