Sunday, March 30, 2008

Libraries Get Social!!

Libraries can play a positive role in supporting and protecting students on Social Networking Sites. Should libraries make their presence known on SNS? Seeing how librarians use SNS, students are given a role model and libraries can be promoted and more accessible through a Social Networking Site. However there are problems and concerns with library involvement on SNS that need to be considered and addressed.

"Schools and libraries are working to integrate positive uses of social networking into their
classrooms, programs, and services. By integrating social networking technologies into
educational environments, teens have the opportunity to learn from adults how to be safe and
smart when participating in online social networks. They also learn a valuable life skill, as these
social networking technologies are tools for communication that are widely used in colleges and
in the workplace."(Social Networking Toolkit - yalsa)

This article goes on to give some excellent examples of the positive aspects of SNS in the library;

- create a MySpace site as a way to connect with teens in the community, including quick and easy access to the library catalog and other research tools
- include information on programs and services at the library
- enables teens who are not traditionally library users an opportunity to learn about and use the library, teens can make the library one of their friends and then are reminded of the library whenever they log onto their space
- post on a SNS about what the library is doing to ensure that students are safe online, include information about Internet filters and any Internet Acceptable use Policies the library has
- create an online discussion forum about SNS
- set up a blog application where adults and students can read about the library's activities and can add comments
- post an information sheet about the positive aspects of SNS and include annotated lists of resources
- give teens the opportunity to connect with favorite authors, artists, and musicians on SNS and then they can leave messages which will develop their social and cultural abilities
- empower students to build a library space on a SNS, have students plan the space, what it should look like and what it should include, who can access it and have links to online safety and library resources including your catalog search

There are actually a few public libraries that use MySpace check them out!

Bethpage Public Library
Hennepin County Library
Lansing Library
Library Loft

I wonder if this could ever be possible in the school system where there are alot of filters and blocking of certain sites. It would be an amazing project to take on! But and this is a big but... here are some questions and thoughts to consider before making a decision on this topic. These questions and comments come from School Library Media Activities Monthly, where on March 26, 2008 they linked a transcript of a chat with a High school principal and a popular culture professor discussing social networking, and the educator's role. The questions that we need to ask ourselves based on this article before involving our libraries on a Social Networking Site are:

Should a school library 'reach out' to kids in their digital world?
If we consider it inappropriate to call a student our 'friend' fact to face, is it appropriate to be 'friended' by a student on Facebook?
How will we respond when inappropriate content on a SNS affects the school environment or students? Who is responsible?

The professor who was facilitating the chat felt that kids don't want us in their social spaces, that they are not there to learn but there to be social. I wonder how others feel about this?

On the Library Garden blog, Karen K made the decision to create a MySpace account for her library and was very pleased with the results. As she said, she knows all the kids are there anyway so maybe it would make her library seem cooler and help to reach out to them. Within a week she had asked some to be her 'friends' and more have requested the library to be their 'friend'. She posted info about events and invited their input. She felt that their behavior had improved and their attitude toward the library too, perhaps because the library is now a 'cool' place because they are on MySpace.

On the Information Wants to Be Free blog created by Meredith Farkas, a librarian, writer and tech geek she makes it quite clear that although she thinks it is a good idea to build a presence on a SNS, she feels that most libraries do it really badly. She feels that if the reason is to be cool it is not acceptable. There needs to be a useful purpose, such as getting feedback from students, and to create a library portal. Asking what books and videos they'd like the library to order, asking about services, library hours and collections, getting their opinions, she says is giving them a voice in the future of the library. Farkas goes on to say that libraries that make their SNS an extension of the library Web site with links to the catalog, chat reference pages, research guides, calendar of events, research tools, ask-a-librarian, and links to books, movies, and booklists is much more effective. This was quite an extensive blog with many links and I would recommend that you access it! She has alot of good suggestions that one could utilize when building a presence for their library on a Social Networking Site.

A ProQuest article Librarians on Facebook authored by Kathy Ishizuka in School Library Journal in October 2007, discusses a university librarian's experience with SNS. The librarian, co-founded Librarians and Facebook. Laurie Charnigo says that it has evolved into a valid method of communication but she's has not had much success with students accessing it for educational purposes. I joined Librarians and Facebook today and look forward to accessing this application. It looks like TLs will most likely access it and not students.

In the article, Checking Out The Impact of a Digital Trend on Academic Libraries,(Mar. 2007) Laurie Charnigo and Paula Barnett-Ellis discuss the results of a survey of 126 academic librarians concerning their view of Facebook. It was found that those who are most enthusiastic about its potential, suggested ideas for using Facebook to promote library services and events. While some librarians were excited about the possibilities of Facebook, they felt that it was beyond the role of professional librarianship.
A valid point was made when they stated that as librarians struggle to develop innovative ways to reach users beyond library walls, it seems logical to consider using SNS which appeal to students. Being made aware of students' cultural and social interests through Facebook may help librarians better connect with their students. The article goes on to say that professors who teach online courses(that would be Jennifer!) make themselves seem more human or approachable by establishing Facebook profiles. We are now 'friends' on Facebook! Charnigo/Barnett stated that some libraries that are on Facebook, say that they create a profile to interact with the students in their natural environment.
One of the main goals of the study was to obtain a snapshot of the perspectives and attitudes of librarians toward social networking sites. Most were neither enthusiastic nor dismissive of Facebook. The highest percentage of respondents indicated that librarians need to keep up with Internet trends, including Facebook. When asked if Facebook serves any academic purpose, 54% indicated that it does not, while 34% were not sure. Some academic uses that were suggested, consisted of Facebook being used as a communication tool for student collaboration in classes, using it as an online study hall, using it for conducting online discussion forums, and using it for building rapport with students through a communication medium that many students are comfortable with. Some librarians in the study suggested that libraries use SNS to promote their services, advertising events, creating online library study groups, and book clubs.
The authors made the observation that there is a fine line between what constitutes academic activity and recreational activity in the library and sites like Facebook seem to blur this line further.
The article states that by exploring popular new types of internet services like Facebook, instead of dismissing them as irrelevant to librarianship, we might learn new ways to reach out and communicate better with a larger group of our student users.

In a power point presentation by Mary Madden of Pew Internet & American Life Project, entitled When Libraries Get Social (Feb. 2007) she discusses the role of the library as being connected nodes of information and community exchange that we use to communicate, collaborate, share resources and preserve knowledge. She shared the stats where teens go online, and 75% of the students go on at school. She goes on to say that social computing is where teens and library meet to connect to people and information. I particularly liked her slide of what a library is,
the Library of the future is...
Web-enabled and participatory
Valued as a physical space
Made of people!


Katie said...

Hi Cindy,
I was really interested in looking at the MySpace pages built and used by libraries, but I was unable to. I thought I would come to work a bit early and have a look at some of the blogs, but I forgot MySpace is blocked! A bit of irony there!

I will try when I get home tonight! Darn internet filters!

Katie said...

Well, I am at home and I was able to view the sites; I am impressed, but I had trouble loading the Library Loft site- "done with errors" and it had nothing except the navigation bar at the top.

They look really interesting and when I actually see some sites used for library purposes it isn't difficult to see that SN's could be used for educational purposes. I may have to mull this new information over and change my mind!

Thanks for posting them Cindy!