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December 17, 2007

Social software marketing of your academic library services

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Social software can be as good as any place for promotional marketing if you want to invest in creeping up to your customers and performing a marketing stunt. However, the social software might not to allow for an efficient and scalable virtual reference service.

This succinct report (Buckley Owen, 2007) of the presentation by Lawson (2007) will be useful to make this distinction: “Finally, Dawn Lawson of New York University Libraries describes her experiences using Facebook to reach potential library patrons. She managed 24 replies from the 140 students in her subject speciality, including five reference requests. But she also nearly got banned by Facebook, which outlaws bulk messaging amid fears of spam. She had to get round it by varying the text of her messages and sending them very slowly – one every five minutes.”

I suppose one could set up a virtual reference service using software designed for that, Question Point or similar, and then create entry points on Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, etc. This way you can go where your customers are, yet retain an operational service structure in case you do get any custom!


Buckley Owen, T. (2007) Embrace 2.0 – or you might as well retire. Library + Information Gazette, 2 November, p.17

Lawson, D. (2007) Using Social Software to Reach Library Patrons, Session C106, Internet Librarian International, 8-9 October, London

October 11, 2007

What is Facebook used for?

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An interesting post on someone else’s blog pointing out which aspects of Facebook are actually being used. Lots of browsing of pictures, plenty of visits to join or visit groups, but relatively little time on the Marketplace or the Group discussion boards. So that explains why my advert for free library resources has had so little attention, and why our geeky group discussion boards only involve the usual suspects. It also supports my suspicion that people are joining groups to add to their profile like wearing a badge, and worrying very little thereafter about what it actually says about them…

July 24, 2007

More Facebook & Libraries stuff

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The blog posting referenced has an interesting take on Facebook applications and how they get approved, and the comments consider whether libraries should even be on Facebook at all. Personally I don’t think it would do any harm and would love to put a Facebook application that searches our library catalogue onto my profile.

Not sure what is involved with creating such an application but I’d be interested to know how it works out for the libraries that have done it.

July 16, 2007

Librarians on Facebook

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Every day I learn something new about how these social networking technologies can be or are being used in libraries. It definitely still feels like early days, though.

This poll illustrates how even Facebook users are reluctant to contact their librarians through Facebook. I note that the survey was carried out in July this year, but there is no mention of whether any Facebook Librarian application was available for the University of Michigan Library, who carried out the survey. It very telling that most people want to see a librarian face to face, though.

This particular blog posting is a follow up to an earlier one about their experience of using a Facebook flyer and a Facebook marketplace ad to advertise the library home page. The marketplace ad is free, and to my mind it sounds like a better idea than creating a library “profile” on Facebook.

I’m not keen on a library “profile” because I don’t think that people are realistically going to make “friends” with the library, and that is what the profile is supposed to be all about. Using this technology in a way that is so obviously not what it’s supposed to be used for would make us look like embarrassing old people! Besides, the terms and conditions prohibit me from signing up for a library profile as I have to agree that I’m creating a personal account.

So I might investigate the marketplace ad idea, as well as the Librarian application, and a catalogue search application that I am currently in favour of trying out.

May 25, 2007

Social networking, what's it all about?

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I’ve been investigating the likes of Facebook, Ning, Bebo and Second Life recently. Fascinating stuff, but time consuming, too.

Should the library be using social networking software?

It depends on what we’re trying to do there. Students make comments about the library on Facebook, so should we be responding on there, rather like we do with the You Say, We Say board?

No: Facebook is a space that the students seem to own, and if students make negative comments about the library on Facebook then at least we can see them. If we intervene, they may just go elsewhere for privacy, so I am inclined not to try to get involved.

Would having a Facebook profile improve the library’s image, showing that we are up to date with technology and social trends?

Probably not: we might just look like we were trying too hard and didn’t really get the point of Facebook. The way students use Facebook is very much about informal connections with their friends: they often make throw-away comments and affiliations with groups that are ironic and flippant on Facebook, rather than seeing it as a way to make useful connections for their studies or career.

By having a Facebook profile we might look like we’re trying too hard and we don’t really belong, so it wouldn’t improve our image, but there are so many students on Facebook, and we could use a profile as a way to get a message out, even if many students choose to ignore it. As long as we’re not interfering with the way that students use Facebook, I don’t think that it would do any harm. Facebook might change in the way that it is used by students, too, especially in the light of recent media articles about permanant records of flippant remarks that might affect career prospects in the future, and I think that there is much to keep an eye on. Certainly we should not ignore a space where so many of our students can be reached, and where three is so much potentially useful functionality, eg inviting people to events, sending messages to members of groups, etc

What about staff having profiles on Facebook? There is a powerful potential for Facebook as a tool for colleagues to network with each other, across departments. I’m not sure that Facebook itself is the right social networking tool to use in a work setting, but it would not hurt to experiment on there a bit. I think that the problem is how informal it all feels, so it doesn’t present the most professional image. This could impact on the way students see us as well as the way colleagues perceive us.

So Facebook could replicate actual networks between colleagues, but is that really what Social Networking software is all about? I hope not! It has the potential for us to make new connections and expand our networks.

I am enjoying Ning’s Library 2.0 community at the moment, where I am meeting other librarians who are investigating Web 2.0 technologies in the library, from accross the World. So librarians can use social networking software for professional development.

What about Second life? Well, it’s early days in my investigation. Certainly I can create a profile on there and make “friends” who I exchange discussions with, etc, but if that’s all you want, then Second life would be overkill. I’m exploring Info Island at the moment, but I hope to find more, and perhaps to attend a lecture or seminar on there, to see how it feels.

Can we engage students who don’t come into the library on Second Life? I suppose it depends on why they don’t come into the library – if they don’t want to in real life, then they are not likely to in Second life, surely! But there may be barriers in real life that prevent them from using the library, that are not present in Second Life. What is Second Life good at, in an educational setting? I aim to find out…

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