I found this week’s readings on social media policy quite interesting. Many libraries have jumped on the social media bandwagon, but how many have policies in place to govern how these tools should be used? Lauby makes an interesting point when she says, “You wouldn’t take the phone or email from your employees, so why take social media away from them”. My current employer blocks Facebook, Hotmail, G-mail and many other sites. Although I understand not wanting employees using these sites for personal reasons during work time, this doesn’t stop people with smartphones from using the sites at their desks. Not to mention, people will always find ways to waste time, such as the good old-fashioned watercooler. Instead of blocking sites that could have a use for promoting the organization or allowing employees in a large organization to connect with one another, why not develop policies to communicate to employees what constitutes acceptable behaviour online. Training can also show employees how to make the most of these tools. For example, on my visit to NRCan’s library I learned they train employees on how to use Twitter.
Kroski points out libraries are developing policies both for staff representing the library through social networks and blogs and for personal accounts. I do think there should be guidelines for staff representing the library because the library has a certain image it wants to project to the community, but I would be hesitant about my employer setting out rules for my own personal accounts that I use on my own time. I suppose a few guidelines are needed, such as not posting information that could reveal a patron’s identity. The Whitman Public Library’s social media policy sets out important guidelines for users, including pointing out that third party sites have their own policies.
Swallow’s articles has a lot of tips for training employees on using social media. While this may be beyond the scope of many libraries, especially smaller ones, training staff who don’t currently have a lot of knowledge about social media can help get them more interested in participating. Increased staff participation can, in turn, lead to increased interest from patrons. Of course, patron interest will depend more on the quality of the content and whether it meets their needs. Libraries must have a clear idea of how they will use social media to meet patrons’ needs as well as how they will evaluate how successful they are at doing this. Statistics such as frequently viewed blog posts or retweeted tweets can help librarians figure out which content is catching patrons’ attention and what is falling flat. While it may be too early to know how to evaluate social media, I do think it is important to try, since evaluation helps librarians to remember why they are doing this in the first place. Also, since social media tools take time to maintain, librarians should know if their hard work is worth it or if there is a better way to meet their patrons’ needs, which, at the end of the day, is what it’s all about.
Before this week’s lesson, I really didn’t know much about mashups, much less that they can be fairly easy to create. I think map mashups are a great idea for libraries or any business that wants to show users exactly where they are located. It is easy for patrons to then get directions to their nearest branch. I also like the idea of providing data from Google Books or Amazon in the catalogue, since this information can help patrons decide whether they would like to read a particular book. It also saves librarians the time it would take to generate all this content on their own. As Fichter’s chapter points out, though, it is important to bear in mind that these mashups are relatively new. Data available today might not be there tomorrow. Therefore, librarians should choose carefully when adding mashup content to the library Web site. There is also the question of who owns the content and whether it is being used with permission. Even though many organizations are starting to make information available through open data, mashup content is not always open data, so librarians should ensure they are not violating copyright laws by using it.
In terms of making my own mashup, I found it was quite easy to do. I think it would be interesting to look into some of the other mashups mentioned in this week’s readings to see if they are equally simple and what use they might have for libraries. For now, my map can be seen here.
Last week, I paid a visit to the Natural Resources Canada library at the Booth Street office in Ottawa. Librarian Emily Gusba gave me a quick tour and then sat down to tell me how the library is using Web 2.0. NRCan has a departmental wiki, which allows employees to share their work and see what their colleagues at other NRCan offices are doing. The library has its own wiki as well, which includes the reference desk schedule and a form for people to sign up for workshops at the library. The librarians at NRCan are hoping to post contact information for other government libraries to the wiki in the near future. This is very handy since sometimes librarians must contact colleagues at other libraries for help answering a reference quesiton, or they may want to refer a patron to another library. Having this contact information in one place makes it easy to locate, which is especially important for patrons in a rush. Committees can post minutes of their meetings to the wiki, and it is also a good way for librarians at the differenct NRCan locations to keep in touch, since they may not see each other often.
In addition to the wiki, the library also has a Twitter feed. There is one feed for news about the department and one for the library. The librarians offer workshops for employees who want to learn how to use Twitter. This is a great way of promoting the library’s Twitter feed and is useful for people who want to start using Web 2.0 but need a bit of guidance.
The department also has several blogs. The library has one internal blog to keep everyone up to date, and there is also a blog for the emloyees that features new books. Employees can subscribe to this blog through RSS feeds. This is a good way to promote the library’s collection and get the word out about upcoming training workshops.
NRCan also has an “NRTube” video channel, as well as editing software. This allows people to shoot their own videos and edit them at the library. Finally, the library is working to make its catalogue mobile-friendly and is looking into using QR codes in the future.
Overall, I was impressed with what NRCan is doing. They are fortunate to have a workplace culture that encourages innovation and experimentation. I spend a lot of time reading about how public libraries can use Web 2.0, but it’s nice to see that government libraries are beginning to experiment with it as well.
I have to admit that I am skeptical of wikis. Farkas’s article points out that wikis enable everyone to participate in creating Web content, even with limited technical skills. Although I agree with this, I have doubts. If anyone can add and edit content, how will I know if what I am reading is accurate? I don’t like the idea of someone else coming along and changing what I wrote, especially not if they are creating an error in doing so.
Allowing patrons to add to subject page wikis seems like a good idea, since librarians may not have a lot of time to keep these pages up to date, but I think these additions need to be moderated to some extent to ensure wiki content is appropriate. It could harm the library’s reputation if inaccurate or offensive information is posted anywhere on the library’s Web site. Is the wiki really going to save time, then? Credibility is especially important for academic libraries. Students need to know the information on the subject wiki can be trusted if they are using it to guide their research.
On the positive side, I do think the idea of a community wiki is interesting, mostly for public libraries. This is a good way for community groups to get the word out about meetings and events and for the library to become involved in the community. Again, though, should someone moderate the postings?
Wikis can be a great collaboration tool for co-workers, but I think there need to be policies in place to ensure transparency in terms of who did what. Colleagues should not change each other’s work for no reason. I do like the idea of a “collective knowledge” wiki for library reference staff. It would be handy to compile information about tricky or frequently asked questions in one place. This would save librarians time in the long run and help them serve patrons better.
I thought Sook Lim’s article on college students and Wikipedia was quite interesting. Wikipedia can be useful for finding quick facts but I don’t consider it an academic source. It concerns me that students might rely too heavily on this wiki that anyone can edit without presenting their credentials because it is convenient, rather than consulting a more scholarly source. I found it somewhat reassuring that students used Wikipedia more for personal reasons than academic research. Students did not often expect to find the “best” information there. I just wonder if “okay” is good enough for them, i.e. do they verify the information elsewhere? Instead of trying to prevent students from using Wikipedia, since many will anyway, librarians should teach them how to evaluate the information they find there, including assessing the sources cited.