Facebook, Libraries, and Post Promotions

If your library has a Facebook page and uses it for outreach, you need to read this article from the Dangerous Minds website. There really isn’t a good quote to pull out the meaning, so take a moment to go and read it. The basics revolve around Facebook monetizing page promotion while simultaneously throttling the amount of people who can see a post from a Facebook page. In short, if you want your page posts to reach your entire audience, you have to pay.

The free ride is over.

I can’t really fault Facebook for making a change like this; their investors want dividends and what drives that is revenue. The amount of things you can do with Facebook for free still makes it valuable for other purposes like keeping in touch with far away family members and friends. It does, however, feel slightly at odds with the ‘power to share’ sentiment from Mark Zuckerberg’s IPO letter seemed to be aiming towards. It reframes it into “I want you to share but only a limited audience will see it unless you pay up” which really doesn’t seem as much of a lofty world-changing dream anymore. 

The basic promise to ensure that all of your followers see a post brings up the old sentiment as to whether that is effective or not. I watch the “Skip this ad in X seconds” counter in the bottom corner of a YouTube video more than the moving pictures of the ads that are attached to the video. I couldn’t tell you what the last couple of companies were because, frankly, I don’t care. It’ll probably be true for the promoted Facebook post at the top of my news feed, especially if it is something that one of my friends or family has “liked”.

Given that some pages have a very local element to them (for example, pretty much every library that has a Facebook page), I’m figuring that promoted posts will end up missing the mark by inserting themselves into feeds of people who aren’t local. The New York Public Library has roughly 70,000 likes, but how many of them are local? Judging from my 45 friends who like the NYPL, it seems to be about 50/50. Is it worthwhile to pay to promote a post when it’s not going the audience you want it to reach (constituents)? What if some of those likes are pushing it into a higher promotion post cost bracket? Given the number of times I’ve seen pleas for people to ‘like’ their libraries page, I think this is a possibility.

Personally, I’m hoping that Facebook considers cutting a price break for non-profits and education related institutions. It’s one thing to charge corporations like Coca Cola and Comcast for post promotion, it’s another when you’re charging the local library. Alternatively, now would be the time to find other online outreach platforms.  

Leaving Las Facebook

From the New Yorker:

Zuckerberg’s business model requires the trust and loyalty of his users so that he can make money from their participation, yet he must simultaneously stretch that trust by driving the site to maximize profits, including by selling users’ personal information. The I.P.O. last week will exacerbate this tension: Facebook’s huge valuation now puts pressure on the company’s strategists to increase its revenue-per-user. That means more ads, more data mining, and more creative thinking about new ways to commercialize the personal, cultural, political, and even revolutionary activity of users.

There is something vaguely dystopian about oppressed peoples in Syria or Iran seeking dignity and liberation inside a corporate sovereign that is, for its part, creating great wealth for its founders and asserting control over its users.

I was off on the day that Facebook had its I.P.O. a week and a half ago so I got to watch some of the market reaction as it unfolded. I also happened to be eating lunch with my father, a retired financial advisor. As we watched the stock price flatten to the opening offer of $38 a share on one of those financial cable networks, he looked at me and said, “They left nothing on the table.” The translation of that statement is this: in making an initial offer, companies and banks want to price a stock so that it goes up initially to show market confidence in the valuation of the company. In order to get that gain, there has to be a value to move towards; like from $34 a share to $38 a share. In pricing it at $38 a share, that’s the same number that the investors thought it should be at. The price didn’t budge because people didn’t feel it was worth more than that. There are many reasons why investors might feel that way, but that’s a whole other post for people with better financial knowledge. The bottom line is that in pricing the shares, the company and the bank ‘left nothing on the table’ for investors to move towards.

As the computer class instructor at my library, I felt that my father’s statement is rather apropos when it comes to the Facebook class I teach. In taking people through the site, I spend the largest portion of my class on the privacy settings as well as giving my students the pros and cons about information sharing on the website. Share to your comfort level, I would tell them as I described how the data that they offer can be used to sell advertising on the site. In light of the new investor pressure, I am considering advising them with the same thing my father said: leave nothing on the table. While I do my best to offer as much information as possible so that people can make their own privacy choices on Facebook, the importance of personal information management has only grown. It’s no longer about what how much you entered into your profile or your current and future updates, but revisiting and revising previous updates and inputs.

