19 July 2010

Facebook - friend or foe?


I have been on Facebook for a number of years. I have friends spread out across the globe, and Facebook seems to be the perfect way to keep in touch. I have never been the greatest letter writer, and I like the chatty regular comments people write, things that one wouldn't necessarily put in a letter, but which one would say at the pub, or over coffee. This makes me feel much more connected with friends who unfortunately I am unable to meet as regularly as I would like. Privacy can be an issue - mainly if you don't take the time to check your settings regularly when things change on Facebook. I would say that if you take care there is little that others can find - my children both decline to be my friends (they like to keep their social life private which I understand), but it can be a useful check for us to see what we can find about them, and vice-versa - as a 'safe' way to find out what the rest of the world could find ;)

The article Libraries and Facebook made interesting (if dated) reading - considering how quickly Web 2.0 applications develop. This speed in itself can be a problem for institutions - there is always the danger of either getting left behind, or of having others set up an unofficial presence for you instead. For example - do a quick search for Christy Moore (a singer) - this brings up one highlighted page, and a link underneath saying "see more results"....which would you assume was the official page? - in fact it is not the highlighted page, or the one with the most fans (presumably as these were set up first and come higher up in the list.) In this example, I am sure that all support Christy as a singer...but for some organisations these unofficial sites have been set up by those with a grouse against an organisation, and are not portraying the image that the organisation would like the world to see.

My personal view for libraries - is it can be worthwhile having a presence. As is rightly pointed out - having a page, does not necessarily mean people will use it regularly, but it is a means of communication, and if people want the information the more ways of connecting the better. The Facebook page has the advantage that it can be more informal and chatty, in a way that the 'regular' library homepage often fails to be. Having a more chatty presence, can connect with different people, and may encourage more 'real-life' interaction if they perceive you as friendly. This of course all assumes that one makes the Facebook page relatively light. Looking at the local examples given - for me the Jerwood Library hits just the right note - informative but friendly, with plenty of images to draw one in.

One other factor that can be important for some libraries is the feeling of being in control with a Facebook page, whereas the "official" library page can be strictly controlled by the institution or the IT department (and could explain some of the resistance to libraries etc setting up Facebook pages in some quarters)

So for me a thumbs up - a useful addition for libraries trying to connect with their users... and potential users.

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