Saturday, July 10, 2010

Social Networking in Libraries - MmIT event

Yesterday I went up to Liverpool John Moores University for the Multimedia Information and Technology Group event. There were 4 speakers each giving a case study of the experiences their libraries have had with social networking.

1. Gareth Johnson from the University of Leicester

Gareth delivered an entertaining overview of the situation at Leicester, where a lot of experimentation has gone on and is still going on with blogging, facebook, and more.
It was nice to finally meet Gareth in the flesh after having seen him on twitter so much! He even treated the audience to one of his famous stuffed-animal videos: The Thing on the Doorstep: Libraries and Social Networking which addresses some of the issues and fears that many social networking enthusiasts come up against when trying to persuade library managers of the benefits.

2. Zelda Chatten from the University of Liverpool
Zelda was lighthearted and funny and talked about experiences at Liverpool, where subject librarians are the main catalysts behind social networking activity. Liverpool started off with a range of different blogs, and has found the most successful one to be the electronic-resources one, as it seem to have a large target audience and captures the attention of people who are willing to comment and engage. They also have a facebook page  and twitter account and find they encourage two way dialogue with students.

3. Dave Puplett from LSE
Dave used Prezi for his presentation, which was very good to watch, and didn't make me feel sea-sick at all! It also means I can share it with you here:

Dave was concerned about the use of the term "web 2.0" to describe things that were actually "social networking". He talked about some of the LSE work going on and as well as the Twitter and facebook stuff LSE also have an iPhone ap which allows students to access information, and also prompted the start of later discussions at the event about location data. They have also used Flickr to ask the public to identify people who appear in archived photographs. LSE also used a "subject-specific" twitter feed to gain input and feedback from students when working on their catalogue interface.

4. Andrew Walsh from the University of Huddersfield

Andy had 3 hard acts to follow, and was conscious of not wanting to repeat any of what had gone before, so he did a bit of ad-libbing and took the conversation to other areas, including following on from mention of location data earlier on he talked about FourSquare and how this is being used by Huddersfield students. (Andy is currently the Mayor of the library!)

General Discussion:
General discussion throughout the event covered a range of topics of concern, largely centering around how to persuade managers to back social networking endeavors by library staff.The feeling in the room was that to was better to have an official presence than not have one. As Andy demonstrated by searching Facebook for a few choice phrases - your students are already talking about your library - and not always in a flattering light - so get on there, and give your library the chance to balance the information available.
It was also widely felt that in order for social networking developments to take place in libraries we are depending a few enthusiastic individuals to drive things forward. over time this may change, as social networking responsibilities may be added to job descriptions and formal marketing and communication strategies. But until that happens it seems that most libraries are dependant on the personal interest and skills of their existing staff to push them in new directions. 

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