Some may interpret this as revisionist personal history; I would opt for calling it timeline curating. I don’t see an issue with a person going back and removing information they no longer want to share with Facebook; it is not actually removing it from existence. While the site encourages you to make it a home for your history, it’s pretty hard to not notice that there is a bottom line that is also in play that utilizes that information. In looking at the sum total of your Facebook profile and timeline, from the first update to the current photo album, it’s still your data that you can remove at any time.[1] While you cannot delete your Facebook account, there is nothing stopping you from stripping it down to the bare essentials: a birthdate and an email address. Leave nothing on the table.

For myself, privacy is a odd library issue these days. There is a push to get libraries on social media to engage and share with their members. Conferences and workshops have speakers tossing out hyperbolic statements like “you must be on [insert social media site here] or your library will [insert dire consequence here]”. They tend to talk about what the library could share and how awesome it would be while sprinkling in some success stories, but then glaze over the nuts-and-bolts portion about how it requires staff time, integration, and an actual organizational strategy and purpose. Using Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest is not for casual outreach because it’s a ‘free’ platform, but something that needs to be maintained and grown over course of months and years. (To steal a phrase from Toby Greenwalt, “Free as in kittens, not as in beer.”) I can’t recall much discussion given to privacy in these cases, so I’d be curious to hear a speaker who addressed this issue head on.

Contrasting this urge to share is the ALA’s own campaign, PrivacyRevolution, complete with its own website and week. There’s even a webpage that offers an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights as it pertains to privacy. On top of that, there are (in general) state statutes regarding confidentiality and disclosure of a library record. Here in New Jersey, a library record can only be disclosed as part of proper operation of the library, a request by the user, or a court subpoena or order.[2] Your state or country’s laws might be different, but I’m guessing that if you are in the United States, it’s probably something similar. The message here is that information inquiry is a private matter that is business of no one else but the individual; that in this age of increased monitoring, it is paramount for libraries and librarians to work to ensure personal privacy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favor of educating people about what happens to the information that they put out online or in person. But it is a odd path to walk when there is an advocacy push to embed ourselves in social media and “go where our users are” while others are raising flags of concern about privacy and offering caution and wariness about our online footprints.

“Tell us what you are reading, but don’t tell us what you are reading.”

In the end, I think that last line of the first paragraph in the quote at the start of this post holds the most truth: as social media sites go public, there will be a push to use personal data in new and possibly not privacy kosher ways. Personally, I’m not overly concerned; people already make their choices as to what they want to keep to themselves and what they want to share. Sure, we have websites loaded with poor choices of the latter, but that seems statistically correct in the broad scheme of things. The best that computer class instructors like myself can do is lay out everything and let the people make their own choices. I’m not planning on leaving Facebook at this juncture; it still serves a purpose and I understand the quid pro quo of what I am getting in exchange for allowing access to my personal information ‘stuff’. Right now, for myself it is about finding those privacy limits and making plans accordingly. And when I do go, I’ll be sure to leave nothing on the table.

 

[1] I do wonder if deleting something would actually remove it permanently and how much data Facebook collects about information that has been ‘deleted’. I’d really wonder if they’d want to dedicate resources to hanging onto such things, but I wouldn’t put it past any social site these days.

[2] Strangely enough, while the record is protected by statute, there is no librarian-member confidentiality privilege like doctor-patient or lawyer-client. So, while I couldn’t disclose a library record to a law enforcement official without the paperwork, any conversation I had with the member is not legally protected. Library records in New Jersey are defined as any document or record for maintaining control over circulation or public use of library materials. I wonder if anyone has gotten slapped with obstruction of justice for not sharing their conversation with a member.

The Facebook Revolution

From the Washington Post:

[…] Facebook, which celebrates its seventh birthday Friday and has more than a half-billion users worldwide, is not eagerly embracing its role as the insurrectionists’ instrument of choice. Its strategy contrasts with rivals Google and Twitter, which actively helped opposition leaders communicate after the Egyptian government shut down Internet access.

The Silicon Valley giant, whether it likes it or not, has been thrust like never before into a sensitive global political moment that pits the company’s need for an open Internet against concerns that autocratic regimes could limit use of the site or shut it down altogether.

The article is a great read about the company that wants everyone to use their own identity, the dissidents of the world using it to network, and the regimes trying to gather up information through the site. It reinforces the importance of social media as a platform that can have a greater purpose than a place to play Farmville. To me, it also rekindles the notion that one of the most powerful connections in the world is the ability to share ideas. Facebook certainly streamlines that option and brings the world a tiny bit closer than it was before.

