On MySpace, Facebook, and my valuable time

As I have mentioned previously, I am a young adult librarian in a large, consolidated system. As a part of my regular duties, I assist with running the MySpace (almost a year and a half in service now) and co-developed and run the library’s Facebook account (just wrapping up our first three months). Although it is true that there is a lot of professional-to-professional networking and not as many connections with actual teens, running these two services takes very little of my time and puts another tendril out there for our kids to grab on to.

Unfortunately, every three months I spend much more of my valuable time justifying continuing these projects and spending my time on them. As is frequently the case, administration comes from a different generation and sees little value in making connections through social networking, something that I as a next-gen librarian see value in pretty much by default. Admin is concerned with raw numbers- how many comments did we get, how many new friends did we get, how many views did we have, how many bullitens did we post. Of course these numbers are important and if nothing is going on there is no point in continuing the project. However, it drives me absolutely batty when I get the “why don’t we have more teen friends?” and “what’s the point if we only have 200 people on our friends list?” These questions not only miss the larget point of the project, they ignore the basic way these networking sites operate (naturally both our MySpace and Facebook are publically visible even to those people without an account on either site).

Without further ado- here is the Otaku Librarian’s quick list of social networking facts from a YA librarian’s P.O.V:

1. Number of friends does not accurately indicate the success of your profile. View count is far more accurate unless you make your account private (in which case, why are you bothering?). As an example, we have just about 250 friends but over 5000 views on our MySpace.

2. Yes, MySpace is a scary, evil place where every person is waiting to molest your child. However, teens are going to go on it anyway and the library having an account on the site is not encouraging social delinquency or the “dumbening” of America. If anything, we’re trying to reach them and maybe get them to come into our educational institution, and it’s even possible that they’ll come in to one of our social networking safety courses or utilize our teen hotline numbers.

3. After the initial set-up period, the maintenance of a social networking account takes very little time. Even with the monitoring of each and every comment and post, I spend less than half an hour per week taking care of both MySpace and Facebook. We spend maybe an hour a month on any major event updates. This is hardly a waste of valuable work time, especially since the majority of this work takes place while I am working on the reference desk anyway.

4. Please, for the love of whatever higher diety you may or may not believe in, do not put a choke chain on your social networking success through needless rules and regulations. You can’t require that librarians make no postings, join no groups, and only add friends who have requested us and then question why your friend count isn’t higher. This is ineffective advertising. No one is going to think that the library is stalking them. Even joining another group of libraries provides a surprising increase in visibility as well as giving them impression that you are actually using the profile actively.

5. Yeah, you’ve got more authors, bands, and other literary related friends than teens. This is not indicative of failure! Professional networking is so valuable. For one, most of the people who add libraries are the people who will perform at libraries. They also post relevant contests and news that will help you professionally. For two, on MySpace in particular, adding a musician will put you in all of your friends’ feeds. Visibility is key!

6. Keep current!!! The internet changes so rapidly; what is “in” one day is “out” the next. It is not helpful to keep the proposal of a new profile suspended in red tape for 6 months. This is where I envy all you individual branches out there- you may not have the kind of team support I have, but when you decide something there are relatively few hoops for you to jump through.

That’s about all for now, though I’m sure as soon as I hit publish I’ll think of something else. I will say that the most satisfying thing for me has been getting emailed for advice on running a library MySpace because someone liked our profile and knowing that our Facebook was used as an example in a YA class. It makes me feel like my work is really contributing to the community- even if some people don’t see it that way!


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

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