An article recommended as a good introduction was titled as a ‘survival guide’ to social networking (other students will thus know to which I refer) for information professionals. However to me it seemed more like a jumble of ‘can’s and ‘could’s – with a heavy focus on personal advancement. It seemed to be just another hyped up promo piece: s-o-c-i-a-l n-e-t-w-o-r-k-i-n-g RAH RAH RAH!
Oh it listed a few rather obvious cautions too. Could anyone responsible for forging relationships on behalf of an organisation fail to already appreciate the delicacies required to balance connections? If a library is considering Facebook as a community enhancement – how can this be done with personality? (Must re-find those more useful articles exploring how, if personal profiles in public networks are to be used for workplace roles).
Finding nothing particularly constructive in the above article, I turned back to my learning hopes. What I did not record there was my preferred focus on whether (and if so how) social media if used by a library might serve the library’s community (other than by serving the careers of individual librarians). Returning to the aforementioned article, its tired (albeit true) blather about relationships set me to pondering about that library-community (not individual advancement) context.
What library (not personal career) purpose or function would a social networking tool serve? Networking–right? Who networks on behalf of the library? Who goes outside the library to pursue, establish and maintain relationships (other than for finding/checking new hires) in order to serve the library’s goals? If that was not a job’s responsibility before, why is it now? If it was before, in what way does Facebook or LinkedIn facilitate that function–does it really?
But perhaps when an organisation looks at Facebook, it is not really seeing relationships (even if it harks about them), but merely another, albeit more public, location to be harnessed/marketed carefully–putting a best face forward–? If a library’s presence on Facebook is “the library” rather than personal, how seriously can we take the notion that interactions on the library’s page are “relationships”?
From the other direction: Why do people use Facebook or any other social webtool? Does the library have a valid role to play in those reasons–if not, is there a reason for the library to be there?
So many questions & questionable answers?
I am sure I am not the first to ask such questions because they all have vague familiarity. At the same time a back-of-the-brain buzzing suggests that once-upon-a-time (last week?) I felt certain and positive about creative ideas for libraries in social networks–but its late and I’m still dizzy.
… and therefore planning
So, considering our assignment to propose a trial project, I must find a rationale somewhere and “because those others are doing it” just doesn’t cut it. What I will be seeking:
- Examples of significant effect: eg engagement (or other objective consistent with core library values) achieved and how
— how do I find them?
- Discussions of rationales – and not get too caught up in questioning ROI – such an intangible beast.
- Could dig up the social intranet material – meh – yes, yes I have doubts about “collaborat-ability” of small or deeply stratified workforces – hm, no I see this as more relevant for corporate & special libraries.
- OR: there is material on drawing in social network data to customer relationship software – again: wouldn’t that be for corporate & special libraries?
- Those last two strands of thought raise a new question: is there a risk of inequitable service if social media helps us serve those who use it better than those who don’t? So did phone and email. Why do such questions keep distracting me?