We just had a great talk by Alane Wilson of OCLC here at work, looking at a myriad of things, including the OCLC Environmental Scan, trends and branding. One of the questions after her talk was in regards to social networks and friends. This also relates to the point she made that people inherently ask friends for information first. In order to become a place which people more frequently use for their information needs, we need to be considered friends and to accomplish this we must be in their social networks (ie. Facebook, MySpace, etc). This also raised questions about what a “friend” is becoming in the social web, with the answer being that there are varying degrees of “friends”. Further to this was the fact that many are now finding and creating friends rather than simply finding existing friends in these realms.
This got me thinking about how friends are made in the virtual world of Second Life, which probably isn’t too far off from social networks. In Second Life, I befriend a number of people, particularly librarians involved in the project and I do this mainly so I can find someone to help me out in SL and who I may be able to approach to bounce ideas off of; since we are both librarians in a virtual world, we likely have similar outlooks. I also befriend newbies and others I have longer conversations with and I do this so that they may have someone to approach again if they have any information needs. My list of friends continue to grow, but in actuality, I don’t know any of these individuals. Little personal information is shared yet friendship is extended. They are simply a name on a list that I may never actually speak to or encounter again.
Libraries may find their Facebook and MySpace pages in the same place, on numerous lists but never contacted. What will be difficult to do is to stay on the evergrowing list of friends or contacts and not be forgotten or overlooked. Yes, it is important to be in the spaces that our existing and future patrons will be and I fully support libraries reaching out to user groups. What we need to do is figure out how to make ourselves important and useful in these spaces and not just a name on a list that is never thought of again. Do I have an answer for this? Not yet…..