The apparently unsociable librarian

I’m the first to admit, I love social media stuff. I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years, I (slightly grudgingly) eventually joined Facebook around the same time, and have played with all sorts of thing in between, from Formspring to Pinterest.

However – my use of all those sites is almost exclusively personal (apart from Twitter, which is actually heavily weighted towards work-relevant networks). There’s not actually much need that I can see to do anything involving social media in its current form for my own library service. I do enjoy reading about how academic and public libraries are furthering the use of their resources and exploring how to best use sites, using Facebook to inform users about events and service specifics, Twitter to respond to individuals, and Pinterest to collate interesting visual materials…but it just doesn’t work in my situation.

As a corporate librarian, I’m in a very different position from a public or academic librarians, in relation to sharing resources. Those types of services are set up to spread information, and allow as many people as possible to benefit from their resources, partially because the people using the resources are also helping to fund them (either through tuition fees or taxation). In a corporate library, the employing organisation has invested from their own funds to create their own library service, and properly staff it. A lot of time and effort is spent in a corporate library to create resources that are tailored to the needs and demands of internal service users, and which are therefore a valuable business asset, and definitely not a thing which could be shared. Corporate libraries cannot be sociable outside their own body – their work is for the benefit of their own, internal users only, the exact reverse of the situation for public and academic libraries.

And if it were possible to use social media in a manner suitable for sharing externally (eg for marketing purposes, which the library may have involvement in), most of the social media sites are based on the model of free sharing, e.g. Pinterest (although this has its own copyright-infringement issues, due to the sites enabling of such easy online sharing), or sites which are free because they carry advertising. This throws up all sorts of issues for a firm – what if the adverts on a free site were for an offensive service/company, or for a competitor of a client? By having firm-linked material on the same page, we could look like we were endorsing a client competitor. What if we accidentally infringed copyright on Pinterest by using an image that seemed freely and legally available, but in reality wasn’t? It could be a highly risky activity to be involved in.

Corporate library services basically have to be faceless, neutral, and non existent on social media.

So…don’t think I’m being unsociable if I’m not joining in with these discussions and experiments, but just remember: for every interesting public use of social media, there’s probably a corporate librarian watching it all, feeling frustrated that they can’t join in with the fun stuff…

Any other library service types out there unable to be sociable?

Author: Jennie

Law, libraries, books, crafts, and general geekery.

7 thoughts on “The apparently unsociable librarian”

  1. I feel similarly in a government library setting, but I thi there are things we could do, but a restricted by internal permissions and politics. All about risk / benefit. I think some of the risk is worth it for the potential benefit. Because internal, corporate intranets and communications structures just aren't fit for our purpose, which actively threatens our ability to do our job, and through that, the quality of the work our customers can do.


  2. Yes, it must be even harder in government libraries – a similar need to public bodies to disseminate info to as many users as possible, but with even stricter IT lockdowns to wrestle with!


  3. I too work in a corporate setting. I use Twitter to monitor what is going on in the profession outside these walls. I find it especially good at alerting me to developments in web search services and CPD events. I do post about professional development activities but rarely about anything involved with what goes on in our information service. So much more a lurker than a poster, but glad to use Twitter for professional purposes (my use of Facebook is strictly for personal stuff and not done from work).


  4. Yup, I use Twitter for that too – it allows me contact with a wide range of info professionals, across all sorts of sectors, and to keep an eye out for any interesting/relevant events. I also throw a fair amount of personal chat in too, because it lets people get to know me, and develop a personal AND professional relationship. But I don't post stuff that's identifiable about my work (other than it's in Edinburgh, in Scotland, and potentially some of the sectors where I'm digging about for research, but that's all information that's viewable on the firm website anyway).

    Facebook is entirely personal – no workmates, no work info, nothing! Not sure how Facebook could ever be useful for a corporate library service! 🙂


  5. Yes, this is where it'd would be good to be more involved with Marketing – to be able to advise on how certain services could/should be used, through the experience of having seen those services used in other ways by other sectors, would be a benefit the Library could offer.


  6. Yes, I get a similar feeling quite often. I work in a company, but we're not even big enough for a library, or formal information service. I provide that role without most people even realising that's what I do! A certain amount of my job is persuading people of the importance of information and how we handle it in all situations. There have been a few times when I've pined over things people are talking about – but I also have a lot more freedom than many (I can download anything I want to my computer, for example), so it has its ups and downs!


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