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IOLUG Panel: Personal Experiences with Digital Identity

November 16, 2009

Last Friday I was a panelist with three other library professionals at the Indiana Online Users Group fall meeting, where we spoke about our personal experiences using Facebook, Twitter and more.  It was an interesting discussion about a controversial topic.  Talking about social networking always leads me to reflect on what I’m doing right, what I’m doing wrong, and how I define “friendships” online.  I use Facebook for three different reasons:

  • to stay in touch with family and friends
  • to network with other library professionals
  • to network with other business people in the Fort Wayne community

I have basically three types of “friends” on Facebook: family, friends, colleagues.  The first two are self-explanatory, but my colleagues consist of people in the Fort Wayne community and library professionals outside of ACPL.

Since the official communication channel for ACPL is our interlibrary e-mail, I don’t feel like I need to keep connected with most ACPL staff via Facebook.  Certainly lots of ACPL staff use Facebook, but I’ve had to ask myself how many ACPL are friends that I share interests with outside of work.  Keeping in touch on Facebook doesn’t seem like a good way to communicate with other ACPL staff.  Also, I am afraid that having a conversation via Facebook excludes other ACPL staff, who are not using Facebook, from the conversation.

I do think that making and keeping friends on Facebook with other library professionals and community professionals is valuable.  I like that I can pop into Facebook for a minute or two, check and see what people are talking about, and pop back out.  One audience member seemed a little shocked that librarians use Facebook during work hours, but not having used Facebook herself, she was under the impression that people are looking at it for hours at a time.  This is simply not the case.

Making connections with people in our community is one of the most important uses of Facebook on the job.  I am friends with newspaper staff, city government staff, other IT professionals, and other nonprofit professionals.  It’s important and valuable to understand what people are talking about.  Just this morning, I saw that our local PBS station had send out a tweet about a program that aired this weekend, and referred Twitter followers to the library to get the book!     pbs twitterI was able to re-tweet their post to our followers.  And the relationships formed and grown between myself as an individual and other individuals in my community–not their institutional personas–those are gold.  Because of these relationships, I’ve helped arrange a book signing with a book editor and I’m filming a video with a library user this afternoon.

When I was a branch manager, I felt it was not only friendly, but my responsibility, to get to know the people who walked into my building every day.  I learned their names, asked about their families, chatted about work, discussed books…every day.  It wasn’t unusual for me to spend several minutes in conversation, walking around with patrons, talking about our day.   Serving your community is about more than checking out their books.  It’s about forming relationships.  So we should do this any way we can.  Even on Facebook or Twitter.  The rewards are endless, I promise you!

We need to use social networking tools without fear.  Really, it’s OK to Facebook!  Of course, this is only my opinion. 🙂

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