Libraries and social software

Fantastic posting on Information Wants to Be Free called Libraries in Social Networking Software. Meredith Farkas writes a thoughtful analysis of the libraries’ place in social software like MySpace and Facebook. "I wish playing with social software and thinking about how to use it in libraries could be my full-time job. But at the same time, I’m really pragmatic about technology implementation in libraries. I hate the idea of implementing new things at libraries because they’re “cool” and not to serve a specific purpose. So I often question why librarians are doing the things they do with social software."

Meredith’s point is that young (16-25) library users overwhelmingly use these social networking sites, so libraries need to work with this. Most libraries that are using these sites don’t use them effectively; those that do need to solicit feedback from students and create a portal within the software (MySpace or whatever). Most library sites don’t encourage feedback, apparently.

Meredith’s post is an extremely accessible account of how libraries can use these social software tools effectively. By accessible, I mean that I, who am neither a librarian nor a very technologically literate person, could easily see what she is getting at. At the end of the piece is a wonderful set of resources (links), and (so far) 25 comments (including a few bringing in Flickr, which I have noticed features many pictures of bookmobiles and the like). My main reaction to all of it is "oh, how American". I just wonder how many libraries in the UK have heard of social software and/or are doing anything with it? The idea of my local library doing anything more than providing a basic Internet connection at a few ropey old terminals in half-hour time slots is impossible to contemplate. Maybe academic libraries in the UK are better. But somehow I doubt it, I suspect that the vast majority still see themselves as passive providers of information, rather than as the kind of socially inclusive organisation described by Meredith and her fellow librarians.