It also makes me wonder why libraryland isn’t using it for specific calls for change. Off the top of my head: ebook lending, copyright & patent law revisions, and maybe even putting a school librarian in every school. It might seem silly to some, but an active and highly populated Facebook group can have some clout. Hell, it can even topple governments.

Not bad for a site that has a “Like” button.

(h/t: Alexis Madrigal)

Selling Myself. Literally. Part III

I am  overdue for an update on ongoing experiment. This screenshot is a good starting point for it.

Click to embiggen

This is a snapshot of the advertising performance from the beginning up to today. With the change of the audience targeting on December 9th, everything changes. The number of social impressions (ads that run with “X likes this” where X is a friend), the number of clicks (self explanatory), and the number of conversions (people who end up choosing to ‘like’) have risen significantly. So, for the same number of ads, there is a distinctive difference in the results across the board. In focusing on people who ‘like’ the American Library Association, it looks like I’m reaching a more receptive audience.

Now, even with this improvement, the numbers are still relatively small. It’s nice to see a positive change but it’s not very compelling for a continued campaign. However, as this is just a way to test it out and for my own curiosity, it’s still a pretty cheap expense for some hands on experience.

I may fiddle with the ad once more to see if I can improve the numbers. I don’t know if I would change the target interest or like but maybe try to tighten the wording on the ad itself or change the picture. If anything, I think this will be my middle ongoing post about it. The next post will be a complete rundown of the results plus all the data I’ve gotten from it.

Selling Myself. Literally. Ctd.

Over the course of a week since I started a Facebook ad for my Facebook Page, I’ve been watching the ad campaign unfold and seeing how it has been doing. These are my results from when the ad started to when I tweaked it on December 8th.

Dec8-fb-ad

For such large numbers, it’s so easy to dismiss its actual impact. I think Facebook ads are a lot like Google ads now; they are things that you gloss over while you are on your way to other parts of the screen. My original targeting for the ad was for people who like or have an interest in “libraries” or “librarians”. In mulling it over, that’s not the audience I’m trying to reach which is why I’m not getting the clicks I’m looking for. I wanted to get fellow librarians and I thought about how to narrow it down.

In talking with another librarian about Facebook ads, an inspiration struck me: I’m looking for people who ‘like’ the American Library Association. Chances are pretty good that they are going to be librarians themselves or have an interest in the library world. In reworking the ad, the potential number audience rocketed downwards to roughly 13,000. Excellent. I downwardly adjusted my maximum bid from the suggested one since it was a much smaller audience and based on what the average CPM (cost per impression) runs. So, the ad campaign is much more focused and cheaper than before. But how will it do for yielding results?

The early data is that I’ve gotten the same number of clicks in one day that I got in the first two. I can see that there are a greater number of clicks happening because a friend is shown as having ‘liked’ me. Most excellent! Now I just need to let this new ad stretch its legs over the weekend and see how it does. I have a feeling that the refocus of interests is where it is at; but I do wonder if there are other interests that I should be looking to include in order to reach other library professional who may not ‘like’ the ALA. I’ll have to look for other likes or interests that might be viable ad terms.

It’s certainly something to think about over the next couple of days, but this ad campaign has been a good and fun experiment. And cheap to boot, as indicated above in the graphic; $10 is a bargain for this hands-on lesson, in my estimation. So, we’ll see where it stands next week!

The Unbearable “Like”ness of Being

Check one!

There’s something very weird about setting up a Facebook Page for yourself. It’s an exercise in ego and self-consciousness all at once as you look to add details to make it interesting yet silence the small voice of rejection in the back of your head. As inspired by the picture above, it’s a little bit of the social politics of high school.

This creation is part “mission of mercy” to my Facebook friends, part my own branding and centralizing publicity, and part springboard for some projects I have kicking around in my head. I’ve been writing a lot more, the projects I’m working on are starting to get bigger, and I try to cram all of this into my News feed. When I was posting two or three times a day recently, all I could think was, “Ugh, my family and non-librarian friends are going to kill me for oversharing. And probably the library people will too.” So, in setting up this Facebook Page, I’m moving that content out to its own space. It should make it easier to keep personal and professional items separate from each other.

