Lesson 6: Social media policies and assessment

This week’s readings recalled the foundations laid in LIS 9005 library management course. The course emphasized the need for a vision, a point on the horizon to steer toward, with supporting foundational principles and policies to guide the organizational ship. This common sense management approach is problematic when applied to social media. As stated in Kroski’s article, social media is new and evolving, or a moving target (2009). I believe this shifting target makes firm and inflexible policies inappropriate for the media. Also in this week’s readings a number of social media management issues were raised such as the blurred lines between professional and private, the importance of a social media employee education program, and the need for planning and policies to address the specific and unique nature of social media.

Blurred Boundaries    

   In my experience the fuzzy lines between professional/work related and private have always existed. I have often been asked and answered library related questions while out in public. These exchanges have now migrated to social media and have become much more indelible, visible and reaching. These blurred boundaries between private and public are evident in the social media postings of my own co workers and have enormous potential for good or ill will. It does behove management to provide some guidance for appropriate social media conduct in professional and private applications that discuss or post library related content.


 Education may be the single best means to assist and improve social media skills of employees to the benefit of library organization and the library profession. Employees acquainted with tools and cultures of social media have the potential for enormous goodwill. Swallow’s article How To: Build A Social Media Education Program For Your Company  presented sound advice and compelling reasons for building a social media education program. Anyone using the media to represent the library should understand the best approach, nuance, and culture of each platform to avoid embarrassing, ill will gaffs. Swallow’s suggestions to bench mark employees, house resources in house for employee access, provide e-learning and hands on training are excellent practical suggestions. But the benefits of buy-in and social media skilled people that are enthusiastic supporters of the library which could be capitalized upon for library promotion, I believe is the most compelling reason to initiate a social media education program.

Planning and Policy

Kroski’s article  Should Your Library Have A Social Media Policy  read like a playground list of do’s and don’t’s that spell out appropriate conduct:  “ Use a disclaimer, don’t share secrets, be yourself, respect copyright, respect your colleagues, avoid on line fights, post accurate information, use good judgement, provide value, accept responsibility.” (2009).  In my internet browsing I came across a simple social media policy I find exceptional in its clarity, simplicity and tone written by Susan Brown (2012) and posted to her Web blog titled Inform, Engage, Listen and Respond.  This Lawrence Public Library policy hits the balance between freedom and clear guidance, the policy spells out what it wants and not what it doesn’t want engendering the principles of social media technologies, freedom, positivity, and flexibility to adapt to the ever changing media and does so in one page, with 4 subheadings each with 4 point. According to the author, the policy, while simple, has been very successful. Below are the guiding principles from the Lawrence Public Library written by Brown outlining the expectations for library communication in social media (2012).


OUR TONE – How will we say it?

– We will be honest and authentic, not snarky or sarcastic
– We will be respectful to all commenters, positive and negative
– We will say please and thank you
– We will not post anything on social media that we would not say at a service desk



Brown, S. (2012, December 7). Inform, Engage, Listen Respond. In 658.8 Practical Marketing For Libraries. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from http://658point8.com/2012/12/07/social-media-strategy/

Kroski, E.  (2009). Should Your Library Have a Social Media Policy?  School Library Journal, (Issue 10).  Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6699104.html       

Swallow, E. (2011, January 18).  HOW TO: Build a Social Media Education Program for Your Company.  Mashable.  Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/01/18/social-media-training/     



Lesson 5: Mash-ups and “non-text” user-generated content

In our introductory reading, Web Squared: Web2.0 five years on by O’Reilly and Batelle, the article suggested that data was the new ‘intel’ behind the new web. I knew this statement was important but the readings, mash-up examples, and practical exercises presented in this week’s lessen fostered a deeper understanding of the implications of this data and the powerful benefits of mashing up data. In Fichter’s book, Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data chapter one presented library mash-ups that demonstrated the potential usefulness behind combined data sets for library service, such as:


  • Visualize your bookshelf combining data from the library’s new book RSS feed with book covers from Syndetic Solutions for an easily browsed book shelf
  • OPAC enhanced with Google book reviews
  •  Google maps with an historic aerial photo collection


The mash-up examples demonstrate the potential of mixing data sets. These examples stirred my imagination and left me contemplating other data sets that might be available for the creation of library service applications. I had not really considered what data sets were openly available for mash-up applications. A google search of the terms ‘open data source’  as well as browsing the Open Data Wikipedia page was revealing and opening up a whole new world I had never considered. It seems there is plenty of data openly shared and almost everybody’s doing it. I found scientific data, government (all levels) data, library data, map data, historic data, and user generated real-time data, all available for creative and possibly very powerful and useful applications. As Fichter suggested in her article “Put on your creative thinking cap and start dreaming about new services and features that would delight, entertain, inform, and promote libraries. Think about ways to allow your library users to remix data. There are many exciting opportunities for libraries and users to create interesting mashups.”  In this quotation it’s important to note that Fichter includes the library users as creators of mash-ups highlighting a turning point in the open web 2.0 paradigm, new to many libraries. I welcome this shift.  These open data sets represent the building blocks for creation of some very innovative, exciting and interesting tools for library service. Using data sets in mash-ups, As Fichter pointed out, requires not only a new kind of literacy but some caution. It is important to consider the data source and to identify reliability and stability of the data, and to consider privacy and security of users before offering open library data.


