08 June 2007

Be my friend?

If you haven't seen this article about a mother's experience trying Facebook, I'd really recommend it. I appreciate the good humor and the mom's willingness to try something new to reach out to her daughter. Or, to exert her own "identity" to her daughter.

So perhaps this begs the question: why don't I get a Facebook page as a librian?

I know, I know...it is definately a hot thing for librarians to be doing. And the argument that we should be where our students are is a compelling one. But I think the reasoning that the researchers in the article point to is even more compelling: I believe students deserve a space to be students. Whether they are "exploring their identities" or finding a space where they can do "whatever," they deserve that space. Don't we ask for a faculty or staff lounge, where we can escape from students and be "ourselves" or at least eat our lunches in peace? Or among our peers?

I know that there are many faculty that have found Facebook to be a wonderful way to communicate with students and I applaud their efforts to get to know their students on a more personal level and to incorporate technology into their class environments. If their students are welcoming them, terrific. But I think Librarians are in a slightly different situation in that we do not often build the same kind of intense, deep relationships with our patrons. While some of us do have the chance to work closely with a class or teach IL as a stand alone course, most of us are available upon request (aka, reference).


It's a tough spot. I want to be available to students but at the same time, I respect their space and their privacy and their right to have relationships with whomever they please. Perhaps one could arge that they can make me their friend but with restrictions. Perhaps it is the idea that we'd become friends with our students only for them to find out nothing about my identity....I'm just a lurker, waiting for questions. Perhaps one could argue that at least they know I am hip and out there and available.

It's funny that for as much as I am, or trying to, embrace technology this is one aspect of it that I am just not comfortable bringing into my fold. Perhaps I am showing my age, both in the sense that I am feeling a little old but also in that I am little young and I can remember wishing I had a space to call my own.

I'm not sure how to pinpoint what turns me off from this particular connection point. But it does turn me off. And if there is one thing I want, it is for any patron I help to know that I am interested and available and genuinely interested in helping them. So for now, I won't be doing that through Facebook.

For now.


Greg said...

Most librarians I know are using Facebook to strengthen their relationships with each other, not so much with their patrons. Playing with these tools does help us understand a bit about how patrons construct their virtual identities and their social networks, but I don't think the "being where your users are" argument really holds much water for librarians on Facebook.

The Sheck said...

Interesting point Greg. I haven't had that experience yet. Most of the talk I catch is librarians adding it as a reference tool but commenting that no one "friends" them. As a tool to come together and have a librarian network...I could see myself spending a lot of time at my computer with that.