Sunday, October 04, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

Ruth Connell's Academic Libraries, Facebook and MySpace, and Student Outreach: A Survey of Student Opinion is a sober look into how not to use social media. From the results of her survey of college students at Valparaiso University, a one-size-fits-all model simply does not work when it comes to using social network sites for library outreach. Because of privacy features, librarians must intrude into the social private spaces of its users if it wants to have access to its outreach audience. But surprisingly, Connell's research reveals that students actually resent a library/librarian's intrusion into their private space. As the article argues, it is important not to annoy students but rather let them come to the library on their own terms.

This is a fascinating analysis, and one worthy of a closer look by all librarians who wish to use the trendiest technologies as outreach to their user populace. For a while, the Web 2.0 mantra encouraged most to try out new ideas, new concepts, cool technologies. But now that we've reached a plateau in the development of social media, concerns such as privacy, copyright, and best practices must be kept in mind by librarians information professionals who need a fine balance with the public and private space of their users.


Dean Giustini said...

Hi Allan,

Did the authors mention libraries that have Facebook pages that double as the library's "homepage"?

Some students find that helpful to locate their librarians ....and then they can decide whether to contact them via their Facebook profile or e-mail.

Seems to be that this usage of Facebook would be more favourably received.


Allan said...

Good point Dean. Although I think there might be a difference. In this context, the author points out Facebook as a "proactive" outreach using social media that needs to be carefully planned before execution.

Doubling Facebook as the library's homepage, I would argue, is a "reactive" perhaps even "passive" form of outreach, if the goal is to have students come to the library rather than the other way around.