Blogged: WHY Social Network in the #library: or Twopointopians Vs. Onepointopians

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.

9 thoughts on “Blogged: WHY Social Network in the #library: or Twopointopians Vs. Onepointopians

  1. Interestingly, most of the pushback against moving into social networks in my library is around privacy concerns: Some of our more stickler librarians are worried about pushing, unwanted, into students’ private spaces and further worried about the less-than-ideal privacy policies of networks like Facebook. They argue that we are sending contradictory messages by preaching the gospel of online privacy then joining a network that doesn’t seem to respect the boundaries we are trying to educate our patrons about.

    I’m having a hard time coming back with a good argument against these positions because I don’t 100% disagree with them. But I still think we should have a presence in these areas. So…any thoughts?

  2. Wow! That is a great question! Hmmm… Maybe it would be better addressed in a blog post, but I’ll take a quick rough draft stab at it here.

    My first thought is that I’m beginning to wonder why we are pushing the gospel of online privacy in the first place. While online privacy is VERY important in a number of areas such as Bank Accounts, Medical information, Social Security Information, etc… I do think that total privacy is becoming an impossibility. Many people have their contact information posted online on the websites of their employers, telephone numbers posted on online directories, news stories where they are mentioned are posted online, even results from races are posted online now! So… Are all of these things ok?

    Maybe not… But it seems to me (on first thought) that “friending” someone who chooses to be in a public space such as facebook or another open online area would be similar to handing out flyers while tabling in some public space or congratulating them when they come to the library with a new child or when they tell you about their recent marriage. In each of these cases, as well as online, people are able to choose whether or not to let you into their lives. So I can make a facebook fan page for my library, but I can’t force people to like it and a fan page doesn’t allow me to see all that users personal information.

    Also, maybe we should be moving into our students personal spaces, or maybe we already are… Do you post advertisements for library activities in the dorms? Cafeterias? School Bulleting Boards? Local student hangouts? Student papers? If you do, then we need to decide if this kind of movement into student spaces different in some way?

    I don’t know, but those are my initial thoughts anyway. let me know what you think.

  3. Using social networks to promote (create, and expand) library services is in essence no different from interacting with community members while going out to lunch or chatting with people after a City Council meeting. In both places you reach out to folks outside of the library and bring them into the fold. I’ve had conversations with people in the supermarket after forgetting to remove my badge, “Oh, you work at the library?” they say, and it moves on from there. That doesn’t seem so different from someone @replying me on Twitter. The best thing a library can do is let community members take ownership of their library by actually telling us their needs and wants without us having to ask. Social networking is another avenue for outreach that makes a two-way connection with patrons that much easier.

    As for Laura’s question and your answer, this: “…people are able to choose whether or not to let you into their lives.” seems like the main point for me. Just “friending” someone on Facebook doesn’t mean they automatically have to friend the library back — they can just as easily ignore the request.

    In regards to the privacy argument: the library should be teaching students to be aware of their privacy and how to control it, which is to say be cognizant of the risks involved in online AND offline interactions, not to ignore either because there is risk. Students should be knowledgeable, not paranoid. Same goes for librarians. Plus, most students are already on Facebook, so the argument that the library’s Fan Page somehow condones the company’s mishaps is a bit ridiculous.

  4. I’m wondering if I’m a 1.opian or a 2.opian … I love social networking personally, and use my library’s Twitter account to try to connect with our community. However, I have declined so far to set up a Facebook account not because I object to it, or that I think it necessarily is a problem, but because quite frankly I know what it would take to make it a success and I don’t have time to add that into our communications mix. I’m solely responsible for the communications to our incredibly large university. We’re writing a new marketing plan this year, so I hope to incorporate social media into the mix officially. My hope is to distribute the responsibility beyond merely myself so when we do connect we are committed to doing the work involved in building customer engagement.

  5. Personally, I think this “1.0 vs 2.0 librarianship” argument is a bunch of crap. There are different levels of technology adoption by librarians and there are different levels of a community technology integration. If you have a community that has low technology integration (limited internet, limited smart phone market penetration), you can make the best Facebook page in the entire world and not get many friends or interactions through it. For communities at the opposite end, they have made that technology an aspect of their lives and putting the library on those services benefits them as they have already integrated.

    In terms of librarian technology adoption, the only true disparity exists when the librarian’s technology adoption is not in sync with their communities. How can you provide service when you are not meeting them at the same level of medium expectation? If you don’t know the social media or devices that the patrons are asking you about, what will encourage them to seek you out in the future? In the other direction, what use is the librarian who has a Twitter, FB page, etc. when the community just wants basic internet access and books on CD? You gotta meet them where they are, with an eye towards where they are heading.

    The twopointopian meme is a strawman argument anyway, lumping incompetent technological adoption extremists with regular librarian folks who want to try new ways to connect to patrons that happen to use technology.

  6. Thanks Andy,

    I fully agree with meeting the levels of need of a community, that’s what you would do for any program or service. Technology should be no different.

    onepointopian vs. twopointopian ideas are only being argued by one person specifically (who I won’t mention) and I don’t think anyone really takes it that seriously. They just use it to rile folks up to keep people going to that blog. Its just simply so ridiculous that I find it pretty humorous myself.

  7. No one mentioned something that I find invaluable in using social media – proactive customer service. If you keep your ear to the ground so to speak by doing searches on your library name or just the word library within 25 miles, you will otherwise unspoken customer questions and concerns. We have many success stories of reaching out to people and helping them resolve a problem, find a particular book, etc.

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