Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Writing about Facebook

I enjoy writing for my state association’s journal and have done so on several occasions. Like any print publication though, I find it frustrating that what I write is often out of date by the time it sees print.

In summer 2006, a colleague and I wrote one of the early articles about using Facebook and MySpace in libraries:

Greenwell, Stacey and Beth Kraemer. “Social Networking Software: Facebook and MySpace.” Kentucky Libraries. 2006. 70(4). 12-16.

The article provides an overview of both Facebook and MySpace and gives instructions and tips on creating a Facebook profile for your library. As many of you know, Facebook starting shutting down library profiles in fall 2006. We at least had time to publish an author’s note in the front of the article, but basically a good chunk of the article was out of date and not entirely useful.

That article was cited several times, and I became a little embarrassed at how outdated it had become. So in summer 2007 we thought: let's write a follow-up article that will be slightly more relevant. We wrote the second article in August 2007. This time we were more general but did cover creating a Facebook group for your library. We discussed the things we didn’t like about Facebook groups but also tips for creating a better group.

Now those of you who are following Facebook will know that Facebook launched Facebook Pages in October 2007. Facebook pages are the ideal home for a library presence—much better than the Facebook groups covered in our article. Unfortunately we weren't able to publish an author's note this time, so once again, we have an article out there that's brand new (my issue arrived on Monday) and already out of date:

Greenwell, Stacey and Beth Kraemer. “Update on Social Networking Software.” Kentucky Libraries. 2007. 71(4). 11-15.

I know it's inevitable when dealing with rapidly changing technology and that it's important to have those articles on my vita (and I certainly enjoy doing them) but I'm starting to wonder--what's the point? Who wants to create a Facebook Group for their library when they can now create a Facebook Page? How useful is this article actually going to be?

What’s interesting to me is that my first impulse was to post something to my blog. I immediately wanted to attempt to communicate with the person who might read the article and think: “why would they create a Facebook group? How silly when you can create a Facebook page now. These authors sure must not know much about Facebook.”

I’m thinking that if we do another article, we won’t focus on the mechanics of Facebook at all. What I’d really like to consider is the effectiveness of communicating in this fashion in the first place. With the new Facebook Pages, I am tickled that we have 46 fans and growing. However as I look through our fans, I see that they are mostly librarians. I have always said that Facebook is a great tool for keeping up with your librarian colleagues and discussing library issues. But how much is Facebook really helping us communicate with students? We touch on a few examples of reaching students with Facebook in our article (wall posts on student groups, ads for special events, etc.) but what will Facebook pages actually do for us?

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