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Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Librarian in Black blogged about this a few weeks ago but this is the first chance I’ve had to check out the new Darien Library website. It’s the brainchild of self confessed library geek John Blyberg who, in a previous life was instrumental in the development of my other favourite library website – Ann Arbor Public Library.

But with Darien Library John has taken it to the next level, using SOPAC 2.0 and Drupal 6 to create a library website that looks cool, is a joy to navigate around and actually works!  Also, a big plus for those of us interested in the social networking aspects of public library life, the website also supports and encourages the creation, storage  and sharing of “local, community-driven social data” (Blyberg, 2008).   Brilliant! 🙂

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This piece on ReadWriteWeb caught my eye this morning. It discusses the results of research carried out by Universal McCann to investigate the impact of social media.

Looks like more and more of us are putting ourselves out there; blogging, networking, uploading, contributing…

One of the most interesting revelations is that China boasts the biggest blogging market in the world. Bigger even than the US! I know, I was shocked too, but it’s true…there’s 42m bloggers in China compared to only 26m in the USA! And as Asian and emerging markets continue to grow it looks like our global communities will go from strength to strength. Power to the people, indeed!

Check out the full report here.

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Following my little rant about online privacy yesterday I came across this great little Q&A article with Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook.  

Facebook has faced a lot of criticism lately, particularly in the tabloid press and on mind numbing TV shows like GMTV who, in my opinion dedicate a lot of their energy into promoting a ‘culture of fear’; a society obsessed with ‘hoodies’, ‘ASBOs’, ‘paedophile rings’, ‘data theft’, etc.  I’m not saying that these issues aren’t important, but some stories are hyped up by irresponsible journalists pursuing unrealistic circulation targets.   But I digress…

I’ve always felt that social networking sites, such as Facebook get a bit of a raw deal in the press.  Okay, so they screwed up with Beacon, but they were quick to recognise this, putting their hands up and admitting it was a mistake.  Social networking on this scale is a new media concept.  And we’re all learning; users and social network service providers.  We’ve got to take a share of the responsibility for the privacy of ourselves and our kids online.  I think Chris sums it up:

“Kids have to be educated to recognise inappropriate approaches and advances and how to report them. Parents need to be aware of what their kids are doing online and how available or not available their information is”.

Facebook still has a huge responsibility to protect the privacy of users but it’s a two way street.  Let’s stop being fearful of ‘what could happen’.  Be proactive, understand the tool, protect yourself! 

I’ve said it before in a previous post; education, education, education. 

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I’ve recently observed a rise in posts about ‘social networking’ on the various public library mailing lists, professional journals, blogs and newspapers that I subscribe to. Wikipedia aside, Facebook seems to provoke the most heated debate amongst librarians discussing Web 2.0. Undoubtedly, social networking is a key element of 21st century online life, but is it appropriate for public libraries to occupy a space in this type of community?

East Renfrewshire Council
Facebook offers public libraries an opportunity to exploit a relatively cost effective marketing tool to promote services; interact with existing users and deliver an additional access point, suitable for reaching potential new users. East Renfrewshire Council in Scotland was the first in the UK to launch Facebook pages for all of their libraries . The Scotsman featured an interesting editorial piece about the launch and SLAINTE promoted the story on their website.

Conflicting Views?
Despite this positive publicity, there still appears to be little consensus on whether other local authorities should fully embrace Facebook. As Tony Durcan observed in a recent article in Library & Information Review (March 2008, Vol 7(3):

“…there is absolutely no national leadership on the digital future of public libraries”.

In fact, I find it incredibly confusing and worrying that some authorities in Scotland have banned the use of all social networking sites for a variety of reasons; fear that employees would waste time online or that library users would be exposed unnecessarily to commercial advertisements, or, perhaps, as I suspect, as the result of a lack of knowledge and expertise at a higher level?

To ban or embrace?
Whatever the reason, would it not be a better idea to educate users and staff about the proper use of social networking, rather than banning the concept entirely? As far as I can tell, East Renfrewshire have done just that, by attempting to address issues such as:

  • protecting personal data online
  • adopting appropriate online communication skills
  • creating awareness that online ads are just like newspaper and TV ads; they are no way endorsed by the Facebook account holder (i.e. the Council)
  • staff training to ensure Library Assistants understand the basics of the service and can help users to create their own profiles, join groups and network, should they wish.

Thoughts for the future
I think it’s time to establish a set of national guidelines and a best practice toolkit to ensure that the strong presence of public libraries in our physical communities is replicated effectively and appropriately in virtual communities online.


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