It is a given that social networking is increasing in popularity. As Web 2.0 tools are expanding and reaching a wider audience, it really hit home the day my mother friend requested me on Facebook. It was a day like any other. A bright, sunny, blue sky kind of day. I logged on and immediately got that rush of excitement as I was notified of a friend request. Instead of the usual new acquaintance or long lost childhood sweetheart, I got my mother. This, as you may well imagine, was a very difficult decision to make: “accept” to allow her to keep in contact with my life (the online redemption of my absence at the Sunday dinner) or “decline” to protect my privacy but possibly hurt her feelings. The paper by the Library of Parliament shows us that use of the internet in Canada has been increasing in all age categories. Seeing this is was no wonder that the baby boomer generation to which my mother belongs is a large proportion of the new Facebook community, and explains how she was able to creep me on fb.
Social networking tools allow people to not only keep in contact with those they know in real life, but to make new connections with those they have something in common with. Whether that be similar tastes in youtube channels or a love of all things in the bibliosphere (such as on Shelfari), there will be a way to connect online. In response to the Malcolm Gladwell article that Dr. Neal mentioned, he also discusses the idea of connectors in The Tipping Point Ch. 2 which I just finished reading. For an interesting diversion take the test here to see if you are a connector or not. Gladwell defines a connector as someone who knows a lot of people and are involved with many different social circles and brings people from those circles together.
Social networking can be used by libraries in two main ways: the library has a presence on a site directly intended for the purpose of social networking (such as Facebook or Twitter) or it can employ these tools to allow for networking on the library’s own site (such as allowing tagging of the OPAC). I find that the LPL has a great Twitter account by informing followers of upcoming events but it also allows for patrons to connect with each other. The Ottawa Public Library lets users tag items in the OPAC and also allow other users to see books they’ve read. There is also the option to contact another user, say if you enjoy similar books or are looking for suggestions.
In response to Dr. Neal’s request to sign up for a social networking site we have not used before, I decided to go with Shelfari: a way to create a virtual bookshelf and connect with other users to discuss said bookshelf. It’s owned by Amazon to allow for easy marketing and consumerism, I mean ability to purchase books. You can add books onto your bookshelf you’ve read, are reading, or want to read. You can rate these books, provide reviews, and add tags. This site also allows you to have “friends” and see what is on their bookshelves. I can appreciate the usability of a site like this, and hope to maintain it. It will be interesting to see if libraries adopt this sort of functionality on their own catalogues.
Social networking has many forms and uses, and no one can deny that it is increasing in use. Libraries can adopt these tools to allow for increased connectivity between users. Connections exist in physical relationships, and now these Web 2.0 tools are allowing for them in the online world. Oh, and in case you were wondering I did add my mother as a friend.