The Very Rich Hours of the Lambrights

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Libraries and Social Networks–23 Things Step #20

April 15th, 2008 · No Comments

Step #20 of the 23 Things on a Stick program concerns libraries and social networks. I just joined Facebook and have exactly one friend. 🙂 I’ve also joined one group. So I’m not a rabid social networker but I am learning my way around.

The role of social networks in libraries is still a bit uncertain. Many worry that social networking sites expose their children to dangerous people. Some librarians fear that kids (it always seems to be the kids) using MySpace or Facebook make too much noise or use the computers too much. Some even worry that kids will expose too much about themselves online. Many libraries are trying to market themselves on social networking sites with mixed results. Rather than try to explore all these topics, I will point you to a great blog post from Meredith Farkas, who discusses them at length and provides a lot of good links for further discussion.

Frankly, I’m not worried about most of the concerns listed above. Realistically, a child is far more likely to be abused by someone they know in real life than a stranger they meet online. Having kids in the library is something to be celebrated, even if they are noisy and use the computers a lot. But one thing about social networks that actually does bother me is the way they are closed off to the rest of the internet. I can put photos, information about myself, etc. into Facebook for all my friends to see. As long as they have Facebook accounts. But what if they don’t? The internet is huge; why do I want to limit my potential pool of friends to the relative handful using Facebook? There’s even a name for this phenomena: Walled Gardens.

You can use blogs and other online tools, many of which are among the 23 Things, to replicate much of what you can do in Facebook. The missing component is a quick, easy way to designate relationships. In Facebook, I can make you my friend and, from then on, I’ll have quick access to your info and vice versa. It’s not so easy in the wild wild internet. Smart people are working on it with microformats and XML data standards that would allow regular old websites and blogs to “friend” each other. Now wouldn’t that be cool.

Bonus link: Replace Facebook Using Open Social Tools

Tags: 23 Things on a Stick

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