In addition to worrying over what my dad thinks of my latest facebook status update (yes, my dad is the kind of dad who is on facebook), I now have to worry about potential employers looking at my profile. Many of these potential employers not only have individual social networking accounts: entire libraries have their own pages. I’m an adult; I suppose it’s time for me to stop posting fart jokes on peoples’ “walls”. This week I “friended” a few area libraries on myspace and facebook. Their profile pages looked great--professional but trendy. The content on their page was great, too: announcements, upcoming events, recaps of past events, and library photos.
I was happy to see that Evanston Public Library had over 300 myspace friends. “Gee,” I thought, “Think of all the great publicity they’re getting! And they’re probably drawing in so many readers!” So I scrolled through EPL’s friend list, and I realized that the majority of friends were other libraries, other media outlets, and author and book pages. I was happy to see that kind of networking going on, but it made me question the purpose for the site.
For those of you who work in libraries with social networking pages, why do you social network? Is it to draw in patrons? Recruit new patrons? Chat with patrons you’re already familiar with? Is it to spread the word to “peer” organizations like other libraries, or advertise to teens who would actually be using these services? Is it to give information or receive information? Do you check your friend’s pages for updates to their programs? Is this a sort of professional development tool? I’m sure it’s a mixture of all of these things.
I guess what I’m really asking here is, what are your (your library’s) motives behind social networking pages? Whose idea was it to get one, who maintains it, and what sort of information do you gain/give? Is this primarily a tool for patrons or librarians? What differences are there between your personal pages and your library pages?
Has anyone had good or bad experiences with library pages? I work in the children’s department--the oldest patron I see is maybe five. They can barely work scissors, much less internet explorer. I’m wondering how other people feel about social networking through the library. How do you promote your page? Do you ‘friend’ people/organizations, or do they ‘friend’ you?
For those of you with teens, or with access to teens, do they see it as cool that your local library has a facebook account? Or do they think it’s lame? Are we “poseurs” in their minds for setting up a page? I asked my fifteen year old cousin, and she thought it was a good outlet for reference questions, similar to email or live chat, but she reported never wanting to be online “friends” with the library. Giving a library access to your profile opens your page up to criticism and judgment from adults and authority. Of course, officially as a library, we couldn’t really judge someone, but from a teens’ perspective, they would be exposing some potentially scandalous information to a public authority.
This leads me to ask, will teens ‘friend’ a library regardless, because they see the library as a safe place without judgment? Or do they avoid “friending” libraries, teachers, etc, in order to escape the watchful eye of authority? How can we appeal to the secretive teens? To be totally honest, I still avoid ‘friending’ certain people or organizations simply for fear of looking unprofessional. I’m in grad school! My instructors are often peers! They’re not big scary authority figures (sorry, Carol), but I’m still wary of showing them my silly side (And my album titled Casa de Cat, which features dozens of simply adorable pictures of my cats sitting around doing nothing). Should we be teaching teens to avoid creating unprofessional pages? I’m not advocating Girls Gone Wild style profile pictures, but I’m all for letting people wave their facebook freak flag.
As librarians, do we see social networking sites as a positive tool for communication, or a distraction from more important studies? In many high schools, students are blocked from visiting such sites. How do you all feel about this as a teacher? A librarian? A school media specialist? A parent? A student?
Perhaps the move from facebook as a college-student-only outlet to an open-enrollment, all-ages free-for-all has legitimized social networking sites (I know myspace has always been all-ages, but facebook somehow seems more professional, and it’s what I use, so this is what my focus is). Will this lead to greater participation between the Everyteen and professional organizations online? Will online profiles move from bulletin boards to network on to virtual spaces for teens to hang out, feel comfortable, and chat? I hope so. In the meantime, I’m slowly friending authority pictures, though I have yet to un-tag myself from my cleverly named new album, “Cat Crazy”.