One of my last posts, Don’t Friend Me, discussed my thoughts on libraries friending other libraries. A couple of commenters didn’t agree, and said so in my comments – which is cool – in fact, you might want to check out the discussion and chime in yourself, if you haven’t yet.
Instead of answering individual comments with another comment, I thought I’d lump a couple of comments/questions together and make another post out of it. See what you think, and feel free to comment, as always.
But first, you have some required reading. Go read Darren Rowse’s (the problogger guy) post, Defining Twitter Goals: A Tip for Successful Use of Twitter (on his new twitip blog). A quote: “Being successful at something is very hard if you don’t know what you want to achieve. It’s much easier to hit your target – if you know what it is.” He goes on to explain how goals are needed in the use of social networking sites. So… go read it … I’m waiting …
OK then. Here’s where I’m going … I think that many libraries haven’t really figured out goals for their shiny, new social networking sites/tools. When they start collecting friends, they immediately pick the safe route – friending primarily other libraries that are doing the same thing.
And that’s great for learning the new tool. But at some point, it’s a good thing to figure out what you really want out of the SN site, and then start pursuing that. My guess is this: the goal in friending isn’t to gather other libraries – it’s to gather patrons as friends.
Now, on to the comments:
“By nature people are joiners”
Have you read Groundswell? It purports that only a percentage of people are joiners. Check out their profile tool – for example, I put myself into it (42 year old US-based male), and here’s what their research shows: only 34% of my age group are joiners. More in the next quote…
“I’m not sure they do look to see who else is friends unless they are looking for people they know…”
Speaking for myself, I always look – I don’t want to friend a spam site, a person more interested in selling me something, etc… And I’ve read danah boyd, who says “… that “public displays of connection” serve as important identity signals that help people navigate the networked social world, in that an extended network may serve to validate identity information presented in profiles.” danah’s research implies that they do, in fact, look.
“If a patron wants to use a library Facebook or MySpace page, they will, if it works for them and fills a need they have”
Agreed – I have no beef with that. I think that’s putting all the responsibility on the patron, though. Libraries can do their part, too – by creating goals for a social networking site, and then working to meet those goals.
“Why tell libraries/librarians that they are … friending all wrong?”
Because I have a lot of libraries asking me why they aren’t getting any friends, or complaining that their friends are all from other libraries … they see that, then assume “it must not be working, right?” Those libraries have already noticed that they aren’t connecting with their local communities (that’s what they tell me they want to do), and are wondering what to do about it. So I’m trying to help.
“Fear of change – and not being perfect – as I recall are factors that we are encouraging librarians not to be.”
Exactly. That’s why I write – to throw out ideas. Hopefully some of them work for some people. No one’s perfect – but we can all improve, right?
“Why not talk about this issue the other way around, perhaps a post about the hierarchy of friending?”
I’m planning on that in a future post…
“Then I began thinking about the great opportunity missed out by not intermingling here”
Right – that’s why we have a library/organizational account, and I have my personal account.
Libraries do indeed exist to connect with their local communities – we’ve done this way before the web was around! A digital social network like Facebook or Twitter is no different. Our goals should still include connecting with and serving our patrons.
Update: This is part of my slowly-growing series on organization-based friending in social networks. Here’s what I have so far: