Here’s another draft of an abstract that will be submitted to the Creating Knowledge 2008 conference in Turku, Finland. Any comments and/or suggestions are welcomed and encouraged.
Facebook me! –
Online social networking as part of libraries’ web presence?
In the early years of the Web visitors to a web site were quite anonymous and completely unaware of each other. New easy-to-use online tools have brought collaborative content creation to the web and suddenly everyone knows each other and are creating networks and communities around shared interests. One online place where this is possible is Facebook (www.facebook.com). Online social networks such as Facebook have gained huge popularity in the past few years. Facebook reportedly has about 60 million users around the world that spend about four hours on average per visit on the site and 250 000 more join the service every day.
Although Facebook and other online social networks have received a lot of attention in different media, only a few studies in library and information science have covered the topic. A recent study that surveyed 126 academic librarians’ awareness and use of Facebook showed that the vast majority of the respondents were very much aware of Facebook, but that institutional involvement was quite low. About one third of the respondents had a personal profile on Facebook, but only 3 percent of the represented libraries had a page or a profile of their own. The most enthusiastic of the respondents suggested the use of Facebook to promote library services and events, but the actual use was still quite low. This may indicate that the use of Facebook in libraries is more of a internal activity among the staff and that it is not part of the libraries’ official web presence.
This study will focus on those Finnish libraries that already use Facebook for various reasons and on the possible communities and networks that have emerged around the libraries’ pages on Facebook. In January 29, 2008, there are 136 hits with the query “kirjasto” (library in Finnish) on Facebook. Of these 136 hits 70 are people that have written “kirjasto” in their work history, 9 library pages, 27 groups and 30 events related to libraries. The goal of this study is to increase our knowledge about how libraries in Finland are using Facebook and whether the use is beneficial for the library or not.
In the first part of this study we will observe the open profiles and pages on Facebook to establish how libraries are using Facebook and what kinds of communities and networks might have emerged around the libraries on Facebook. In the second part of this study we will invite the creators of the studied groups and pages on Facebook to take part of a web survey which will study reasons for using Facebook in libraries, the expectations with the activity and whether these expectations have been met or not. This study will result in best practice guidelines for libraries planning to take online social networks as part of their web presence.