Friday, December 01, 2006

Article Note: Brief one on libraries using MySpace

Citation for the article:

Evans, Beth. "Your Space or MySpace?" netConnect (Fall 2006): 8-12.

Read via EBSCO alert.

Reading this article seems a little bit of "too little too late" given the recent pronouncements by Facebook about shutting down institutional profiles and articles, as the one from the Washington Post that has been making some rounds in blogs, mentioning that teens see MySpace as "so last year." However, for librarians who may wondering what's the deal with librarians using MySpace and similar services, this makes for a nice overview. It did have some ideas to think about, so here go my notes.

  • "We went ahead in mid-March 2006 with the launch and employed two interns and one part-time student worker to click through a pool of nearly 4000 Brooklyn College students associated with the MySpace site. By mid-May, we had over 1700 new 'friends,' all ready to receive invitations, announcements, unsolicited library instruction, and answers to their questions" (8). I wondered when I read this if using interns and student workers to find the students was really good use of that resource. Must be nice, but I am not sure I could go to my supervisor and ask for a couple of interns so they can go around clicking on MySpace looking for our local students in there. I guess I would not mind knowing the justification. However, I do find intriguing the idea of developing a friends' list, though I wonder if the students may see it as intrusive. For me, the "unsolicited" in that statement sounded a little like spam, and we know how much we hate that already. It may boil down to an issue of balance. Are they looking at it as another form of the popular but dreaded distribution list?
  • "Given the popularity and reach of this powerful social network, libraries have a chance to be leaders on their college campuses and in their large community by realizing the possibilities of using social networking sites like MySpace to bring their services to the public" (8).
  • "Students in MySpace, on the other hand, are in quite the virtual playground. It takes a special kind of sophistication to assess their information needs in an environment that, while ideal for information exchange, is designed for casual interaction" (9). Therein may lie the challenge for some libraries and/or librarians. If they can't break out of the formal tone of most library communications, using MySpace will not make that much of a difference.
  • "When your library lives part of its life in MySpace, you must decide from the outset how you will handle student comments posted on your profile. Will you let each comment go by without a countercomment? Will you take this new and intriguing opportunity to comment back to students willing to engage you in playful conversations" (9). Sounds to me like fair questions to ask.
  • "To realize the potential of MySpace, however, we must be proactive in reaching out to students. For example, at BCL, we take the initiative in commenting to students who have asked nothing more of us than to add them as one of our friends. We also put out flyers advertising our profile at the physical reference desk. When we get requests from students to add them as friends, we are curious about them and take the time to read their profiles" (10). I like the proactive attitude, but my usual question for things like this is how much time does this take? I like the idea of taking the time to know patrons, but again, online in MySpace, how much time can be too little or too much?

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