I have a MySpace account. I have signed up, posted a blog, and started gathering friends. I even uploaded a video. It’s sorta cool, and I can see the networking opportunities in it for people. And I can also see how a library could use this type of social networking service to post events, get out info on new materials, etc.
But I do have one observation to make. When setting up a free account in something like MySpace that runs on ad revenue, a library needs to consider the ramifications of what their customers might see (and then click on, thinking it’s from the library).
Here are some examples:
Woo hoo! The library’s giving away FREE iPODS!!!
Wow – the library MUST think this new realtor site is useful, because they’re advertising it on their site…
Great – my computer is having problems, and the library is recommending this computer repair service…
Sorry – this one’s for comic relief… those two people in the Classmates ad have to be THE MOST FAMOUS FACES ON THE WEB…
Not for comic relief – especially when a parent calls with a complaint because their child just ended up at that intimate dating online service that your library just offered him/her for free… OK – get my point?
Am I saying that free things like MySpace, Flickr, Blogs, Wikis, etc are bad? No way! But I am saying that these new services need to fit into your library’s plan… don’t just set one up to “see what happens” or “just for kicks.” Think through a few things first:
- What does your library plan to offer using this new service?
- What are the library’s goals for establishing this new service?
- Can the advertising be minimized by paying a fee or by choosing certain categories?
- Does the service meet the library’s strategic goals?
- Who’s going to maintain this new service?
- And most important: if it’s successful – what’s next?
If you answer some of these questions early on, you’ll be prepared – prepared to fully offer services using this new environment; and prepared when someone DOES call because they didn’t understand it really wasn’t your library offering those free iPods… ahem…