In defense of social networks
This is a comment I made on Paul’s blog regarding Thoughts on privacy and libraries and social networks This sort of sums up my feelings on the topic.
The big issue I have is the librarian mentality to formalize everything. To create a committee, to create guidelines and policies, to actually read the Terms of Service. Seriously, social networks are all about organic growth and individual expression. It’s about reaching out to friends and strangers and making informal connections.
If librarians, or businesses, go in with a “spammer” mentality of “hey you need my help—the library is cool, see we have a myspace account” then you’ll fail. Libraries are NOT cool. I mean, we think they are: we have sexy computer labs, and cafes, and DVDs, but so what?
I would not say that using Facebook or MySpace is a “waste of time” anymore than trying to provide library instruction sessions on using the catalog to freshmen composition students.
You have to approach it with sincerity. If you just go in trying to push your agenda and services, students could view it as intrusive. I only show up when there is a clear information need, like this one:
“I'm ready for school to be over, but that means working on my massive research paper. We had to turn in preliminary topic ideas/a short essay on preliminary research we've done. Mine was pretty much shit and I'll probably have to rework a lot of my ideas, or choose a new topic altogether. It has the potential to be a lot of fun, (did I really just say that about a research paper?) if I do it correctly. I've been inside the library at Georgia Tech a total of 6 times in the three years I've been at Tech. That number is about to grow geometrically in the next few weeks methinks.”
I’m sure that eventually this student would come to the ref desk, probably close to the deadline—but by using my approach I was able to interact with the student and get him the info he needed. This also helps to spread the “value” of the library via grassroots outreach—since his roommate contacted me later with a similar need.
It’s sort of like if you get a flat tire and someone pulls over and offers to help—you’re there when it’s appropriate, when they need you.
That’s why I favor student blogs over student spaces, like myspace--- on myspace you essentially setup a library front—sure, you’re a little closer to them, but it’s too passive. With the blogs I’m in the trenches with them rather than standing around on the sidelines.