socialseries Web 2.0

3. Facebook/MySpace

Facebook seems like an odd application for library use. It’s totally a social “utility” – as they say on the log-in page – and doesn’t seem to have many obvious library uses, beyond advertising programs and such. MySpace is much the same – it is intended for individuals (and bands – it started as a home page for bands to upload and share their music) and there aren’t many compelling reasons for libraries to “be” there… Unless you consider that part of the “philosophy” of Web/Library 2.0 is to be where your users are – whether that is in your library or in their browser (or cell phone text messaging application…).
Facebook has made it easier for organizations to use the service recently. People get profiles, just like in all the other social networking sites, but organizations get “pages”. From those pages, libraries can post information about their services, events and just about anything else that they want to advertise. Facebook also provides an application platform that allows 3rd party developers to create their own facebook applications. Because of this, Facebook has a lot of cool stuff to do while you are logged on. Many libraries have jumped on this application platform and created ways for their “fans” (people who friend the organization) to add a catalog search onto their own profiles. I modified a previously created catalog search for use at MRRL, and posted the code, with instructions, on the application’s page for other libraries to use.
Besides another platform for application programming, there are lots of other uses for it in libraries, too. Obviously, it is another way for patrons to contact us – opening a new line of communication, as it were. It’s a way to get your name out there – one public library in Edmonton, Canada, is doing tests on the effectiveness of highly targeted ads – and they are pretty pleased with the cost of getting in front of all of those eyeballs! It can also be used as a replacement for expensive “special use” software. One gentleman who attended the UKSG conference last month mentioned that his academic library is using Facebook in place of the very expensive VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) that they purchased and subsequently grew to hate.
MySpace has many of the same features and abilities – although it is sometimes difficult to stray away from the social aspects (friending, commenting, etc.), it can be done. One of the coolest interactions I’ve experienced was when I made our local radio stations friends of my library. One of the DJs for one of the stations left a comment on our page that basically asked if we had any poetry by Charles Bukowski. I left a comment on his radio’s MySpace page with a link to the catalog page that listed all the works we had by that author. He responded on the library’s page with a note saying thanks, but he owned everything we did. I finished the reference interview via MySpace with a final comment on his page asking him if he was familiar with Interlibrary Loan. That sort of interaction with the public – a real, not forced, natural conversation that was held on both of our MySpace pages – is the best way to get folks who may not be aware of your collection, programs or services to take a look at their public library.
Besides reference interviews via comments, you can republish all of your library’s content onto your MySpace page as well, making it much more likely that patrons (and soon-to-be patrons) find your “stuff”. I was recently asked by our Digital Librarian, Bobbi Newman to add the MySpace Crossposter plugin to our WordPress blog installation to allow automatic posting of all blog posts to our MySpace blog as well – no more duplication of effort!

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