libraries & social networking

OCLC’s latest report on sharing, privacy, and trust in our networked world is here (pdf), just in time for me to incorporate into our own thinking about libraries & community building for ‘inside, outside, and online’. yay. i’m trying not to swallow it whole.

bottom line: the creation of the ‘social web’ is well underway. in general, users (and librarians) do not see a place for the library there. to me this is sad news, but i remain hopeful …

a few highlights from the report, from my point of view, though i’m sure to blog more on this later as i get a little deeper into it, and have more time to savor all that fantastic data.

  • this data shows the distinction between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” to be almost non-existent; we’ve all been online for long enough
  • the shift from users simply reading the web (in 2005) to authoring it (in 2007) is startling; library web site use decreased by 33% during this same period
  • people who use social networking sites (drum roll please) read more than people who don’t. HA!
  • social networking is qualified by interaction; social media is qualified by content creation, publishing, and sharing – more than a quarter of the general pop surveyed had used either (28%), making them more likely to participated in the social web than to have searched or borrowed from a library web site (20%)
  • people participate in social networking for interaction; users believe that it helps maintain current relationships (42%) or develop new ones (47%)
  • the general public (13%) and US library directors (14%) generally don’t think there’s a place for the library in the social web; when they do, they think we should host book clubs. HUMPH!

our thesis for this book has always been that libraries have always been about community as well as content; we help create connections between people and each other, and between people and the content or information we help provide access to. we do this in person and in our libraries everyday that the library is open, and every time we’re out in the community as a representative of the library. we also do this when with our library’s presence on the web. we are social. we should be on the social web.

maybe it would help if we shifted our thinking – towards recognizing people as another format or form of “content” or “information resource.” as a librarian at, when i help facilitate a connection between two library staff members in different locations but who share the same interest or problem, i am doing just as well for them (thinking of these folks as my patrons) as i would be if i delivered an article, course, audio file, or some other resource as long as it’s useful. we wouldn’t hesitate to do this in a physical library space. let’s open up a bit and begin to let ourselves think about facilitating these types of connections between community members online as well.

i try not to get exasperated. i try not to call out ‘why is this taking so long?’ i suppose the good news is that this type of early reporting on consumer/patron behaviors, and perceptions of the library’s role in this new world, will give us a chance to deliberately and very intentionally ask our selves – do we have a right to play here? do we want to be a part of it?

the report closes with these lines: the new web is a very different thing. libraries need to be very different too. i couldn’t agree more.