I’m not a huge proponent of libraries joining social networks. As I discussed in my post on Twitter, I think the pleasure of social networks is that they are social, the richness comes from interacting with friends, not becoming a fan of your library’s latest marketing ploy. I’m not sure creating and maintaining library profiles on social networking sites is a good use of staff time.
I also have doubts as to the potential for library profiles to reach teens or non-users. For my YA Lit class, I spent about an hour observing teens using the computers at the Oakland Public Library (granted, that’s not a big enough sample size for a truly scientific hypothesis). The teens did spend a lot of time on MySpace, but it was all spent looking at profiles, pictures, and comments on the pages of individual users – the teens were interested in gossip and interaction with their peers. In my own use of Social Networking sites, I have become a fan of things (celebrities, bookstores, and food items for example). But I almost immediately turn off the notifications, because I feel like I am getting spammed.
I do think that social networking provides a valuable paradigm for libraries though, and I believe that librarians (especially teen librarians) should create and maintain their own personal pages- not necessarily to share with the public, but in order to keep abreast of online culture. Libraries can take away great lessons about how to provide interaction on their own websites. Websites are more fun, more engaging, and more useful when people can personalize their own content and interact socially with others. Libraries have a great opportunity to make their online presence a rich user experience.
I think libraries are falling behind a bit in the online world because they are trumped by Google and Wikipedia in terms of providing fast access to quick and dirty information. Libraries need to pump up their presence in order to remind people that there are different ways to answer information requests, and that the library is a valuable resource in many quests for knowledge. So if libraries need to pump up their presence on the web, what can they do besides creating profiles on sites where many people congregate? I was very intrigued by the idea of creating library widgets. This seems like a way the library can reach more users and further the goal of being a great information resource. If I can make a library search box, a list of books I’ve recently checked out, or an ask a librarian widget on my page, I show my support for the library to all my friends, add content that’s personal to me, and create a way for people to click back to the library website.
Libraries and librarians need to take and use the deeper lessons taught by the popularity of social networking. There are endless possibilities for patron and community service if we can get away from the idea that Library 2.0 means “Get a Facebook Page.”