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2007-10-23

How Libraries Misuse MySpace

MySpace, Facebook, and other similar sites are social networking tools. That "social" is key. It implies individuals communicating, making connections for work or recreation. But libraries are not individuals; they are institutions. Institutional networking makes me think of conferences. So why have so many libraries built institutional pages on MySpace?

I use Facebook myself. A friend who's in a similar line of work convinced me to join, and I'm haltingly incorporating it into my daily digital experience. When I visit Facebook, it's usually to check up on that friend—he's far more active than I at updating his page—and the handful of other people who've accumulated in my friend network. I would never think to see what my local library is up to, nor would I add it to my network. Making a building my Facebook friend would lend a little too much surreality to an already artificial act.

And social computing is artificial. It's a form of disembodied communication, in which there's no corporeal proof of each person's presence, such as touch or a voice. This quality strains our communicative faculties, as evinced, for instance, by how oddly self-revealing some people are online. People need to believe that there's a person at the other end. By baldly creating institutional pages on social networking sites, libraries signal to a computing public already weary of Internet marketing that they are one more thing to ignore.

If libraries were really serious about using social computing tools, they would encourage their librarians to create individual MySpace profiles and set aside time each day at work to maintain their pages. It would make the librarians—and, by extension, their libraries—active and relevant members of the Internet ecology. While I might not add my library to my network, I would digitally befriend my local librarian.

1 comment:

patti said...

It strikes me that many librarians are already doing exactly as you suggest, just on their own, with personal blogs.

Just as one example, Elizabeth Bird, a children's librarian at NYPL's Donnell (and whose Fuse #8 blog was recently picked up by School Library Journal) is the center of a dynamic and creative online kidlit community. Writers, readers (both adults and kids), editors, and librarians share ideas, reviews, and news on her sites and others like it.

And I suppose that is your point: Why didn't Donnell incorporate Fuse #8 in their own site in the first place or pick it up when SLJ came a-courtin'?