I recently presented on social media in academic libraries at the SLA Western Chapter's Annual General Meeting on a panel with social media expert Rob Cottingham. (See above for a preview of Rob in action). Personally, this was one of the most rewarding panels I've been one as it bridged the two worlds of academic and corporate libraries. We touched on issues that are relevant to both types of settings: how is social media faring in the world of information professionals? Here are some thoughts of the evening:
(1) Librarians Are Only Using Social Media Among Themselves - A common argument is that only librarians care about these social media tools. Can librarians ever measure the ROI on social media? If the average Twitter user is 31 years old, then why would it be used for outreach with a non-Twitter using college audience? Are social media tools used among librarians for their own amusement? There are two parallel themes here: librarians are even better connected to each other in the social web - so wouldn't that mean social media offers distinct advantages? Second, if statistics show that social media (like Youtube, Facebook, and Flickr) is heavily used, then why wouldn't librarians use them for outreach? Wouldn't it be an opportunity otherwise missed if unexplored?
(2) Small Special Libraries Are Understaffed - It's easy for large libraries and institutions to implement Web 2.0 technologies and policies, but many smaller institutions can't afford the manpower to consistently adopt such standards. It's important not to spread ourselves thin. However, great challenges offer greater opportunities. Social media flattens the information landscape, and outreach tools such as Twitter and Facebook bring branding where none exists before. It's a matter of how one uses such technologies that maximizes their exposure.
(3) Generation Y Is Important - Much has been written about this generation born post-1980's. It's crucial to note that our upcoming wave of students, colleagues, and staff will be from this generation. Technologically sophisticated, well-connected on the social web, entrepreneurial, and oftentimes, impatient. It's these qualities which will define how information professionals will align their programs and services. This is important for all librarians: academic, public, and special.