As my thoughts turn towards my own publicity and branding, a Facebook Page is currently a decent landing spot for such things until I get the energy and inclination to set up my own website. There is certainly an appeal to the inner narcissist, but Facebook does make sharing pretty easy for publicizing projects, presentations, and other things that I’d like to let people know about. So this page is more of my “official feed” from the various output sources that I use. Right now, it’s just this blog and the A View from Your Desk Tumblr (which is still looking for more pictures, so submit one today!), but I’ll see how that works out.

The last aspect is probably the most important to me at the moment. December is going to be a big month for me with some things coming out that I’ll talk more about later. In looking down the line, I’m excited to be working with my good friend Julie Strange on a new joint blog concept; we are hoping to have that active and posting in January if the details work out to our satisfaction.  (Nothing wrong with being picky if you are going to put your name on it.) I’m also kicking around some ideas for a newsletter which would be distributed exclusively through the Facebook Page. (Facebook gives you the option of sending messages to people who “Like” your page; this newsletter would take advantage of that tool.) And, to complete the list of teasers, I have a ton of notes down for an advocacy project that I’d really like to undertake. In doing so, I’d like to take advantage of some of the tools and resources that are available to me on Facebook in order to expand the reach of these projects.

I hope to see you on my Facebook Page. Now, I’m off to determine the implications of whether I should “Like” myself or not. As they say, Freud would have a field day.

[Facebook] Deals or No Deals?

From Techland:

[W]ith Facebook’s announcement today of Facebook Deals, that’s beginning to change. In a press conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg rolled out an impressive roster of merchants willing to play along with Facebook’s Places. Check into the Gap and earn a free pair of jeans. Check into North Face and earn $1 for the National Park Foundation. Not only that, Facebook has removed much of the friction from the process. It’s a few simple clicks from walking into a store and earning a deal through Facebook.

I’ll be honest: after using Foursquare a handful of times, I got very bored with it. It might have been that I didn’t have anyone in the area to compete against, that I didn’t go out a lot, that it was a pain to remind myself to check-in, there was no reward for any check-ins, or any number of reasons that keep conjuring in my brain. I dropped it after a couple of weeks of inconstant use.

With this announcement, Facebook is poised to steal the thunder from Foursquare for location based interactions. They’ve taken the idea to the next level in terms of rewarding all people (not just mayors) for visits and given a greater number of incentives for using a location based application.

Although, let’s be honest with ourselves here. Facebook is not an entity that comes to mind when you think of “privacy protection”. They’ve had their own issues with privacy, but a service like this does beg the question: what are you willing to give up to get a benefit? If I can check-in on Facebook Deals to get a free appetizer at a restaurant or a discount on a pair of shoes, is this snapshot of my shopping habits worth the trade in goods or services? In other words, how does the quid pro quo work for the end user?

Furthermore, is there something that we as libraries can do to capitalize on something like Facebook Deals? David Lee King wrote a post about using Foursquare with libraries back in January. Is there something we could offer patrons for checking in at the library? Off the top of my head, some random things come to mind: an extra item over the limit (like DVDs), jump ahead on a hold’s list, giveaways (show this and get a free book for your kid, for example), fine or overdue waiving, or home delivery of materials. (Disclaimer: I said random things, not things that would work perfectly or always make sense.) 

Could Facebook Deals be a big deal for libraries?

Fight the Power 2.0

It was earlier this year when I realized that the song in the video above, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, was twenty years old. I remember when I was first introduced to Public Enemy back in high school. My friend Adam put on the album “Apocalypse 91… The Enemy Strikes Black” while we were playing video and board games. It was the first time I had been exposed to hip hop and shortly thereafter it became the first hip hop album I bought. I had never listened to any band with a social and political agenda before Public Enemy. “By the time I get to Arizona”, “Can’t Truss It”, and “Shut’em Down” were like shots being fired across my world perception bow born from my very mundane suburban living. I knew things were not right in the urban community, but I had never heard it told from street perspective. This cultural grain of salt has stayed with me through the years. However, like a lot of my fickle music interests as a teen, the album got heavy play for a month and then retired to a CD folder, rarely to be heard again.

I’ve been thinking about “Fight the Power” recently since I bought the Public Enemy retrospective “Power to the People”. I’ve been playing it on my iPod when I’ve been working on ideas for the library that has been resisted in the past. While the song is more closely identified with a call for racial equality, I thought this article from Salon about the song and its impact said it best: “When Public Enemy called us to battle, it revived the notion that it just might be possible to fight the system. At the very least, we knew it was necessary.”

