In Your Face(book): Social Networking Sites for Engaged Library Services

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” said Alan Kay, father of the laptop computer, the apple/mac graphical user interface, and object oriented programming. Ruminations upon this quote kicked off Gerry McKiernan’s presentation on the social networking site Facebook, during which McKiernan used the Swiss Army knife as metaphor for online social networking, and Facebook as one of the multi-use tools.

Why should librarians use Facebook? Because it’s a preferred medium of comunication among college-age and younger students as well as, increasingly, the rest of us. Studies indicate that tweens & teens use Facebook to discuss educational/homework topics; Facebook has the largest number of registered users among college-focused sites.

So why haven’t more college faculty bought into the concept? McKiernan thinks it’s because some of us (I’ve heard repeatedly over the past couple days that 35 is the cut-off for being “cool” but I don’t believe it) aren’t comfortable divulging our age, posting a picture etc. He pointed out that Facebook users have complete control over their profiles and privacy settings, and thus can choose what they want to share.

In addition to its use as a means of communication between individuals, McKiernan cited Facebook groups’ potential to augment/supplement learning management systems, and as community-building tools for distance education and learning communities. He discussed the power of Facebook apps to bring the library to people, and to blend 2.0 technologies.