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Social Networking

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know…

…or so we’ve all heard. In some businesses, networking is crucial. So, given the popularity of social networking sites, how do organizations (meaning, of course, libraries in this case) fit into these sites? Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are commonly cited as examples of these sites, and libraries approach them differently. I’ve linked to their respective pages on wikipedia for informative purposes.

This issue that been discussed time and time again in many different settings, and the likelihood of any new ideas being developed here is fairly low. That said, there is a lot that could stand to be written again, so we’ll look at some of the more important points of the issues.

Though it is unlikely that [insert library name here] would be tagged in pictures of rowdy parties, thus harming its chances for future employment, the integrity of the library must be carefully protected. This doesn’t mean libraries should avoid these communities, just that they should take care to interact with them tastefully. As Lankes, Silverstein, Nicholson and Marshall put it, “Skillful use of identity management will help libraries avoid the baggage of MySpace and Facebook.”

The perceived advantage of these sites is the attraction of younger patrons to the physical library. Some libraries create profiles to link to patrons, and use this as a way of connecting to users. Other libraries will designate specific computer stations for accessing these sites. This article features three libraries that saw some varied results. One library was forced to ban the sites in question from their computers, while two others created profiles of their own and did in fact connect with users.

The library at the University of Alberta took a unique approach by creating a Facebook Application as opposed to a normal profile. This allows their library catalog to be searched from within Facebook, but users must be deliberate about adding the Application. Because the set-up of Facebook allows for a fair amount of customization for individual profiles, this really isn’t a hindrance.

Facebook also serves those who want to be involved but may be unaffiliated with a particular library at a given time:screenshot_lib_2_0_facebook

As it says, the group is intended for the discussion of Library 2.0 concepts and services. This group stands alone from any library, and yet serves the interests of anyone involved with a library.

Twitter, another example of Web 2.0 technology, is being increasingly used by libraries and those in the library community, and for many of the same reasons people supported blogs in the first place:

There are many reasons why libraries should incorporate Twitter into their social networking portfolio: it’s quick, easy, free, creates community, expands the reach of the library, makes the library more accessible, and is great for public relations.

There are those arguing for libraries to choose Twitter over a conventional blog (if blogs have been around long enough to be conventional).

On the evolution of social webbing, we can read about how the use of emails gave way to the creation of websites is giving way to the networking on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re still not convinced, this ‘librarian consultant‘ (which sounds like job title I would come up with) will tell you why libraries should network socially.

In a nutshell, most people end up arguing for inevitability, which can be hard to counter. Something along the lines of, “it’s going to happen because everything that’s already happened is leading to it.” It in this case being the adoption of many types of social networking utilities…some that we don’t even know of yet.