Saturday, January 31, 2009

I don't go there - Libraries & Social networks...

Holy Moly - I just realized the first posting of LibraryStories was November 17, 2003. Who would of thought there could be that much consistent Oklahoma library related news to share for so long? Sure surprised me.

Actually, I made this realization because of the post that was swirling in the primordial ooze which is my brain. I was talking with one of the students interning in my virtual branch and trying to describe to him why the first "Virtual Library Manager" in Oklahoma has not embraced a facebook, myspace, linked-in, etc pages/groups for her institution. I'm not sure if I made any sense to the Intern, or if he even cared - but I figured I would share my logic with you and see what you all thought.

I've always tried to separate the "personal" from the "professional" - and of course one way to grow as a professional is to experiment on your personal time. I promise that isn't as perverted as it sounds. I have a facebook, linked-in and even a MySpace account so I can see what is going on out there (well the MySpace account is actually to track down wayward young relatives who post really stupid things). I played with ning, second life, twitter, the defunct Google world and the defunct social site pownce. Heck I have so many other things that I still stumble upon logins that I forget I ever made. The internet is my smorgasbord and I sample it all - but I only go back for 2nds when I find stuff that really appeals to me. What's good for me personally tech wise is not necessarily good for my institution though.

When I go out and put my Friend/Colleague, Gamer or Virtual Librarian stamp on something – I’m appealing to completely different audiences and I can not treat them the same way.

Now – try to stay with me – this may get confusing – because it even is to me.

When Adri friend/colleague goes to a site I have a level of familiarity with the person to who I’m peddling the online service. So when I send an email to a colleague inviting them to join Linked-in they know it’s for professional reasons and the people they encounter through me in that environment have a certain stamp of professional approval. In that environment I am responsible for myself alone.

Things change with Adri the Gamer. In the days before my daughter became a toddler my husband and I were Gamers. Not casual gamers – we were they stay up late and kill monsters with a group for hours on end. I was the leader of a gaming group comprised of people from North America and Europe. It was craziness. But early on my group demanded a certain level of maturity of those who joined us online. Many of those who were in the group where parents or professionals and wanted a fun casual environment in which to play. So when people joined our network or interacted with people who wore our cape they expected a certain behavior. In that environment I was responsible for setting the expectations of those who chose to game with us and if people didn’t up hold our code of conduct then they weren’t allowed to participate in having fun.

Everything is different with Virtual Librarian. I never spend a significant amount of time with my patrons. The most I see of many of them are IP addresses and perhaps the occasional email address asking for assistance. Yet there is an implicit level of trust they have because I am a Librarian. And it’s that way for everyone who works in a library – and it’s a tremendous responsibility. So if I were to start creating facebook, myspace, etc pages as a librarian and encouraging patrons to participate with my institution in that venue – I’m just not lending my credibility – that trust they have of my station –only to the facebook, myspace, etc but also to the people who are my contacts/friends on those sites and that’s not a burden I want because there are too many unknowns. There is a good chance we will know nothing of the people we befriend our institutions – they may or may not be the a/s/l they purport to say.

Now I know people will say, “Yeah that’s how it is when people come to your library building” and I can say they are correct to an extent – but when they are in the building I have university or board policy to encourage a certain level of behavior – online I don’t have that. Wait, I know others are saying, “Well your patrons are already there!” and I will agree that many already are – and that’s why I’ve enabled the option for patrons to share library events and news with their friends.

Every single article on our site has a social bookmarking feature on it – so that people can import those items onto their profiles and share them with friends. It’s the modern day “word of mouth” marketing that libraries have always relied on.
Plus, I truly believe people attend library events and utilize library services more by 1) finding it via a search on a major search engine 2) a trusted source referring them to the library. So why should I take my already stretched man power and have them creating multiple web presences – when we could be fine tuning the one we have to have features that work with what is out there and focusing on search engine optimization?

There is so much more I could write on this – and perhaps I will later. But for now this is good and if anyone reads it please know that these thoughts are my own and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of anyone else living or dead.

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