The practical mapping mash-up exercises demonstrated the ease of crowdsourced contributions to the creative contributions especially in the case of Map Maker. The steps required in the Map Builder exercise demonstrated how data is borrowed and applied in the creation of a mash-up. In the Google Map Builder exercise I added two parks and a public school to the Google map of my community and am very proud that all my contributions were accepted and may be useful to future map users! The more technical Map Builder exercise was informative in its process. While I was unable to export my map from Map Builder to my webpage, I was able to develop a good understanding of how data is used in mash-ups through API keys for transfer to a website and the tools required in the process. Unfortunately when things didn’t work in the Map Builder exercise I didn’t have enough technical skill and knowledge to effectively trouble shoot.


This week’s readings and practical exercises communicated the importance of creating a data literate and skilled citizenry. The innovation and creation now possible through mashing up data sets does require evaluation of the reliability and stability of data, an understanding of security and privacy, and the technical skills to create these very useful and forward tools. I was surprised by my own lack of awareness of the amount of data and mash-up tools. I was inspired by the paradigm shift made possible by open data.



Fichter, Darlene. “What is a Mashup?” Library Mashups: Exploring New Ways to Deliver Library Data. Ed. Nicole C. Engard. Information Today, Inc., 2009. Chapter 1. Print.

Lesson #4 Wikis and Wikipedia: Who’s the Expert Now?

Two examples from my experience leave me wondering….What is to be gained and what is to be risked by throwing the doors open to contributions of a collective crowd in Wikipedia?  I have two acquaintances with specific interest in a special knowledge set that surpasses many experts: one a naturalist, the other passionate about local history. Neither attained formal education in their area of interest, yet both are sought by experts in academia and the community for their specific depth of understanding. With some familiarity with Wikipedia, these self-taught experts have the potential to contribute valuable knowledge to Wikipedia’s collective body of knowledge, a gift they could not otherwise easily share through traditional publishing channels. To complete my practical task this week of editing a Wikipedia entry, I sought the help of my informally educated local history acquaintance, asking him to suggest some lesser known published sources to augment a Wikipedia local history page. With his suggestions I inserted the suggested sources in the Wikipedia article. After spending an hour familiarizing myself with Wikipedia edits, I concluded that with a few hours acquainting oneself with Wikipedia, anyone willing, even those with obscure, informally recognized specialized knowledge sets, can add to this invaluable collective body of knowledge.  A wonderful gift to us all!

While reading Sook’s article, How and Why do College Students Use Wikipedia I found agreement with my experience.  In reference service, I find an early visit to the related Wikipedia page is rewarded in three ways: it provides background information to ‘prime the pump’, it offers clues for additional search terms, and provides links to sites that will be accepted as more authoritative and credible. It is the final reason that gives me pause to ponder … Is Wikipedia such an unreliable information source that it must be avoided or verified?  As Sook indicated, even traditional, published encyclopaedias, although accepted as reliable, may not be so, “… according to Fallis, people tend to overestimate the reliability of traditional encyclopaedias as they stress accuracy of their sources.”   If sources we perceive to be authoritative information are not always so, then perhaps our perception that Wikipedia is non-authoritative is also incorrect. In fact as communicated in Sook’s article, “a previous study by (Chesney 2006) showed that experts found Wikipedia articles to be more credible than did non-experts.”  As communicated in this week’s reading, considering Wikipedia’s popular use and its relatively accurate and credible information, it’s time to consider a change in attitude and approach to this well adopted resource.  It seems unfortunate and unfair to continue to refuse Wikipedia as a source, hindering student use of Wikipedia for undergrad research.  In the article Sook suggested that the academic community consider ways to improve the information quality of Wikipedia by inserting academic library articles and sources into Wikipedia and flagging and improving articles. The inclusion of library sources and participation of the academic community in the building and maintenance of Wikipedia is encouraging and hopeful for the potential benefit of Wikipedia and collective knowledge.


Sook, L. (2009). How and why do college students use Wikipedia? Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 60(11), 2189-2202.