Friday, March 28, 2008

Final (ha!) Thoughts

OK, so this is not the end of my social networking experience since I've been doing it for nearly two years and am not likely to stop now, but here are my reflections on the course questions for this week.

1) How can social networking be used by MLA to connect members?

Well, MLA could try for a lively Facebook presence (I will certainly try to look it up shortly!), have groups people could join, etc. I know there are also other, build-your-own networks like some we covered in the reading, so that might be a possibility, but there's also something to be said for working with an established site that people are already using.

2) Should your library have a Facebook or MySpace page?

I don't work in a library right now, so that's not a question I can answer. It will probably depend a lot on the library and the audience. If you serve a lot of younger people, maybe so!

3) Are there privacy concerns for individuals when using social networking sites?

Well, sure there are. I honestly do not believe that these concerns are unique to these sites, however. People who let their personal information 'hang out' face privacy risks, whether that's talking freely on a party line, strewing identifiable personal details all over a discussion forum, giving out a credit card number over an unsecured web connection, posting naked drunken photos on Facebook, or simply telling more than you should about your affairs over coffee to someone who likes to gossip. 

Technology makes it easy for information to spread far and fast, but people have always been able to give away too much about themselves, or to keep things private. Obviously it's important to educate kids about using the privacy options and being careful about what they share, but I don't find the privacy issues of social networking sites to be of a different caliber than those people have always faced: they're just formatted differently.

4) What did you like or not like about your experience with Facebook or MySpace?

I like being able to keep non-intrusive, casual track of what friends and classmates are doing. I may not always need to know, or care, that so and so is eating pizza, but sometimes someone might mention that they're feeling down, and I can send a quick hello. It's not deep communication, but it lets you maintain a connection.

As a distance education student, I have classmates I've met only once or twice, or not at all. We communicate via discussion forums and email, as well as in class, but social networking sites offer a less formal, more personal way to get to know a little something about someone.

As I said: it's not deep communication. It's fairly casual, and it's often silly, and I sometimes spend way too much time exchanging bits of code that make pointless gestures (like 'waving at' someone). 

But that doesn't mean it has no value. Know what it's good for and use it for that, or don't use it, if it's of no use in your particular circumstances, but don't assume that people who do use it are all just bonkers. (Although that may also be true.)

Here endeth my sermon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Casting My Social Network

Finally! My membership in Facebook and LinkedIn pays off!

I enjoyed the PubMed application in Facebook, and was pleased to reply to the MLA event (I think I'm going to be there). I need to harass some more people to join me on LinkedIn, too. 

I can see these sites being useful as a way for librarians to keep in touch: as a student in an online program, Facebook has been a nice way to maintain contact with some of my classmates in other states.

I find the library profiles on Facebook and MySpace interesting as well, and this seems like a good way to offer a library presence in a place where users are likely to be. Whether or not they see it/take advantage of it may vary depending on the audience and the design of the profile, but it can't hurt to be there. Meet the people where they are, as they say.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My New Wiki

So I set up a Wetpaint wiki, which was pretty easy, if somewhat frustrating (I selected a template, even though there really wasn't one that matched my brilliant concept, and then had to mess around trying to get rid of it).

I find Wetpaint a little more user-friendly than MediaWiki, which is the version I've used before, if only because it doesn't require learning a whole new set of codes to handle formatting.

I look forward to posting some dramatic photos of oddments later on.

I also looked for a way to contribute to the class wiki, as was advised, and decided to alphabetize the lists of blogs and wikis that had been posted. It's interesting and fun being part of the collaboration on a project with such a big user base!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Using Wikis

The IT office where I work uses wikis to keep track of their work processes. My office doesn't use them, so I have limited experience with them, but can see how they would be very useful in a different way from that of blogs.

While blogs provide a good way to promote events, announce news, and get the word out about things going on, wikis are a more stable, but still easily up-dateable, kind of resource.

Rather than have to make changes in policy manuals or personnel guidelines, say, which then need to be distributed to the people who need to use them, these changes could instead be made on a central site where anyone who needed to could always access them, knowing that the most recent copy would be there.

Wikis could be useful in libraries both privately for staff, who might keep track of job responsibilities and workflow processes, and publicly for users, who could access FAQ sheets, information about library policies, etc.

The ease of use means that limited special training is needed for staff to participate in updates and ensure a current version, and the many templates and backgrounds available mean that wikis can match well with a variety of needs.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Response to Initial Assignment

There are probably dozens of ways RSS feeds could be useful in a library. 
A couple for me personally might be:
  • Updates on news, events and resources relevant to my work
  • Staying informed about what colleagues are writing and thinking about: networking
A lot of smart librarians are writing blogs these days, discussing interesting and important topics, so subscribing to some good feeds can be a great way to keep up with what's going on, as well as to participate in the conversations.

And for patrons:
  • General notices of new arrivals of books, journals, and other resources
  • Personal notification about materials they're interested in (they could set up feeds in PubMed or through another search application)
  • News of events at the library
RSS feeds could be assigned to all sorts of aspects of the library's work, allowing patrons to follow things they're interested in. Announcements of lectures, classes, even a highlighted 'resource (or tip) of the week' could be distributed through RSS feeds.