16th Gateway PhD Graduate Examines Social Media’s Influence in Libraries

Prof. Sylvia Edwards, Dr. Hongbo Zou, Dr. Andrew Demasson

Dr. Hongbo Zou is the 16th graduate of the Gateway PhD program, an international doctoral program offered through the San Jose State University School of Information. He celebrated the milestone by traveling to Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia to attend the graduation ceremony.

Zou expressed his gratitude to his supervisors, Dr. Michelle Chen (SJSU), Dr. Peter Bruza (QUT) and Dr. Sharmistha Dey (formerly at QUT), crediting them with providing the “guidance and different perspectives” that enabled him to “shape and strengthen” his research. He also acknowledged the valuable support of the combined SJSU and QUT supervisory faculty, including Professor Sylvia Edwards and Dr. Andrew Demasson: “Without you, this journey would not have been possible.”

Zou’s dissertation, “Understanding the Role of Social Media in Enhancing Participatory Services in Public Libraries,” examines the topic of social media’s influence on participatory libraries. A “participatory library” is an emerging concept which refers to the idea that “a truly integrated library system must allow users to take part in core functions of the library, such as the catalogue system, rather than engaging on the periphery,” Zou explained.

Inspired by his desire to help librarians understand the impact of emerging technologies on participatory service building, Zou’s empirical study focused on “a radical change in the nature of libraries, librarians, and the ways in which users experience libraries.” Two key changes occurring at libraries motivated his research:

“First, libraries are increasingly using social media to meet users in their own spaces. Second, social media has become the mainstream method for users to connect with the library, online,” Zou reflected.

Particularly prescient as libraries are transforming from traditional library services to participatory library services, Zou’s research highlighted what technology allows public libraries to do and how it fosters participation, offering an understanding of the relationship between library services and users, and how this relationship evolves over time.

Prior to receiving his PhD, Zou completed his MS in Computer Science from Georgia Institute of Technology and worked as a member of the technical staff at a research group in California’s Silicon Valley. His primary areas of research and interests include big data mining and online social network analysis.

To learn more about the Gateway PhD program, please visit the web page.