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Technology in Libraries, Hope or Hype?
Much talk surrounding which technologies and social media libraries should embrace is occurring in the major library professional journals and magazines. It would appear from looking back over the last five years that the general consensus has been to add everything and "try it." But is this the right approach? I don't think so.
It is refreshing for me to see professional magazines starting to tire of touting the next new shiny thing that libraries MUST adopt. I am always an early adopter in my personal life, however, I think that libraries do have an obligation to their constituents to provide a stable level of service that they can provide consistently. Constantly adding the next "new" thing without a thoughtful plan seems like a recipe for disaster and a weakening of what the library's mission truly is.
For example, does your library tweet? Many libraries do. I am compelled to ask "why?" Some institutions use Twitter to great effect, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles is a great example. But they are a museum not a library. I have yet to see a great use of Twitter in a public library setting. Since the Twitter users are essentially the right here-right now crowd, putting anything out there but immediate information seems pointless. Generally speaking, people do not go back in time with Twitter to "catch up," therefore anything the library would post may be lost before anyone ever sees it. I am not suggesting that libraries not use Twitter, I am saying that they should give some thought to HOW it is used and why. Take some time to understand the users of this social media and think about how you can meet a need they may have.
Facebook is another choice that the majority of libraries felt compelled to add several years ago. If your library uses Facebook, are there separate pages for Children, Adults, and Teens? If not, you may run the risk of being un-liked or un-friended if your Children's department, for example, posts a litany of programming on your Facebook feed. Those who do not want or need that information will quickly remove you rather than have their newsfeed cluttered up with information they neither care about nor need. Again, think about who you are trying to reach and why.
Pinterest. This is a great visual board but I struggle with how libraries can use this effectively. Many libraries are utilizing it in lieu of paid products which would do the same thing. Granted, it's a great option if the library budget cannot handle a subscription service like Wowbrary or Bookletters...but if it can then what is Pinterest good for? Chime in in the forum by the way, because I do want to know how libraries are using this for more than booklists and new items.
In conclusion, I would ask that libraries think before they invest already severely strained staff time on social media that may just be one more thing to do. Of course, only you know what your community needs, so that definitely figures into the equation. I would urge you to think about all that you already do and provide. Is this just one more shiny new thing to try or does it fill a need that you either could not provide otherwise or are upgrading what you do provide. How does the technology you are about to adopt further the library's mission? Or does it? Important questions to ask for sure. Remember -- the beauty of social media is that it's...social. How social does your library want or need to be?
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