Stalking – is it really a huge problem for libraries?

I should state right up front that I know next to nothing about stalking or stalkers – never had it happen to me, never really thought much about it. But I said I’d write about it, so I am.

And I do know this: some librarians are really, really worried that putting themselves “out there” by listing their full names and sharing a picture of themselves on a library website, or even by including their full name on a name badge, will somehow point them out as victims-in-waiting. You told me so.

Here’s an example of that worry, from Nathan, who left a comment on my post about anonymity. Nathan says: “I won’t be pushing for them to have last names, because I know it won’t be accepted and it shouldn’t be. Stalking isn’t a ‘worst-case scenario’ here; it’s an everyday concern. We have a fairly large population of homeless people & mental patients in the city, & multiple stalking or harassment events each year.”

So – the issue is this: some librarians think that by giving out their last names, they’ll be set upon by stalkers. I certainly hear the concern, but before you get all up in my grill about this, let’s take a peek at some statistics, from Stalking Victimization in the United States – a national survey done in 2006.

What are the facts associated with stalking?

  • 14 in every 1000 people were victims of stalking – 3.4 million in 2006.
  • People who are divorced or separated are at the highest risk (34 out of 1000).
  • 3 out of 4 people already knew their stalker (i.e., it was a friend, acquaintance, ex-spouse or ex-boy/girlfriend – 30% were known intimate partners, 45% were acquaintances. Under 10% were strangers).
  • women age 34 and younger are the most at-risk group

So, perhaps a little perspective is needed on this whole stalking thing. Again, I’m certain that it’s a scary thing when it happens, and I’m really not trying to make light of the issue. I’ve known two three  people who have experienced it, and yep – freaked both of them out.

But – statistically speaking, stalkers aren’t going to the web to get your last name. They’re not eying your name badge in hopes of catching that last name either … because your stalker already knows who you are (creepy though that sounds).

So sure, stalking is a nasty problem. Sure, it’s probably not a good thing to publish your home address or cell phone number for the masses to find. Here’s a great resource for figuring out how to remove some of your personal information from public view.

But – most librarians simply don’t fit into the “most likely to be stalked” category. I’m not a female younger than 35. No one in my department is either. And librarians in general? Look around ALA Midwinter in a few weeks … again, not trying to come off as flippant (though some of you will no doubt suggest that I am) … most of us simply don’t fit that profile.

[edit – yep. This was a bad argument]

So – posting your last name on a library website or on a name badge? We ask much more than that of our patrons (first and last names, addresses, home phone numbers, proof of residence, etc). Yes, some of you have pointed out that waitresses, clerks, etc in other businesses don’t do this. Do you really want to compare our profession to part-time sales associate jobs?

I think not.

Coming soon – Using Social Software in Library Marketing: Facebook, Twitter and More (ALA TechSource Workshop)

Some of you might be interested in attending this webinar coming up on December 1 and Decomber 8 (two part series) that Robin Hastings and I are leading.

Here’s the details (and here’s where you can register):

The popularity of social networking software—tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs—continues to skyrocket, particular among younger populations. For libraries in the 21st century, a presence on these social networking sites is an essential part of library outreach and patron services. In this exclusive event, librarians and social software experts David Lee King and Robin Hastings will teach you about what tools you can use to engage with your patrons and the best practices for using them.

You’ll learn about:

  • Collaboration with libraries and patrons using YouTube, Flickr and Dropbox
  • Marketing your library with Facebook and Twitter
  • 4 things your library must do when signing up for any social media tool (listen, plan, respond, and opening up)
  • Time-savers and tools to use for maximizing your library’s social media reach

About the Instructors

Robin Hastings is the Information Technology Manager for the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City, Missouri. She manages the library’s network, websites and training classes, as well as social networking projects for the library. Recently, Robin went to England, Jamaica, California, Chicago (twice), St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri, giving presentations on Web 2.0, Learning 2.0, Library Mashups, RSS, OpenID and Web 3.0. When she’s not traveling, she spends most of her free time in front of a computer blogging at or writing articles, a book chapter on mashups in the library and a chapter on using Google Apps in the library, an issue of Library Technology Reports on Collaboration and a book on lifestreaming and microblogging.

David Lee King is the Digital Branch and Services Manager at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans for, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends. He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website usability and management, digital experience planning, and managing techie staff and has been published in many library-related journals. David was named a Library Journal “Mover and Shaker” for 2008 and recently published his first book, Designing the Digital Experience. David writes the Internet Spotlight column in Public Libraries magazine with Michael Porter and maintains a blog at

Interested? Go register today!

Facebook Page Tips

pic by laughing squid

Someone recently emailed and asked for some tips in setting up a Facebook Page. Here’s what I emailed back – feel free to add your own tips!

Facebook Page Tips:

To set up:

  • use pictures of friendly faces – not a building. People don’t want to friend buildings
  • add contact info, like phone numbers, URL, email address, IM account, twitter account, etc
  • If you have a twitter account, hook it into your facebook account
  • Put more than one person in charge of your Facebook Page. That way, you have a backup in case someone’s sick or on vacation.

Facebook Pages has “Insights” – analytics. Check those every month or so, and adapt your content accordingly. For example, 35 year old women are our Facebook Page’s main visitor type. How can we focus our content on that group? Most likely, there’s a way!

Finally, a Facebook Page isn’t something you can set up and then ignore. With the level of interaction and engagement going on, you’ll need to be actively engaged. That shouldn’t take a ton of time, though. It means doing things like sending 1-2 status updates a day, maybe doing some planning and setting some goals for the page, and replying to people’s comments, questions, and suggestions.

Hope this helps!

Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out – recent presentations

I recently gave my Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out presentation at Lawrence Public Library in Kansas, and at three fun events in Wisconsin. A couple of them were longer, 3-hour talks, and the other two were shorter – this Slideshare slidedeck is for the 3-hour version of the presentation.

All 4 were fun talks with lots of great discussion afterwards. Lawrence and Wisconsin – thanks!

One More on The Networked Nonprofit: Social Media Guidelines

One more post on The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change, by Beth Kanter and Allison H. Fine. I like the book – good read, and much to think about. I had to do a little “translation” work – non-profits and libraries are similar in some ways, different in others.

On to the subject of this post – social media guidelines! Beth and Allison point out some good ideas for “codifying the social culture” by creating social media guidelines for staff.

In the process, they two useful posts:

#1 – 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy, from Mashable. Their points are really good, and include: Be Responsible for What You Write, Consider Your Audience, and Bring Value. Go read the post – good stuff there.

#2 – A Twitterable Twitter Policy, from the Gruntled Employees blog. Again, another great post – go read it. But here’s the tweetable policy: Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you can’t control it once you hit “update.” They call it a Twitter Policy, but I think it works pretty well for any social media.

So – good stuff. Check out the book!