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November 08, 2006

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» Got something to say to Facebook? from The Distant Librarian
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Ratcatcher

Look what happened to Friendster.

Fred Stutzman (surprise, I know) has a good article on it: http://chimprawk.blogspot.com/2006/09/facebook-is-killing-fakesters.html

Christopher Warren

I don't have any personal thoughts myself, except that, done right, there's certainly a lot of positive feedback that libraries (or at least college / university libraries) can solicit with a social networking site. Of course, that's just preaching to the choir. :)

Best of luck with the pitch. I'll be keeping my eyes on this to see how things turn out.

Michael C. Habib

I would add that future partnerships between libraries or other academic units could further buffer them against competitors.

It is possible that the Facebook API might be used by Libraries at some point in the future, or that they might be able to use a library API to their advantage.

We know a lot about students and have a monopoly on a subset of their information needs. If they ever want to expand further into students academic lives, we, or other campus units, would be valuable partners.

I would definitely point out that universities have lots of data about students. I understand that much of that data will forever be off limits, but much of it could concievably be shared through APIs through an opt-in mechanism.

I guess a lot of my point is that in the long term, we might be valuable friends to have, so it is a bad idea to upset us now.

Making a policy allowing official university entities to have Fakester accounts would still allow them to regulate others.

Good luck!

Beth Kraemer

The University of Kentucky library profile was shut down by Facebook in September. In our complaint to them we tried to make the point that having a library presence in Facebook is a good thing. One distinction between Facebook and other services like MySpace is the focus on creating an institutional identity. When you sign up you become part of your university’s network, with special communication privileges like the ability to view other profiles in the network and send broadcast announcements. It is a community based on the institutional affiliation. Allowing profiles for significant – especially student-relevant – organizations like the library seems like a logical part of the institutional identity.

A distinction between profiles for individual humans vs. institutional organizations is not an innately bad thing, but we have found that the group functionality in Facebook is not nearly as nice for a library as the individual profile was. Having “group members” rather than “friends” means we can’t tag or poke or comment or otherwise interact with other people. They have to come to us. And as controversial as the News Feed was, that would also be a nice feature for us to employ. We’re also not particularly happy about being just another one of the 70+ “library” groups in our network, most of which are unofficial to say the least. When we had our individual profile, we were the only profile name in Kentucky that included “library” – we were obviously the institutional library profile.

I hope Facebook will reconsider. Good luck with your discussion.

Sarah Houghton (LiB)

I would expand this beyond just college libraries to all libraries. As Facebook opens its membership to individuals outside college campuses, so should it open up its institutional membership to all libraries--public, special, school. It's one more place where our users are, and we're not selling anything--we're trying to help Facebook's membership get the most of of their RL communities.

Lisa Hinchliffe

UIUC Undergrad Library had the beginnings of a very nice Facebook profile that was de-activated. We were able to re-activate the profile under the name of one of the librarians (but who knows to search for the library under the name of one of the librarians?!?!). With over 600 friends, none of which we solicited, it seems that students were quite happy to discover us there. They give us feedback, get info about the Library, and ask research/reference questions. We also have a profile in MySpace http://www.myspace.com/undergradlibrary
where we have embedded our federated search engine. That could be nice in Facebook too if it worked out. Buying a Facebook flyer was a very effective ad in our experience. Just a few thoughts. Thanks for asking this question. We look forward to how this develops!

Shannon Kealey

I work as a Reference Associate at Coles Science Center at NYU's Bobst Library. I created a personal Facebook account, but as a representative of Coles Science Center. I don't mind that it's not an institutional identity because I think that one of the strengths of my presence there is that the student see me as a human being. I contacted almost 1700 NYU science students over the summer to let them know that I'm on Facebook and they can reach me there. I also use it to tell them about library services, events, etc. I had a 7% positive response rate to my initial outreach campaign, and even got a couple students into the library for reference consultations. Out of all the students I contacted, only one (one!) wrote back saying I was a pain in the bootie. Pretty good! I've analyzed the student response by class year and discipline and am hoping to publish a paper about the research project.

Good luck with your pitch. Honestly, what I would like to see from Facebook is a way to zero in on particular sections of the students. The "browse" by concentration and class year is the closest thing and it's a little clunky. Of course, I realize that Facebook wasn't intended for what I was trying to do, so I worked with it.

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