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IL2007: Facebook and MySpace

October 30, 2007

IL2007: Facebook and MySpace
Presenters: Aaron Schmidt and Susan Herzog

Schmidt started the presentation by talking about MySpace.  He spoke about the traditional way libraries present information: in difficult to use interfaces that are not geared toward out users’ needs.  What makes the library a friendly and pleasant place?  Most of the most popular sites have a social nature–Yahoo!, MySpace, eBay, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Craigslist, etc.  The Nike ID project lets you design your own shoe images using their generating tool.  We want to let people connect, collaborate, and communicate.  It fosters two-way communication and a humanity to the web.  People express their opinions.  There is a lot of sharing of information and media.  You need an identity in order to participate in this space, however.  MySpace has teamed up with Skype so that Skype account holders can contact their contacts while within MySpace.  The concept of making friends online is very different than making friends in-person.  Few audience members were working on MySpace profiles for their libraries – but that’s okay – that’s the point of the session, right?  Schmidt showed some examples of library MySpace profiles: Brooklyn College Library, Denver Public Library, UIUC Undergraduate Library, London Public Library, American Library Association, and the Vancouver Public Library. Tips: Use songs.  Avatars should be people – not logos or buildings. Carry over look and feel from library website.  User interaction: contests, voting, etc.  Add a catalog search box.  List library hours.  Students are more likely to be on MySpace than on our own websites, so why not put stuff there?  Register for a free account – be human in your presence, have valuable content to share that changes on an ongoing basis.  Don’t accept every friend request/  Consider what content you will include on an ongoing basis.  Have a goal in mind – what you want to achieve.  Will you "friend" authors?  "Social networking is an intellectual freedom issue."  There is an Illinois Social Networking Prohibition Act written by Senator Matt Murphy.   It would probably block library blogs, Amazon, eBay, etc.  Mr. Murphy also had a blog himself.  Many libraries censor MySpace, or have had challenges to site access presented.  Is MySpace really safe?  An article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation cites two studies that show that young people are able to detect unsafe contact, protect themselves, and use good judgment online as well as in-person.  YALSA’s "30 Positive Uses for Social Networking Sites."  Henry Jenkins study: "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture."  The Horizon Report on Social Networking.  Ways to get a MySpace profile at your library: have a small pilot project, offer a MySpace tips and tricks class, have a class for parents.  How to get your MySpace account some attention: set your PACs to go to MySpace, have your website URL redirect to your MySpace profile for a week.  There are similar social networks being created within library websites for library users (like Book Space at HCPL and My Library Cafe.  Schmidt also took a moment to say that libraries will need to start having web-content staff members whose jobs are creating quality, ever-changing content for the website or the library’s overall web presence.

The second speaker, Susan Herzog, presented on Facebook: "The Facebook Phenomenon: What Our Students Need to Know."  Herzog is from Eastern Connecticut State University Library.  Facebook’s neighborhood is a global one.  Facebook is more read than the New York Times.  There are 47,000 Facebook groups.  A million people register every week.  Half of users are not college students.  The average visitor stays 20 minutes.  Students don’t use email much – they log in to Facebook and/or IM.  Many users stay logged in to Faacebook all day, much like many digital immigrants stay logged in to email all day.  Facebook friend requests start coming in quite soon once you sign up – from both people you know and others you don’t.  Accepting friend requests critically is essential as there are many spammers and other shady characters about in these spaces – there is money to be had, so they will be there.  Students use Facebook in many different ways and for many different reasons, but mainly to socialize–to connect with other users.  Unthinking individuals are placing their schedules, contact information, and other detailed personal information online.  Herzog believes that teenagers and young adults feel a sense of invincibility in real life (driving drunk, etc.) and also online, like on Facebook, and don’t think they will have any consequences as a result.  Many colleges and universities have used Facebook to look for student alcohol policy violations (on dry campuses), athlete and scholarship recipient violations, and more.  Some individuals forget that the data they present may/will be read with others.  Schools and employers are examining social networking profiles, like on Facebook, to evaluate prospectivve employees.  What is the library’s responsibility with Facebook and other social networking sites?  Herzog suggests that librarians educate students on the dangers and/or consequences of posting personal information in a public place.  Library staff need to be educated about the software so that they can participate intelligently in these discussions.


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