I’ve just completed my project, which was studying public libraries use Social networking platforms to communicate with their patrons. Whilst I developed some ‘Best Practice’ guidelines for public libraries, I feel that two things have stood out for me. One; public libraries are different to school libraries and I wonder at the issues around them in particular regard to social networking. Two; that libraries that are not on the Web 2.0 track (and therefore Social Networking track) will not survive in any meaningful way into the 21st century.
The two points are connected. The need for libraries to adopt Web 2.0 strategies is because traditionally libraries have fulfilled an information role. Libraries were the focal point for information storing and dissemination. In today’s world information is readily available at the click of a mouse, from virtually anywhere in the world and often instantaneously. So patrons need to have a reason for coming into and using a library. They also need to know the library is cutting edge when it comes to information and that it provides something not readily available elsewhere i.e. by searching Google. So let’s accept that libraries need Web 2.0 technologies to remain vibrant and relevant centres of information. Where then does that leave school libraries? Social networking platforms are often banned, not available or not supported by the Internet and computers at a school. The advent of the laptop for every student in Australia government initiative also means students have their own access to a computer and information to be searched from it. The high numbers of smartphones now available also increases this access. These points make it harder for school libraries to provide students with relevant and immediate access to information and to do it in a form students want. As a high school teacher I can also see the issues related to use of social networking tools, such as Facebook, during the school day and can understand why schools may ban access.
I believe the question that schools, governments and librarians must look to answer in the near future, is how to allow school libraries to adopt Web 2.0 strategies, thus remaining relevant and vibrant, whilst also managing the practical applications and concerns of some of the social networking technologies.