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Friday, 26 August 2011

Socialising vs being sociable

A colleague pointed out that, Facebook being a social environment, academic libraries don't really belong. (This post will mischaracterise our conversation terribly. My colleague wasn't arguing that we shouldn't be there; just... there's a reason students laugh when we tell them that we are.)

I pointed to Christchurch MetroInfo's successful Facebook page as a counterexample, but my colleague said that the buses are taking people to their friends and parties. Academic libraries, by and large, aren't involved even this much in students' social lives.

I conceded the point at the time but seeing the examples on these tips for effective Facebook community management crystallised my lingering reservations with the distinction. Getting stains out of your clothes cannot possibly be a more social activity than doing a group research project in the library!

On reflection, I think there is a distinction: between socialising and being sociable. Few students will want their library, bus company, or detergent brand commenting on photos from their latest holiday. But if people find it useful to have a space in which to share bus route suggestions or laundry tips away from their ordinary social groups, then why not study or research tips? And this is the kind of virtual community that a library can, I think, enable.

The question of course is how...