Friday, September 28, 2007

Impress Your Professor: Librarians in Your Face(book)

Raise you're hand if you spend too much time on Facebook.

I freely admit that I probably spend far too much time on Facebook. Then again, that's because my friends spend a lot of time on Facebook. Also, many of my colleagues have profiles there as well.

All of this means that most of the patrons who come to the library probably have scrolled through the social networking site at some point. While many fear the privacy issues associated with the website, many others see only opportunities for library outreach. In the article, "Reaching Students with Facebook: Data and Best Practices," the authors discuss why and how librarians should reach their patrons through this online utility.

First, there is the obvious allure of being "Friended" by all the undergrads on campus. Once a library creates a profile, any updates to that profile will be added to the news feed that users see on their Facebook homepage. If librarians are proactive about announcing events, changes, and opportunities at the library students will see these occurrences as soon as they log on.

Secondly, Facebook offers it's own e-mail application and discussion board space. Students can easily submit their reference questions online. Since Facebook may be accessed from any computer, these questions can be answered at any time of the day from anywhere on or off campus.

Thirdly, Facebook is beginning to add applications that are not only for library related groups but also those that actually aid reference. JSTOR has created an application where users can search the database from their Facebook profile. iLibrarian recently listed an article about the Top 10 Facebook applications for librarians and another article posts the top groups for librarians on Facebook to join.

CUA has a rather active library group. The administrators update the profile with information about library activities and the availability of new materials. They also referee questions posted by their patrons in the discussion board.

While I am an avid fan of using Facebook to be proactive toward patrons, I do still hesitate at the supposed reference benefits of using the website. I ask this because in today's Google culture, I wonder if this encourages patrons to find information that is "good enough" as opposed to going after the right information. Can social networking sights actually help patrons with their reference questions, or does it merely encourage people to go for the easy answer?

For those of you able to attend this year's annual ASIS&T Meeting, there are a few discussions that may touch upon this social computing trend:

The Social Web, Social Computing and the Social Analysis of Computing (SIG SI)

Social Information Architecture Workshop

Opening Science to All: Implications of Blogs and Wikis for Social and Scholarly Scientific Communication (SIG STI, SIG BWP)

1 comment:

Nora Daly said...

huh! I had no idea that Mullen Library had a facebook page! that's wild!