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been keenly following the state budget battle out in Ohio. Governor Strickland had announced a 50% cut in funding to libraries as part of his proposed budget. Since a majority of libraries are state supported, this would mean the crippling and/or closing of many libraries around the state. I’ve joined and contributed to the Save Ohio Libraries Facebook group that was set up in order to organize rallies, distribute state legislator contacts, and public lobbying of the Governor. The genesis of this group has been phenomenal as it gained over 20,000 members in the first week (the current tally as of the time of this post is roughly 45,000). It is full of photos, links, video, and active postings on the wall and in the discussion boards. While I have not received a message from the group creator, I have been checking it (as well as following #saveohionlibraries on Twitter) for updates as to how things are working out. I can’t say that my posting presence on this massive group has gone unnoticed.

The other night, I got a Facebook message from an Ohio resident which read:

Why posting about Ohio libraries if u r in NJ? My grandchild here in Cleveland can lose her storytime, yours?

My reply to her was:

Because libraries are important, regardless of state borders. I just want to show my support!
NJ has some budget cuts, but we aren’t in the same trouble as Ohio libraries!

Her last message thanked me for my involvement, but this whole series of events has been fascinating. This certainly is not the first time that social media has risen to a grassroots cause, but it was the first time I experienced it from a front row seat. It held me in rapt attention in the evening for most of last week as the number of group members climbed and people started offering their words, links, and other forms of support. In concert with libraries all over the state and the Ohio Library Council, this virtual march ran as a prelude to actual ones. These Buckeyes, proud and defiant, have focused the outrage of the populace into political action. (As of the time of writing, the budget is still in the air.)

As engrossing as this whole situation was to watch unfold in the belly of social media, it was during a drive up to work where I had a thought that gave me significant pause: why is it that the library community can be this organized and passionate when it comes to budget battles and less visible during other times? (With the exception of book challenges, possibly.) Does it take being pushed to the brink of non-existence to ignite the fire in our bellies for our profession and rally the public to our noble cause? What can be done now to prevent putting ourselves in this position in the future?

As it can be expected, I have a few ideas.

We need to radically reframe the public and political dialogue about libraries. How? By advocating that libraries are an essential service of a modern industrialized society. Information literacy has become a new set of basic skills for people living in the developed world. Even if a job does not require them, it is more than likely you will need them to apply to that job as businesses move their employment applications online. Data is the new goal of our hunting and gathering ways, whether it is to determine the lowest airfare available, how to contact an old friend, or find out what the weather will be like tomorrow. Our materials (print, video, audio, web) are fuel for the human curiosity engine that resides in all of us.

We educate, enrich, and enhance the lives of our patrons. Whether it is through materials or programs, computers or classes, or simply being there for our patrons when they are looking for someone to talk to, libraries matter to their communities. There is no private or government entity nor internet service or website that equates to the personal service we offer or the depth and breadth of information we can access. Our role in society is unduplicated, unequaled, and undisputed in this new age of information.

Therefore, we are essential.

In order to broadcast this type of message, it is pressing that we believe in it ourselves. There can be no false enthusiasm or facade to this belief; it must be complete and genuine. Personally, in seeing the passion presented by my peers at conferences and gatherings, this is perhaps the easiest aspect that I am proposing. However, I can see how it would be a true barrier in a world that minimizes and marginalizes the very mission of the library. It is imperative to rise above the critics, to instill ourselves with confidence about our restless profession, and to take pride for our service and toil on behalf of our patrons. For if we don’t believe that we are essential to the public, why should they believe it themselves?

From this, I see the hardest yet most rewarding part: a sustained public movement towards the safeguarding and custodianship of the public library and its ideals. While moving towards this goal can feel Herculean, we are already surrounded by the necessary building blocks.

Some of these are more familiar and “traditional” methods of building relationships with the community by getting to know your patrons and politicians. A Friend’s group can work as an extension of the library as each member becomes an ambassador of the library. Local media in the form of newspapers and radio stations provide a broadcast platform to reach out to the community. Encourage local politicians to define a stance on the library and library funding and invite them to come and see the collection for themselves. In addition, any marketing campaign that can be run (alone or in conjunction with a Friend’s group) at the community level should work to raise the visibility of the library. These tried and true methods are pretty universal for libraries around the country.

