Social Media Policy

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.

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