29 September 2008

#22 Social networking and libraries

Social networking sites offer libraries the opportunity to reach out to potential and actual patrons at the places where they gather socially. At present the target group is teenagers to early twenties as is it the group that is most active in online social networks.

What kind of opportunities does a presence in online social networks offer a library?
  • Relationship building - both maintaining relationship with current patrons and reaching out (making contact) with new/potential patrons
  • Publicity and promotion of library events and services
  • Raising the library's profile, enhancing visibility within a particular group who may not otherwise consider the library as a possible contact point or resource
  • Picking up trends relevant to that social group
  • Getting new ideas, new insights and another perspective from interaction with the group
  • It's about connecting with patrons and how we can help them.
A lot is written about networking in the business literature and I think some of the advice on networking in the 'real' world is also applicable in online social networking (or virtual world). Advice that is of use in all networking environments:
  • Listen to your contacts to see where you share interest and goals
  • You need to be clear in what goals you want to achieve with networking
  • You must be able to convey clearly what you (or your organisation) do to find points of common interest
  • Follow up quickly and offer feedback where appropriate
  • Good and effective networking takes time and dedication
I think for libraries to have a meaningful presence in online social networks they should regard their social space as a service delivery point which should receive the same effort and support as the other service delivery points, such as the physical library space and the website.

As the majority of the social network users are individuals, it would make sense to have a 'representative' in the profile. It is always much easier to connect with a person rather than a 'faceless' organisation.

As always, we shouldn't neglect to link our services. I have come across many library blogs with no links to the library website, or vice versa. The same should also happen in social network spaces - links to the website and on the website links to the social network (and other online activities).

What an exciting era for the library - so many ways of communicating with and delivering services to the public. It also presents a challenge to reach our patrons and not get lost in a sea of information and distractions.

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