Picture by Matt Hamm

On the other hand, there are the exciting new methods possible through web 2.0 social media. Witnessing the growth and development of the Save Ohio Libraries Facebook group has really reinforced this concept with me. For the price of time and effort, you can create content that can be used to reach out and interact with patrons far beyond the walls of the library. It is this extension into the lives of our patrons as a relevant and important service that will ensure the survival of the local library in the future. It latches onto the underlying appeal of constant and immediate contact as offered by text messages, email, and Facebook or Twitter-like updates. With the improvement of our communication technologies, this is the opportunity to groom this technological type of relationship with people. As communication methods grow, as different types of web based social networking appear, and as the product of information evolves, the library needs to be in step with these advances. Our patrons are moving along with the improvements, and so should we.

The difference between the traditional methods and web 2.0 social media is that the latter is more personal since the conversation never ends. Beyond the aforementioned constant contact, it becomes a part of the information lifestyle that people have grown accustomed. We meld into the other popular web services that people use to manage their daily lives. The ability to order groceries online coincides with placing materials on hold; watching YouTube becomes no different than watching a movie on Overdrive; and calling or emailing the reference desk is seen as an upgraded internet search. Not only are the tools on hand, but there are more being developed and refined with each passing software innovation cycle. Twitter, Jaiku, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Picasa, Blogger, Livejournal, these are examples of social media of today; can you imagine what is down the road from these illustrious starting points? We will never lose the personal touch that is exemplified by more traditional patron relationships, but we should work to enhance it through the communication and information technological wonders of social media.

For librarians looking towards the future of the public library, now is the time to create our own functional social networks for advocacy. Now is the time to forge new friendships and connections with librarians both local and national. And now is the time to share experiences and knowledge resources when it comes to organizing the library grassroots. It is through these bonds that we can support one another during the inevitable crises that play out across the country when the ideals of intellectual freedom are endangered, when our content is challenged, and when our very existence in the community is threatened. Librarians call upon each other to help with a reference question; how can we not call upon others to help one another weather the ideological storms? Our professional egalitarian ideals should not mean that we treat everyone equally yet suffer all of the hardships alone. We are now one immense information sharing entity, intricately connected through phone and ethernet. The closing of one library is a loss of a unique community resource to the whole system and we should treat it as such.

This is not a call to replace specialty or state library associations in their advocacy roles, but to supplement them. Our assets are thousands of additional eyes and ears with computer savvy capable of finding and reporting information back to the others. It is an intelligence network staffed by passionate library professionals that extends wherever a library stands. With the increasing ease of user content creation, information sharing has never been easier for those who are bold enough to utilize it. This is a strength that we should seek to use for the benefit of libraries from coast to coast.

(In terms of the ALA, at least one person I know doesn’t think that the ALA is doing enough. I don’t really know enough about the organization to make any declarative statements, but I have been watching for their actions and words during the Ohio budget crisis.)

I realize in closing that the latter half of this post is more passion than substance in calling for a change in our collective course of action. But passion is the unquenchable thirst that drives each and every one of us to go farther and reach higher, whether as a librarian, an athlete, a parent, or just to be a better person. And library advocacy has become my passion, much in the same way that you can hear it in the voices of the testimonials in this video from NYPL.org:

So, I say to you, dear reader, who is with me?

Advocacy. Tasty tasty social media based library advocacy.

Advocacy through social media has just gotten a bit cooler.

There is a newly formed Facebook group for a Library Themed Ben & Jerry’s Flavor. But what do libraries and Ben & Jerry’s have to do with each other?

In these economic conditions, the role of the library is becoming more important in the lives of its patrons. Diminished incomes have stopped people from buying books, newspapers, magazines, music and movies as well as dropping services like home internet. They are turning to the library for the media and materials that they would have normally bought for themselves in the past. With employers moving their hiring applications to their websites and most job searches move online, the ability for people to be able to access the internet increases in importance. In reaction to this, libraries have added job hunting, resume writing, and interview materials, classes, and programs. On top of this, we are helping people everyday navigate this new age of information. But we are still struggling to maintain services in the face of stagnant or slashed state, county, and municipal budgets.

