During yesterday’s Blended Librarians Online Learning Community webcast, which featured Brian Mathews speaking on “Conversations with Patrons: Extending Your Library’s Presence Online”, social networking was a topic of conversation – both by Brian and in the chat room. Brian is a pioneer in connecting with students in online social spaces, so we were glad to have his expertise to share in the webcast. But in discussing social networks the talk turned to two articles published in the last few days, both of which suggest that many MySpace and Facebook subscribers are deserting these systems – and perhaps the thrill is gone. Last week (10/26 – no longer free online) the Wall Street Journal reported, in an article titled “MySpace, ByeSpace”, that both major networks saw their first significant member losses in August 2006. The article questioned if perhaps members were deserting a system they saw as too big, too commercialized, and in danger of being overrun by authority figures (anyone you know?). And then on 10/29 the Washington Post carried the article “In Teen’s Web World, MySpace is So Last Year“, in which teens were quoted saying they were over their interest in MySpace and planned to leave the service. Seems like many librarians are new arrivals in these spaces or planned to be there soon. Looks like we may have gotten there a little bit too late after all.
Brian was asked what he thought about these articles, and he made some good points about how the networks themselves might outgrow their popularity over time but that the basic concept was a good one that was likely to be around for some time. In other words, we may see new social networks, more likely intended to meet the needs of small niche market segments. That also means we’ll need to keep alert to new resources our students are using for their networking – if we want to be where they are. And if Facebook’s recent decision to remove all library (institutional) profiles is an indicator, then we’ll need to be especially savvy about how we integrate ourselves into these spaces – if we believe being there can help us to connect with our user community. Given how recent user protests forced Facebook to reverse a policy decsion, perhaps this profession needs its own letter writing campaign to try to convince Facebook that libraries should be allowed to have institutional profiles.
BTW – if you missed yesterday’s BL webcast you can view the archive – but you do need to have an account at the Learning Times Network. If you need one, just follow the instructions – it’s free.