I was recently reading a blog that is written by an onepointopian librarian (which is comically ironic in and of itself) and they made a couple of arguments against the use of social media in libraries. Well, as a twopointopian librarian I had to take them up on their challenge to basically explain WHY libraries should be using social networks and also to refute a number of the points that they made in their post. So here’s my best shot at it…
There is the argument that most libraries have only a few hundred “friends” in social networks and thus the program is unsuccessful. However, how many library programs have attracted a few hundred participants? I think most libraries would call a few hundred participants a joyous success.
Along the same train of thought, they argue that NOBODY is “friending” the library. I have been around libraries and librarians who complain about nobody friending their library’s page. Most often, I have noticed that each of these people suffer from the delusionary “if you build it, they will come” school of thought. So to this I reply, would a library develop a program and not promote it? Having a large number of “friends” takes a lot of work, just like having a lot of participants in a library program. You have to go get them. I don’t think any librarian decides to have a program and then neglects to tell people about it and hope people show up. However, I have found that when a onepointopian develops a facebook page, once its complete, they simply sit back and complain that they have no one friending them and then pat themselves on their back for having no participation in their program, thus proving them right. Likewise, if I made the argument that nobody goes to storytime, then make a storytime program, don’t tell anyone and nobody shows up to it, would you argue that I’m right? Or would you fire me?
Outreach. Onepointopians argue that using the statistics about how many people are using social networks to argue for its implementation in libraries is irrelevant. However, libraries perform outreach to their communities at schools, churches, youth groups, and many other places with far fewer participants. In fact, some libraries employ someone fulltime to perform outreach to organizations that only have a couple of dozen participants in the crowd.
Social Capital. This is something that I have been thinking about quite a bit lately. I’m very interested in the idea of online social capital (future blog post to come Wednesday). Already we use social capital as the answer to the question- why do libraries go to schools, churches, and other community groups? I would argue that they do this to raise awareness and support for the library in the form of social capital. The same holds true for utilizing 2.0 technology as a tool for outreach.
And finally, it’s an opportunity for dialog. Having a place on the web where patrons can ask questions and converse with the library in a dialog allow the library to receive feedback on programs, services, and needs. Oftentimes, I have heard onepointopians complain that their twitter account doesn’t generate any meaningful dialogue. But if I only tweeted when I blogged something, or when I did something, nobody would talk to me either. The library should be using twitter to begin the dialogue. They can do this by asking their followers questions, congratulating them on things they tweet about that they are proud of, expressing condolences for tragedies in their life, and basically interacting with them in a more meaningful and social way that makes them really believe that the library cares about them and their well-being. And, that’s only where the dialog begins…
I hope that this helps to clear up any of the confusion, if you feel I’m wrong you can complain to Library Journal. Apparently they care.