“The practice of using a social network to establish and enhance relationships based on some common groundâ€”shared interests, related skills, or a common geographic locationâ€”is as old as human societies, but social networking has flourished due to the ease of connecting on the Web. This OCLC membership report explores this web of social participation and cooperation on the Internet and how it may impact the libraryâ€™s role, including:
- The use of social networking, social media, commercial and library services on the Web
- How and what users and librarians share on the Web and their attitudes toward related privacy issues
- Opinions on privacy online
- Librariesâ€™ current and future roles in social networking
The report is based on a survey (by Harris Interactive on behalf of OCLC) of the general public from six countriesâ€”Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United Statesâ€”and of library directors from the U.S. The research provides insights into the values and social-networking habits of library users.”
I’ve heard OCLC staff say they don’t believe they asked the right questions for some of the topics, which I agree with, so I think we have to take the data with the proverbial grain of salt. You’ll be able to order a 280-page paper copy starting October 28, which is how I’ll read this if I can get my hands on a copy. I couldn’t totally resist, though, so I did jump ahead to the conclusion (PDF) and already I’m intrigued.
“In the 18 months since the publication of the Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources report, the use of search engines and e-mail has grown by more than 20% over what were already enormous participation levels. User participation in basic Internet services, such as searching and e-mailing, is approaching total participation. More than twice as many respondents are using blogs now as then….
Internet use has not simply increased, it has infiltrated our lives, offering more and more services at more and more service points. Use has grown for almost every Internet service we measured in this surveyâ€”well, almost every service.
The percentage of Internet users that have used a library Web site has decreased. Library Web site use declined from 30% of respondents in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. in 2005 to 20% of the general public in these same countries in 2007, a 33%
The more intriguing question isâ€”what are the services and incentives that online libraries could offer users to entice them to come back or to visit more often or even devote some of their own time to help create a social library site?…
If convenience does trump quality, then it is the librariansâ€™ job to make quality convenient. If sharing will trump privacy on the social Web, it is the librariansâ€™
On the social Web, the library brand must go from institutional to personal….
The social Web is not being built by augmenting traditional Web sites with new tools. And a social library will not be created by implementing a list of social software features on our current sites. The social Web is being created by opening the doors to the production of the Web, dismantling the current structures and inviting users in to create their content and establish new rules.
Open the library doors, invite mass participation by users and relax the rules of privacy. It will be messy. The rules of the new social Web are messy. The rules of the new social library will be equally messy. But mass participation and a little chaos often create the most exciting venues for collaboration, creativity, community buildingâ€”and transformation. It is right on mission….
The new Web is a very different thing. Libraries need to be very different, too.”
Now, I give full credit to OCLC for running, analyzing, and publishing (especially freely) this report (I so wish MPOW published this kind of wonderful data this freely), but I have to dock them points for the way they invite feedback on this report. On social networking. And sharing online. And privacy concerns.
Where do the points come off? The only way to submit feedback is via a form that has your name and email address as required fields and which sends the message off into the ether instead of posting it online. No discussion at all on the report’s site. Given the social efforts OCLC is making elsewhere (WorldCat, WebJunction, etc.), I have to believe they have something in the works that just wasn’t ready yet, but this certainly does fill the belly of the irony beast.
Update: And indeed, the online community is now live via open comments on what appears to be a blog. Discuss away.