Monday, August 24, 2009

A further look at the utility of social networking sites for libraries

Looking back at the Steiner article, I made some notes on the specific sites mentioned in the article. So, here we go.


Facebook (FB) has become a constant use tool for me. I have been using it personally for a while, and it has forced me to reflect on the idea of boundaries between my professional and my personal profiles online. My three readers know that I have a professional blog (this one) and a personal blog (see here). The basic goal was, and still is, to keep my professional writing and reflections separate from my personal musings and opinions. FB blurs that boundary quite easily. When I started using FB, FB was still a closed system just for college folks with a .edu e-mail address. FB back then was something I started so I would maintain a semi-professional profile and so I could do some outreach and reference work. I say semi-professional because I did include some small personal details in the profile. After all, you still want to come across as a human being. Once FB opened the gates, the borderline blurred a bit more as old friends and family joined the site and could find me. I found that I really had to learn how to tighten the privacy settings. I had to be extremely selective on what third party apps. I installed or even displayed. Some of my friends and family members love those little apps., whether it's some quiz or passing a virtual drink. That is fine for them, but in a setting where not only do students see me, but also colleagues, some administrators, and potential future employers, one has to be careful and somewhat restrictive on some things. Some degree of self-censorship has to be exercised; it's the price of having an online presence. I could go on, but we have other things to cover at this time.

Recently, I created an FB page for my library (I don't have enough fans yet to get the vanity URL, another peeve. Anyhow, just use Google to find it if you wish to see it; MPOW itself is linked on the right hand column of the blog). The purpose is to use it as an outreach tool. We make announcements. We post our events. We put photos of the library and what we do. I also linked the library's blog to the FB page so the blog's posts show up on the FB page newsfeed, a feature I like. We did a soft launch during the spring, and we are formally announcing it when the fall begins. So far, it is working out pretty well.


I was never too keen on MySpace for starters. However, in the interest of experimenting, I set up a MySpace profile (it is linked on the right side column of this blog). After some time, I can say that I am not impressed. MySpace is extremely cluttered and clunky. It's value to me personally is minimal and questionable. With my presence in FB, MySpace seems redundant. Given its poor features, I am seriously thinking about deleting the MySpace profile. One thing that might make use MySpace more is if it was more present in sharing options. As many folks out in the Internet know, many sites and blogs offer a form of "share this link" for social networking sites. FB tends to be pretty prominent, and it allows me to do a bit of microblogging where I share a link and make a brief comment on it. MySpace shines by its absence in this regard, and even in the very few instances where MySpace has a share option on a site, it is clunky to use, assuming it even works. So I rarely bother for MySpace. Bluntly, FB pretty much ate MySpace for lunch in this regard.

As for library use, unless my director gives me a direct order of making a MySpace profile for the library, I am not even considering it. While we do have some patrons who are MySpace users, there are not enough of them to justify the effort plus the overall lower quality of the site itself means it is not worth the effort at this time.


I have a Ning account, and I joined a couple of librarian-related networks. However, the networks were not active enough to hold my attention or interest. I don't miss them. I do see value in Ning as a tool itself, useful to build a social network for a group. This is something that could be explored further, but there is no urgency at the moment.


I have not used Twitter, and at this point in time, I am not interested in setting up an account. I don't say "never" because I know the only certain thing is change. However, I have no use for it at this moment, and I just don't have enough stuff to post in order to justify having it. For following things, my feed reader works fine for now. Besides, you really don't want to know what I had for breakfast, do you? What little microblogging I do gets posted on my FB feed. In essence, at this point in time, Twitter does not solve any problem or provide for any particular need for me. I have noticed a good number of the librarian celebrity bloggers use it, but that is not an incentive for me either.

In terms of work, my director did ask about Twitter and whether we should set up an account for the library or not. The university at large has one here. I can see how it can work for our Campus News and Information folks. At this point in time, I just don't see a need for the library to do it. We are still learning our way in Facebook, and keeping up the library blog is substantial work. As I've stated before, things could change, but I am not recommending implementation at this time.

In the next post, I will go on and discuss some of the lessons I have learned so far.

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