One of my former classmates in Meredith Farkas’s class on Web 2.0 technology in libraries said that if there are to be social networking policies at a library, they should be less restrictive of speech. She wrote, “Libraries should keep in mind their role in promoting free and open access to information, opposition to censorship, and the commitment to intellectual freedom. Libraries should consider how ideals fit with social software policies and the tools themselves.” I completely agree. But might it also be possible to extend such a policy beyond restriction, or lack thereof, into future vision for use of these tools?
I think that libraries definitely need policies regarding the use of social networking tools. If your library’s new social networking tool is to have any staying power, you, your staff, and your patrons need to know why you are using it and how it is to be maintained and I think having a clearly written policy is an important part of this. But I think a policy could and maybe should be more than just a “do’s” and “don’ts” document that restricts. I wonder if it might be a good idea for libraries who are serious about implementing social networking technologies to have a policy that includes not only rules for implementation, interaction, maintenance, and patron guidelines, but also has policies for growth – a kind of vision and mission statement regarding the present and future of such technologies. I think “vision” and “mission” included with policy can perhaps help a library consider its ideals and commitment to open access, intellectual freedom, and etc. Moreover, I think a library’s maintenance and future planning for use of social networking technology could be greatly enhanced if the staff sat down and wrote down not only guidelines, but a larger vision and mission for the present and future of social networking and 2.0 technology in their library. It occurs to me it could even be done via wiki that could easily be added to and changed. I think having a plan and vision and letting patrons see that, even if they are not set in stone, along with the do’s and don’ts could help protect and enhance social networking initiatives.
Why shouldn’t we let patrons in on the grander vision behind what we are providing along with telling them how we expect them to behave?