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Social networking: professional and private concerns

October 28, 2009

As librarians dive more and more into social networking, a lot of questions and interesting situations seem to be coming up.  Concerns about privacy, how we represent ourselves online, and responsibility for content are all causing us to question how we approach social media tools.

One of the main issues is social media strategy.  As I learned from Meg Canada of Hennepin County Library at the “Building Communities” preconference at ALA, libraries need to have a social media strategy, just as they need to have a written communication plan.  If we want professional librarians to use the Library 2.0 tools in a useful, organized way, we need to have an idea of who is responsible for posting to blogs, adding pictures to Flickr, posting YouTube videos, etc.  Webjunction has posted information about creating a social software policy for your library.

Maybe a bigger area of concern though, is privacy and how we blur our professional and private lives on social networking sites.  It’s clear that librarians are quite concerned, and they are reacting in a variety of ways.  Some librarians may choose to unfriend fellow staff members for the sake of privacy.  Others might delete their accounts altogether.  Personally, I think that one of the advantages of social networking is that people see us as real human beings, and it allows us to make greater, deeper, more meaningful connections with our customers.  And when I see a link posted or a remark by a librarian that reveals his political or religious point of view, I don’t worry about it.  Really–what that person believes and practices outside of the library makes no difference to me, as long as it doesn’t prevent them from practicing unbiased, intelligent, thoughtful librarianship.

When I gave a presentation about videos at the Paul Clarke Nonprofit Resource Center earlier this week, we discussed social media use briefly and NPR News Staff Social Media Guidelines was mentioned as a good model to follow.  I have to question though, whether we should hold ourselves to the same guidelines as journalists–because we aren’t journalists.  We do need to stick to our code of ethics, but when we are not working as librarians, when we’re living our lives outside the library, I think if we follow some general practices of behaving as ladies and gentlemen, then we should feel no fear about being who we really are.  We are Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians; we are also dancers, runners, knitters, hikers, body-modifiers and reality TV fans.  Above all, we love books and libraries, and we’re proud of that.  Let’s be ourselves, and not be afraid to share ourselves with others.

Until your library has a social media policy firmly in place, you might want to follow some of the guidelines in the article “Top 10 Things You Should Not Share on Social Networks”.

For more information, read Elyssa Kroski‘s recent article in School Library Journal, “Should Your Library Have a Social Media Policy?”.

For further reading:

Libraries and Social Media

Social Media Governance’s Policy Database

Lawsuits & PR Nightmares: Why Employees Need Social Media Guidelines

Librarians and Others – Learn How You Are Being Evaluated By Your Social Media Footprint – Prepare to Be Judged!…04.08.09 « The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog

The 4 Ps of the Internet: Personal, Private, Professional, and Public | Compliance Building

Public, private, personal, political

Facebook Transition – From Personal to Professional | Shiny Door

YALSA » Who Are You? Your Public, Private, and Professional Life

Experts: Employers should make social media policy clear | Journal Record, The (Oklahoma City) | Find Articles at BNET

Blurring Personal and Professional Lives on Social Media – ClickZ

Social Networks: Separate Professional From Personal ? – Marketing …

Social Networks – The Personal vs. The Professional

Chris Brogan: Ways to Be Human at a Distance

What are your tips for using your social networking profile for professional work?

WebJunction – Social Networking & Web Tools

IBM Social Computing Guidelines

Social Networking and Employees: Where Do You Draw the Line?


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