Social Network Policies in Libraries (and for Librarians)

I’m subscribed to the [prtalk] listserv through ALA. Recently a conversation was held to discuss Social Network Policies for libraries and library employees. I was happy to see this conversation for a couple of reasons:

  1. It means libraries are joining social networks to reach the users of those communities
  2. Libraries forming policies are being proactive — and protecting the libraries themselves, the employees and the users’ rights of intellectual freedom and freedom of speech.

So, what were some of the comments on this email conversation?
Well, for someone who uses social networks (for personal, school and work use) for hours each day (raises hand with pride), they made perfect sense. However, for people who are using social networks to represent organizations instead of their personal lives, it does make sense to have guidelines in place.

Some people shared their policies and ideas. The majority of them had two components:

  • Guidelines for the role of the library’s presence on social networks
    • Link to the library’s web site or affiliated information as often as possible.
    • Have a policy for what information will be provided as posts (events, scheduling, new databases, podcasts, etc.).
    • A statement that says the library is not responsible for the views and opinions of the other people on the social network — and encouragement to be respectful of other people’s opinions.
  • Guidelines for employees representing themselves and the libraries on the social networks
    • First and foremost, make sure you do not cross lines between personal and work use.
    • If you are speaking for yourself instead of the library, say that.
    • If you are speaking for the organization, say that.
    • Remember that nothing is private (comments, photos, etc.)

One thing I’d suggest adding is a statement about providing comments and space for social network users and library users to post their thoughts. This could be a private or public space, but I think it is essential that there is a space. Social networks are communities and communities survive through conversation and expression of different viewpoints. Turning off the ability to post comments turns off the conversation.

So, what do you think? Are libraries moving in the right direction? Or are they getting themselves too deep by jumping into the online social networking world?

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