Week 3 activity – Reference – trends reflection

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      Louise Belshaw

      There is no question that the dominance and control that social media and networking has on people has expanded dramatically in the past five or so years. When it first came into existence social media was mainly used by information technology specialists or hyper-aware young people. But more recently the digital world is starting to become so ingrained in everyone’s every day lives that everyone from your grandma to the very small local library has a Facebook page or is tweeting about something. It’s not a niche market anymore and the social media trend has a great impact on libraries.

      There are many, widely reported about, negative elements to social media and being such an interconnected generation however there are many positive aspects, many of which are particularly positive for libraries and their users.

      People are using social media every single day in one way or another because it has become a relatively easy way to access information and news. For libraries it is a new way to become a part of the every day lives of its users. This could be in many different forms such as transferring services such as their Ask the Librarian feature into social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. Some users may only have access to mobile versions and library websites often get radically limited when made mobile friendly. The fifth law in Ranganathan’s laws of library science makes it clear when it says that ‘the library is a growing organism’ that there is no time to be wasted. Libraries can’t hold on to traditional views of communication with its users and with giving the most options for their users to find information with.

      As part of the social media trend that really relates to libraries and reference is the prominence of websites/platforms like Goodreads and LibraryThing. These sites allow people, to a degree, to be their own librarian. Readers are doing their own cataloguing and digital shelving. There are many avenues here where libraries could become more involved and make their library more interactive as well.

      What makes social media distinctive is the interactive and up to date nature of it. It also features many of the reference elements of libraries such as tagging and categorising.

      Interestingly what social media does is forces organisations, like libraries, to have to reach out to their users. It’s not a passive form of communication in that if you want users to find you, you have to make an effort and as Stephen Abram has said “connect with everyone using their communication modes of choice” . It’s no use to have a library website if the users have no idea about it or how to use it to its fullest potential. Facebook and Twitter especially provide an easy and quick way to communicate with librarians.

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