ACRL 2013: Approchability, Social Media, Accessibility

  • Making Social Media Meaningful: Connecting Missions and Policies
  • How do you like me now?: An image-rating study of librarian approachability
  • Click Here! (And Other Ways to Sabotage Accessibility)

How do you like me now?: An image-rating study of librarian approachability
Jennifer Bonnet , University of Michigan , Ann Arbor , MI
Ben McAlexander , Trihydro Corporation , Ann Arbor , MI

Approachability – extends beyond initial encounter

What can we do to appear more approachable at the reference desk? Did an online image rating study of 12 hypothetical librarians. Balanced for demographic values, controlled for variables like seating and background.

1000 participants from a three campus system at UMich. Reflected campus population.

Had 12 librarians and altered one characteristic at a time. Name tag, formal clothing, informal clothing, smiling, looking down at book or computer, varied clothing color blue red white. 12 librarians, 8 treatments for each.

Mean approachability vs baseline (value of 0). Smiling most approachable – looking at book came in last.

Smiling – positive effect for all rater groups (UG, Grad, Fac/Staff). Largest effect of all treatments tested – made the most difference.  “uniquely powerful effect”

Nametag – also positive for all raters.

Formal clothing – more complex. Initially looks like no difference (all raters grouped). Underlying – formal shirt, positive for fac/staff, negative for grad students. Very tiny (perhaps nonsignif) positive for undergrads.

Clothing color – no matter how grouped, red or white decreased approachability. Red least approachable. Red connected to perceptions of dominance/aggression. Also school’s rival school is red.

Looking down at something – whether at book or computer gave ratings of least approachable. Looking at a book was the strongest. Fac/staff and grads – find it even less approachable than undergrads. Better off looking at a computer than a book.

Note that perceptions are indicators of behaviors, but they are not the same as behavior. This didn’t test behavior. (not a field study) Had strong control over variable but this limited how many they could test.  Can this be extended to other user populations? Make image pool available for others.


formal clothing male v female. Male librarians more approachable when dressed formally, females less approachable. Fits with some business research around credibility when wearing formal clothing – same pattern. Men in formal clothing more credible, women less credible.

Did not have them come in to take the test – they took it on their own computers. For example, you could tell it was a nametag but you couldn’t read it even though there was a name on it.

Leaving it up to individual librarian to implement this. Gone to meetings and brown bags to discuss this but no policy changes. Anecdotally people are wearing nametags more and interested in incorporating things.

Race – formal clothing. White and African American librarians did not vary significantly with formal shirt. Asian librarians – negative approachability with formal shirt.


Making Social Media Meaningful: Connecting Missions and Policies
Catherine Johnson , University of Baltimore , Baltimore , MD
Natalie Burclaff , University of Baltimore , Baltimore , MD

We’re early adopters – jump in and try new things. Social media is a good example. But we often forget to go back and formalize goals and purposes. How does this new initiative relate to our purpose and mission?

Preliminary exploratory research today – found out a lot of things to explore further. Surveyed 170 libraries – 99 respondents. Social media use, link to mission, social media policy.

94% had a social media presence. Most popular program was FB. 81% no formal policy. 4% had an internal policy they couldn’t share. 12% had an institution wide policy they used. 2% had library specific policy.

Used themes from existing research that looked at mission statements. Used those to look at social media policies. Most prevalent was “improves institutional outcomes” – “teaches information skills” never appears in social media policy.

“Improves institutional outcomes” – were often using university wide policies. So, natural.

“Teaches information skills” – never appears, but again using university wide policies. How would you incorporate this anyway? Recognize that learning opportunities exist everywhere.

In general, used restrictive language. Not encouraging participation, but was very risk-averse. Reinforcing appropriate behavior by referencing other policies, like FERPA (student privacy for academic records), codes & ethics of the profession, respecting copyright, cite sources.

Compared institution vs library policies – library specific ones were more in line with the library mission. Also natural. Institutional policies encouraged carful thought before implementing this in your department.

Why library specific policy? Different priorities than university as a whole. Reflects the unique user group of the library – guests, alums that other depts don’t deal with. Each dept has it’s own culture. Context for our services and resources.

Optional comments – 6 noted they were in the process of creating a policy. 7 said their lib purposely doesn’t have a policy.

82% active on social media but don’t have guidelines for use. So? Actions in your library should reflect the goals of your institution, should be fundamental driver guiding decisions.

Q&A: in general the policies are overarching – they don’t talk about specific platforms and implementation. That might be in a separate document. Did this include email? Some of them were communications policies, which included email.

Click Here! (And Other Ways to Sabotage Accessibility)

Kathleen Pickens , Cincinnati State , Cincinnati , OH
Jessie Vaughn from another place I didn’t catch (not listed)

Spring share – tons of guides created by 53,000 different librarians. But if you talk to those folks they don’t consider themselves webmasters. “If you’re creating online content you are a webmaster” and have the same responsibilities. But we aren’t training people how to do this correctly. Not much formal training offered to begin with and very little of it includes an accessibility component.

“Be the one that starts to learn” how to do this stuff. It’s not about your creative license – it’s about making sure we serve everyone we are supposed to.

Cinncinati State has a guide on creating accessible guides.

3 groups focused on – visually, hearing, and mobility impaired. Images – the big thing is the alt tag or image description. Used by screen readers to tell them what the image is. Do this for screenshots too!

Describe links as well – not just “click here” – say what it is.

Videos – need captions or a transcript. Part of ADA compliance for online courses.

Text – consider font color and size for those with visual impairments. Benefits all of us anyway. Whatever you’ve written up, cut it in half and cut it in half again. People skim and scroll – and assistive readers can’t skip through the blah blah blah. This also helps people who use keyboard or voice commands to navigate. Don’t just enlarge the text to make something important – use an actual heading. Screen reader and keyboard commands can jump to these.

Q&A: click here, what did you mean? Assume people know to click there. If your links stand out (not just by color) you’re good.  The link title – what’s underlined – is descriptive enough about where they’ll go. If you do that you don’t necessarily have to code it in. and make sure they aren’t broken!

Screen readers and columns? Tries to stick to a two column layout.

Did you know that SpringShare has an accessibility guide to using LibGuides on their site? Seems to be more about access than accessibility issues. They talked to SpringShare and they are working on it.

Font recommendations? Uses Arial or a sans serif – not decorative, but really consistency across all of your guides is even more important. Helps everyone find what they need.