The arrival of websites such as MySpace and Facebook has enabled users to have the “one-to-one and one-to-many discourse in a public setting” that Qualman (2011, p. xiii) argues is the hallmark of social networking.  This post examines social networking through my experiences completing three prior blog posts – RSS, A-Z of Social Networking for Libraries and Issues related to Online Identity, Privacy and/or Trust.

Boyd and Ellison (2007) set out the underpinning feature of social networking technologies, the opportunity for users to “articulate and make visible their social networks”.  Building on this, social networking sites use the interactivity of Web 2.0 to allow users to exchange content in a one-to-many fashion.

How social networking sites make this possible varies from platform to platform.  RSS (a technology I examined on the OLJ task “RSS”) feeds live information to subscribers as it becomes available, usually by having the RSS reader installed.  This allows patrons to have the information that is needed without the necessity to visit a library or wait for a snail mail newsletter.  While RSS is a common component of other tools, like Twitter and Facebook, RSS lacks a key feature of many social networking tools – the ability for the recipient to engage in a discussion with the content creator.  RSS is a one-to-many broadcasting tool, but, unlike Facebook, there is no many-to-one backchannel.

Social networking technologies offer the opportunity for readers to respond instantly and this is a key feature of sites such as Blogger & WordPress.  Sites such as these offer libraries the opportunity to build their “2.0 profile” by engaging readers (and not just borrowers) in a conversation.  Victoria’s Yarra Plenty Regional Library (YPRL) operates a collection of a blogs dedicated to various topics, including those for a reading club and genealogy.

YPRL’s online presence fulfils many of the criteria set out in Brown’s “A to Z of Networking for Libraries”, a blog post I considered in an OLJ activity.   Spreading the load of creating content between a large number of contributors (each of whom is credited in the blog sidebar), keeps the content fresh without overloading individual staff, addressing Brown’s “A for Active”, “C for Content”, “H for Help” and “I for Interesting”.  “Y for Youth” is, perhaps, a weakness with YPRL’s site.  While it offers announcements of in-branch activities for children, there is nothing I could find that aims to engage young patrons in an online experience.

YPRL’s catalogue allows patrons to comment on a book, add a review or give a star-rating.  This shifts the relationship between the library and its patrons, acknowledging that reviewing isn’t just the preserve of “book professionals”.  Feeds from the YPRL site to Facebook (which appears to be taking over as YPRL’s primary online channel) and Twitter allow followers to keep up-to-date without coming back to the website.

The library staff who post on YPRL’s blogs use names that reflect their own personalities (or the personality they wish to project).  “ChristineCEO” is, obviously, the Chief Executive Officer – but who are ElGuapoLives, femlib and HEYJAAAAAAACKED?  This is a departure from the normal business practice of using names that identify a person or role.  It has the benefit of allowing staff to create an online identity while providing anonymity – issues I considered in the OLJ task “Online Identity, Privacy and/or Trust.

YPRL’s approach addresses Harris’s (2010) concern about the appropriateness of friending the librarian rather than the library – while staff can use a persona on the blog site (where there is no option to follow or friend an individual poster) , YPRL’s Facebook presence uses a single, corporate persona.

The OLJ tasks (and the process of posting my responses) provided an opportunity to dip into a number of social media tools and sample the features they offer.  One of the challenges will be keeping abreast of new platforms such as Pinterest which is emerging as a popular place for information professionals (like Julie Hildebrand) to aggregate resources.  Imagine if your local library introduced Meet and Seat (Ross, 2012) – you could reserve a book, a place to read it and choose who you’d like to sit next too!

References:

Boyd, D. & Ellison, N. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated      Communication 13(1), article 11. Retrieved from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html

Brown, A. (2010, January 22). A to Z of social networking for libraries [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://socialnetworkinglibrarian.com/2010/01/22/a-to-z-of-social-networking-for-libraries/

Harris, C. (2010). Friend me?: School policy may address friending students online. School Library Journal, 1 April. Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6724235.html

Qualman, E. (2011). Socialnomics : how social media transforms the way we live and do business. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Ross, T. (2012, March 6). Airlines use Facebook to find seatmates. the ticker. Retrieved from http://www.theticker.org/about/2.8220/airlines-use-facebook-to-find-seatmates-1.2712026#.UUrbLRxTBQE

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