KM Today


Putting social media in acceptable terms for libraries

Helene Blowers posted a wonderful note today about a social media strategy framework. Being a strategy junkie, I agree with Helene that Ross Dawson’s framework is excellent as it leads an organization from its priorities through governance (ye gads! someone actually considers governance early in a strategy!!) through to “listening” while engaging (there’s a concept — listening — to honestly hear what people are saying, or not saying…).

It also prompts me to explore the notion that many libraries are still rather ‘iffy’ about social media, particularly Facebook & Twitter, because they perceive these to be “social media” and somehow that just doesn’t “fit” for them — somehow “social media” makes them uncomfortable.  Stephen Abram & Helene are absolutely correct — libraries, particularly CEO’s or Directors, have to engage themselves in these media before developing their strategy.  But to engage means they have to first accept.  And some are lightyears from accepting.  A few weeks ago when I was working with a group on integrating social media into their processes and services, a senior librarian negatively retorted to me that these “things aren’t all good — there’s a real dark side to them.”  At which point I responded, “yep, there’s a dark side to cars when people hit and kill innocent people, too, yet you drive a car. So what’s your point?”

And then it hit me (the point, not the car), that libraries have to see Facebook & Twitter & other social media not as “social media” (discomfort), but rather as “connecting networks” (a bit more comfort) and  “non-traditional publishing platforms” (oh yeah…lots more comfort!).  That’s what they are, right? Look at the volume of content on Facebook & Twitter.  It’s unbelievable.  My connections on both sites “connect” me with more content than any library would have ever imagined.  When I positioned Facebook as a publishing platform, the pixels in eyes started to widen.

Libraries are – and want to be – gathering places for people to connect with content, with ideas, with knowledge, with experts, and with other people to learn new things, solve problems, explore issues and entertain themselves. If they begin to accept that sites like Facebook enlarge their capacity as that gathering place, both physically and virtually, to connect people with content, then they will move much faster along that continuum from acceptance to engagement.

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