Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Social Networking in Libraries

When I was a child the only way to get a book was to either walk to the local library or get a ride to the bookstore. Today the choices are exponential; the Internet allows you to order books and have them arrive a few short days later at your doorstep, ready to be devoured. With the advent of products like the Nook and Kindle, waiting has become a thing of the past. Simply head to the web, download the book and voila, there it is, encapsulated in a hand held device. In fact, your entire library can be carried around in the palm of your hand. So where does that leave the public library, it's rooms filled with shelves of hardbound books just waiting for a hand to reach up, open them, and read?

Libraries are essential, and librarians are a wealth of information and knowledge that shouldn't be overlooked. The public library offers resources that reach beyond the simple borrowing of books. They are a place for the community to gather, they provide services like tutoring, computer access and read-aloud time for children. The resources that the library provides should be enhanced by new technologies, rather then compete with new technologies. What libraries need to do now is strive to stay current, stay relevant and reach their audience in new and innovative ways. So, in this ever expanding digital age, what can libraries and librarians do?

Book Blogs: A daily or even weekly blog can keep members apprised of what's happening at the library. New books that come in can be reviewed and events that are being held at the library can be announced. A calendar can be updated to allow patron's to keep current with the library's schedule. Podcasts/Webcasts: The library is not just about reading. The idea is to get the information out to as many people as possible, so why be limited in how we do it? A great way to reach out is through podcasts and webcasts. With people carrying computers around with them as well as using devices like the Zune or Ipod, they can take follow what's new at the library through podcasts and webcasts. Book of the Month Clubs: In the past these types groups had to meet at the library. To be honest, this may not be a realistic expectation anymore. People are busy, and don't always have time to meet at the library. Again, the internet can create a community that is just as active (if not more) and will allow more people to participate. I currently sit as a moderator for the Eve's Fan Garden Book of the Month club. Through the website we are able to reach participating members across the world, effectively creating an international community of book lovers. By using the online medium, perhaps directly attached to the library's blog, more people can participate in book of the month clubs, or other groups that the library creates. By combining these with more traditional mediums, like a bulletin board or newsletter, libraries can reach more people and get more of the public involved.

Overall, I think that there are a variety of ways in which librarians and libraries can use technological innovations to reach out and involve their communities. As the technology in the public domain evolves, so must the technology of our libraries. Libraries are a integral part of the community. In order to stay relevant the library of the future must assume a leadership position in this digital age. By using technology tools like book blog and vlogs, virtual author tours, social networks such as Facebook, smart boards and skype, libraries can take their first steps towards assuming that leadership position.

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