Social Media Guidelines and Special Issues

The Library’s publications have a common goal: to inform our users and friends what we’re up to and how we can help them, and also to delight them. If you decide to use any of these tools to communicate with your audience, by all means do—the Communications group can help with social media icons, and blog templates have been created to make it simple for you to follow Library style. So if you want to blog, post, tweet, or pin, enjoy it, have fun with it, and delight your audience in the way they’ve come to expect from the Library. However, use of social media tools also requires forethought and a commitment to engagement. Please read the guidelines—written with the help of our liaison to the Office of General Counsel—before you start.


How to Use Social Media Tools on Behalf of the U.Va. Library

If you’re considering using these tools to publicize your Library unit’s programs or services, here are some general guidelines and an important statement about your legal responsibilities.

First, the Legal Caution:

You need to be aware that many commercial sites (such as YouTube and Facebook) impose “click through” Terms of Service agreements that are not acceptable for a Virginia public institution to execute. For example, these sites require a statement of “indemnification” and agreement to be sued in another state, such as California or New York. So, if you are going to use these sites, you must understand that your agreement to these terms is being taken in your personal capacity alone. In other words, you will be personally, solely responsible for any legal claims that might arise as a result of the agreement you “signed” by clicking to agree on the terms of service.

Not all “social media” tools are affected by these legal constraints. A blog hosted off of the Library’s website or your utilization of other tools already licensed for University use (for examples, see do not require you to enter into separate legal agreements with third-party entities and do not create these same concerns. The key thing is to understand the tools you are using and read any legal agreements or forms you might be filling out en route.

Now, the Rest of the Guidelines:

1. Plan ahead. It’s important that communications describing the Library’s official activities or programs are coordinated to ensure that we aren’t confusing people by duplicative or conflicting messages that address the same terrain. Talk with your colleagues and clear your plans with your supervisor and unit director. Consider how often you’re going to post updates and make sure the connection to the U.Va. Library is clear.

2. Give Library Communications a heads-up.  This will let them give your social media extra visibility through the main Library communication channels. They manage the main Library’s site and social media presences and can collaborate with you on both general opportunities and particular campaigns.

3. Respect your audience. The same conduct and employment rules apply when you communicate on behalf of the Library in digital environments: respect others, support the Library and/or University’s mission and services, use work time appropriately, etc. If you have questions about your work-related social media activities, talk with your supervisor.

4. Add value. Post content that will be useful, interesting, or engaging to your audience.

5. Respect copyright and other legal rights. Social media sites require respect for copyrights, privacy, and other legal rules. Remember that material that is fine to post or host in an access-restricted, internal (U.Va.) environment may not be okay to post to a social media site.

6. Use your common sense. Measure twice, cut once when it comes to posting anything questionable on behalf of the Library. You shouldn’t post if you have any doubts.

Special Issues

Facebook (or Other Sites with Specialized Settings):

1. Review Facebook settings carefully to ensure you are comfortable with the privacy and posting rights for the site.

2. You are responsible for the content posted to a site that directly references or purports to represent the Library and the University. Review your Facebook site carefully at least once a week. Remove any third-party content that is inappropriate or undesirable. No Facebook site should be created with a single “owner.” Make sure a colleague has access rights so monitoring and uploading of content is a shared task.

Public Commenting

If you’re hosting a social media site or blog that enables public comments, like any other “publisher,” you need to be careful to address conduct and content standards if you want to allow the public to post comments to a site hosted by the Library and the University. Prior review by the site/blog manager is essential. Review comments before posting to ensure that obscene, defamatory, copyright-infringing or otherwise illegal or inappropriate material is not posted on your watch.

Social Media Icons

The social media presence of Library units and branches should reinforce the unit’s web presence as well as the Library brand. The Communications group is happy to help with Facebook, Twitter, or other social media icons. We can either provide a template, or work with your images to make the icons. Contact the Communications group for help as needed.