Monday, July 7, 2014

Social Media Maze .. Which Should Libraries Use?

Social media has changed so much of how we think, react and interact with each other.  If we were to begin a list of all the habit that have changed, it would be a little disconcerting.  For example, shopping habits have changed dramatically.  Commerce online has made it easier for a fast paced culture to shop in the wee hours of the morning if they so choose.   Going to the mall is not a pastime any longer, it's more of a chore.  Banking has changed as well as renting out a favorite flick.  Everything for music to books to films are able to be downloaded in what seems like seconds.  With so many choices to not interact with another human being, one has to wonder what will happen next.?

Libraries have had to adapt to this social phenomenon as much as any other industry.  However, it seems that libraries still have an edge.  Librarians have instinctively known that with all the changers in technology one constant had to remain the same.   Human interactions.  A society can not function without feeling a connection to those they see as similar to themselves.  It must be the reason why every culture craves to read something that they can relate to or hear a song that speaks to them.  This is what the library has always held within it's wall: the tools to connect to others.  Sounds a little too far out there? Perhaps.  Why else would there be  a need for community meeting rooms?  Storytime programs that promote literacy skills for little ones?  An online help desk for struggling school aged kids doing homework?  A library brings people together.

So with all the sappiness aside, where does social media fit in all the puzzle of information gathering? It seems odd to say but it hasn't quite  found the perfect niche... yet.   Twitter is the perfect tool to blast out reminder of programs.  The key to success here is measured by how many tweets are retweeted. Hopefully the library "followers" will see the tweet, retweet and get their friends to retweet.  Which sounds a bit boorish.  Pinterest is wonderful for posting pictures, recipes and all sort of nifty things but it is a bit like Twitter in that if you posted, tweeted in the middle of the woods will someone still have seen your post?  Facebook seems to be the ideal place to connect, as long as the friends who like your page see the post on their timeline.  This is all so exhausting yet one has to believe there's got to be a better way to communicate in this era that is digital. Yet just like the hardcover printed book, which is the true standby method of getting information, the live human to human interaction will always be the best tool.

As stated before, it is going to be the patrons who will need to help libraries figure out how to effectively use the social media tools.  Will libraries need to use them all?  Will it be much better use of time to go without them? Will it alienate the die hard users of the library?  The one true test of it's worth will be if it draws in new or returning patrons who believe that  libraries are like dinosaurs.   It will be interesting to see how the social media evolves.  One guess , and it's only a guess,  is that it's going to come around full circle and patrons will just want to be able to sit across the table from their neighbor and discuss a really good book.   However rest assured, in the meantime, the library will help put a friendly face on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest and welcome all those who want to check out what's new at the local library, online or in person.  Either way, the doors of the library are always open.

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