What Potential Pitfalls Exist When Deciding To Use Social Media?

While much discussion takes place regarding the benefits and potential uses of social media, consideration must also be given to the potential costs of using this technology.  As David Lee King discusses in his 2011 article, 41% of the U.S. population has a Facebook profile.   (Lee King, 2011).  Facebook is but one example of the power reach that social media technologies can have for any organization, including a library.  As with any new system, implementing social networking at a library can have drawbacks, some practical and some even legal.

                The main advantage of social media and other Web 2.0 applications is that information does not just come from the provider to the user, but that users actually provide their own content.  (Chung & Lampert, 2011).  This raises the main practical problem, staffing for monitoring and responding to user questions and input.  As an extreme example, the New York Public Library has 122,000 Twitter followers, 32,000 Facebook “fans,” and 1,500 subscribers to its YouTube channel.  (Kho, 2011).  Each of these social media sites not only requires updating, but responses to user questions.  Simply ignoring comments and using social media to solely deliver information does not use the networks to their full capabilities.  (Hall, 2011).  It may take too much of a librarian’s time to provide the input needed.  (Chung & Lampert, 2011).  In one case study, the Coco-Cola company started a blog which generated comments and questions from visitors.  (Chung & Lampert, 2011).  Due to the time required to respond, the blog stopped answering questions after one year.  (Chung & Lampert, 2011).  How can a library address this problem while still using social media to its full potential?  How can a low level librarian help solve this?  What about supervisory librarians?

                Social media also raises some potential legal issues.   (Carson, 2010).  Any system where users are invited to share information, videos, or other content raises the possibility of copyright violations.  (Carson, 2010).  How should a librarian deal with a comment, link, or video contained in a library’s social media site that contains materials subject to copyright?  Think of movies uploaded to YouTube.  What is the library’s responsibility in policing this content?  What policies could help alleviate this problem?  Defamatory comments in a site are may raise issues.(Carson, 2010)  What should a library do when a user/patron posts something that is potentially defamatory?  What if the subject of those statements challenges them in a communication to the library?

List of References

Carson, Bryan M. (2010, 2010 October-November). Libraries and social media: social media can prove highly useful to libraries but can also pose a variety of Legal Risks. Librarians need to develop and implement usage policies before problems arise. Information Outlook, 14, 9+.

Chung, Su Kim, & Lampert, Cory. (2011). Strategic planning for sustaining user-generated content in digital collections. Journal of Library Innovation, 2, 74+.

Hall, Hazel. (2011). Relationship and role transformations in social media environments. The Electronic Library, 29, 421+.

Kho, Nancy Davis. (2011, 2011/06//). Social media in libraries: keys to deeper engagement. Information Today, 28, 1+.

Lee King, David. (2011, 2011 May-June). Facebook for libraries: it’s easy to use social media’s most popular tool to connect with your community. American Libraries, 42, 42+.