Oh, man.... This was the one I was dreading. Let me just preface this post by explaining that our superintendent frowns upon teaching professionals having accounts on FaceBook, My Space, etc. This very topic was a rather large part of our opening faculty meeting. No, it is not that she does not want us to connect with fellow professionals , or on a personal level, with our friends and family, but she does find that having such accounts creates other potential problems in a public school setting. She gave the example of "friending" certain parents of your students, and not others; or similarly "friending" some colleagues, but not others. And, of course, let's face the white elephant in the room: if you work in a public school, there are high expectations for you, quite possibly higher than for the average citizen. Teachers act in loco parentis to hundreds of students, and as such, it is imperative that we be role models and viewed as above reproach given the trust that must come with such responsibility.
Okay, so that brings me to how I feel about social networking. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of it. For one, I happen to agree with the concerns of our superintendent, even though I feel confident that if I did have a FaceBook or Twitter account, I would not be so irresponsible as to post inappropriate information about myself, my students, or their families.
Secondly, although there have been fleeting moments where I have regretted not having access to FaceBook, (such as to view the CDLC page!), for the most part, I don't feel crippled by living in the "stone age" of old-fashioned networking, using tools such as telephone, email, listservs, blogs, etc. Then again, perhaps ignorance is bliss; maybe I would feel differently if I were involved with social networks? All I can say for sure, is that I think I'm doing okay without it. I'm participating in this workshop, and I go to conferences, and I regularly talk with library colleagues, and once again, I have to sing Dee Portzer's praises for her work to keep us all informed through Questar III.
Finally, let's face it - Social networking says something about our evolving culture, doesn't it? It is only the "reality TV" generation that could possibly think the minute details of people's lives merit public posting. Even watching the Common Craft video made me smile as I read through the example posts. C'mon - who really cares if you're having coffee at that very moment? Or if you happen to be running late that morning?
But all that being said, I know GOOD things are also happening via social networking. I agree that libraries can gain much by connecting with their communities through this valuable tool. Today things like e-newsletters and email updates are not enough - not by a long shot. And I love the ease with which things like book discussions and event updates can be shared and disseminated. Polly, you could not have worded it better when you asked how libraries can connect with their customers. It has never been more important for libraries to market themselves as a valuable resource and asset than it is today, in these volatile economic times. Most libraries are publicly funded entities, and it is our customers who have to foot the bill. As such, we need to reach these people and provide our services in whatever format people are using, and that, quite obviously, includes social networks.
It is with that optimism that I finally consented to join my first social network: Goodreads. It seemed the "safest" option (who wants to ruffle their superintendent after all?!), and I know others who belong, so I'm sure I'll enjoy it. You can visit my profile at http://www.goodreads.com/schaghticokelibrarian .