One of my favorite new bloggers is an old school technology guy. Guy Kawasaki is a technology guru turned VC executive and his blog was first recommended to me a few weeks ago (Thanks Gus). The other day, Guy wrote a wonderful piece about companies creating communities and spells out ways in which they should do so, and do it well. Here’s the list without the explanations (read the blog entry for that):
+ Create something worth building a community around.
+ Assign one person the task of building a community.
+ Give people something concrete to chew on.
+ Create an open system.
+ Welcome criticism.
+ Foster discourse.
+ Publicize the existence of the community.
I’m thinking that we need to address the role of the “Friends of the Library” (FOL) in our book because these organizations address many of the facets of creating communities that Kawasaki touches upon. Number 2 on the list (assigning one person the task of building a community) fits FOLs perfectly.
FOLs are there for support, evangelism, PR, emergency fund-raising, community outreach and more. FOLs are to libraries what developers are for the open-source movement and API releases (Google, Flickr, Amazon). We don’t need to look far to see how programmers have helped to push company products and I know that there are many stories in which FOLs have assisted in bringing library programs to the forefront of the community.
What do you think? What are the best ways in which FOLs have helped to build communities? Are FOLs necessary for libraries to succeed? What else could they be doing? Should FOLs be critical of library services in order to portray honesty and transparency to their constituencies?