Analysis of content topics, user engagement and library factors in public library social media based on text mining

Date07 January 2020
Published date07 January 2020
AuthorSoohyung Joo,Kun Lu,Taehun Lee
Analysis of content topics, user
engagement and library factors
in public library social media
based on text mining
Soohyung Joo
School of Information Science, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Kun Lu
School of Library and Information Studies,
University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, and
Taehun Lee
Department of Psychology, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, The Republic of Korea
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore topics of Facebook posts created by public libraries using
the bi-term topic model, and examine the relationships between types of topics and user engagement. The
authors further investigated the effects of three library factors, namely, staff size, budget and urbanization
degrees, on Facebook content and user engagement based on multilevel generalized linear modeling.
Design/methodology/approach This study suggested a novel method, a combinationof the bi-term topic
modeling and MGLM, to enhance the understanding of social media in the context of public libraries.
Findings The findings revealed that posts related to community events, awards and photos were likely to
receive more likes and shares, whereas posts about summer reading programs received relatively more
comments. In addition, the authors found that a larger staff size and the inclusion of multimedia had positive
impacts on user engagement.
Originality/value This study analyzed the content of public library-generated social media based on text
mining. Then, the authors examined the effects of contextual library-level factors on social media practice in
public libraries. Based on empirical findings, the study suggested a range of practical implications for
effective use of social media in public libraries.
Keywords Social media, Public libraries, User engagement, Bi-term topic modelling,
Multilevel generalized linear modelling
Paper type Research paper
Social media serves as a low-cost and useful tool that public libraries can utilize to expand
their reach to patrons online. Through social media, public libraries can efficiently
communicate with patrons, promote their services, easily disseminate information and
increase their online visibility (Neo and Calvert, 2012; Dankowski, 2013; Luo et al., 2013;
Shiri and Rathi, 2013; Smeaton and Davis, 2014; Fasola, 2015). Many libraries have
recognized the benefits of using social media and have adopted different social media
platforms for marketing of their services as well as engagement with their patrons online
(Rutherford, 2008; Crawford, 2014).
Researchers in the field of library and information science have also recognized the
importance of social media as an emerging tool for library marketing, and have investigated
different aspects of social media practice in library environments. In particular, the analysis of
social media content was one of the main interests for library science researchers. Previous
studies (e.g. Aharony, 2010, 2012; Chen et al., 2012; AlKindi and Al-Suqri, 2013) have explored the
types of social media content created by public libraries and qualitatively attempted to identify
different categories of this content. In addition, efforts were made to understand the adoption of
Online Information Review
Vol. 44 No. 1, 2020
pp. 258-277
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/OIR-11-2018-0345
Received 5 November 2018
Revised 21 June 2019
Accepted 26 November 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
social media in libraries (e.g. Neo and Calvert, 2012; Fasola, 2015) and to suggest practical
guidelines for effective social media practice in libraries (e.g. Steiner, 2012; Tomlin, 2014).
Prior studies in other areas proved that user engagement is critical in the success of
social media activities (Ha et al., 2016; Schreiner et al., 2019), and user engagement has been
used to assess effectiveness of social media marketing (Sachs et al., 2011). User engagement
has been considered a critical element in public relations via social media, but many
organizations have difficulty finding proper strategies to use social media for user
engagement (Gruss et al., in press). Yet, there has been relatively little research to investigate
the relationship between types of social media content and user engagement in public
libraries. Also, little is known in regard to how library-level factors are associated with
social media practice in public libraries. In an effort to fill these research gaps, this study
intends to use text mining to explore content topics of public librariesFacebook posts and
to examine the relationships between Facebook post topics and user engagement. The study
further investigates how library staff size, budget and location influence Facebook content
as well as user engagement. Methodologically, this study attempts to employ a combination
of text mining and multilevel generalized linear modeling (MGLM) in understanding the
relationships among Facebook postscontent, user engagement, and certain factors of the
library at the same time. In addition, we discussed practical implications for effective use of
social media in public libraries based on the findings of this study.
Literature review
The use of social media in libraries
Social media has served as a useful and low-cost tool for libraries in advancing the capacity
of marketing to reach a larger audience, disseminating information about libraries and
engaging with communities (Cahill, 2011; Neo and Calvert, 2012; Smeaton and Davis, 2014).
Researchers acknowledged that the interactive nature of social media can be beneficial to
building close relationships and networks with user communities. Krabill (2009) claimed
that Twitter can be an effective tool for interacting with patrons, and that it should be used
in a way that facilitates user engagement rather than being used as a bulletin board for
announcements and news. To achieve this, libraries need to create content that is more
interactive. In their investigation of Web 2.0 technologies in the context of public libraries,
Anttiroiko and Reijo (2011) found that social media facilitates faster, easier and informal
communication between libraries and patrons. Social media also serves as an outlet for
content sharing and networking. They concluded that social media provides new
opportunities for public libraries to enhance their relationships with patrons on a virtual
platform. Smeaton and Davis (2014) attempted to identify cases on the effective use of social
media for marketing purposes in public libraries. They specifically identified the functions
of social media in library marketing, including such functions as creating communities,
connecting with users, encouraging participation and creating organizational culture.
Peacemaker et al. (2016) surveyed librarians to identify the gaps and challenges in social
media practices in libraries. Based on the findings, they suggested goal-based content
strategies for effective public relations via social media channels.
Another line of previous research investigated factors affecting social media adoption
and librariansperceptions of social media use in library marketing. For example, Neo and
Calvert (2012) found that social media adoption is related to an organizations previous
practice, perceived needs, innovativeness and social norms. They also identified a range of
factors associated with social media use in libraries, such as relative advantage,
compatibility and complexity. Fasola (2015) surveyed librariansperceptions and
acceptance of social media use for library service marketing. The study revealed that
librarians had a positive attitude and a high level of acceptance toward the use of social
media in promoting library services. Smeaton and Davis (2014) explored critical factors that
Public library
social media

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