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream has a long history for corporate advocacy for different causes. From their mission statement, they seek to conduct business in a socially responsible and environmentally sensible way. Over the years, they’ve created flavors to raise awareness for poverty, global warming, water preservation, family farmers, disadvantaged children, and world peace. Their activism extends to their employees who volunteer their time for community projects. Plus, they make some pretty tasty ice cream.

Sounds like a perfect match!

Join the group, spread the word, and let’s make the library an even cooler place to be!

Cross posted at LISNews.org

It’s not me, it’s you

Maybe it’s just me, but I have reached the point of push back when it comes to social sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. The openness of the connections on the web has lead people to make the mistake of thinking that, since we know each other in real life, we should be friends in cyberspace. Since crumbling to the pressure to join Facebook, I initially liked the interface and the ability to keep in touch with friends and family. But like a teen with his parents away for the weekend, there seems to be a call out there that there is a party at my place and anyone can come.

First, it was some of my old high school acquaintances who messaged me. There are only a few people from high school that I am interested in tracking, but these people were the ones I was interested in. Ok, not a problem, so I accepted them. At the same time, it was people I game with and enjoy their company at our once a month events. Sure, I enjoy their company at the game so why not keep tabs on them during the time between?

It took me aback when some of my high school classmates wanted in. Sorry, but to be honest, if I haven’t spoken to you in the ten years since high school, I’m not super interested in talking to you now. Same for the friend of a friend people from the gaming events. I don’t even recognize your whole name, which is when my thoughts first started wandering down this path. And when people I can’t stand start trying to friend me on Facebook and Twitter, that’s when the line in the sand was drawn. Well, perhaps a line in the sand is not the right term. This is more of a Berlin-esque wall to keep the “good” people in and the “bad” people out.

It really got me to thinking about the previous versions of social networks that existed out there. I remember dialing into BBSs, electronic bulletin boards, where the numbers were like secret codes to another computer speakeasies. People would post topics, play games, and swap files. Membership was limited to those people who actually had modem technology and the ability to use it. Then, with the rise of the computer networks like Compuserve and Prodigy, you could join in discussions on specific topics and private groups sprang up. In college, the internet was made available on campuses. Email, message boards, and chat rooms were the next steps, coupled with instant message programs became the new connectivity.  Since graduating college in 1999, social networks had plodded along in various forms till Facebook and Myspace made their appearance on the scene. (Yes, I know Facebook had been around for awhile, but not in its present 200 million user form and interface.)

The explosive nature of social networks in the past few years has been breathtaking. The social groups had always existed but the ease of connection had not. As more people bring their lives online, the need for ease came about. And here, here is the tragedy in my story. It became too easy, too expected that anyone you have ever meet ever now has an access point to your life. I started to feel guilty as I brought the mouse over the Ignore button; I simply couldn’t do it at first. Why did I feel so bad about turning down people for “friend” status for my personal online social network? It’s not like I’m going to see them or talk to them or have to answer awkward questions like, “Why are you not my friend?” There is not much consideration on their part to become your friend as it is. More likely than not, they simply saw your profile come up, think to themselves, “Hey, I know that guy”, and clicked the “Friend Request” button. Hell, there is probably more consideration given to the choosing of a breakfast cereal than for a friend request. So why do I feel guilty?

Perhaps it was because as a kid I was excluded by other kids from their play. Perhaps I don’t want anyone to feel the same way I did when I was told that I couldn’t play. Or maybe because the granting of a friend status is so minor, so silly, that who am I to deny it?

Heh, I crack myself up at times.

The more concrete, more accurate answer is one that I arrived to in college. High school forces you to interact with people you generally don’t like or don’t want to deal with; college frees you from the interaction. Sure, there are some annoying or obstinate people you will have to deal with, but the time spend dealing with them starts to reflect conditions in the real world: if you don’t have to deal with them, then you don’t have to deal with them. It’s that simple. So, to carry over this principle to social networks is a snap.

(There are also good arguments for it in controlling your personal information including likes, dislikes, opinions, ideas, thoughts, and daily activities. And for avoiding awkward social moments when someone reads a less than savory opinion about themselves. I wouldn’t doubt that someone might read this and think it talks about them.)

There is one story I’d offer as an example. It has given me the strength to follow my conviction in this matter. During college, there was a very nice but very annoying person who used to tag along to meals with myself and my friends. It turned an average meal into a grating affair as this person sucked the joy out of the eating and socializing experience that was the dining hall. We were miserable, feeling powerless in our situation. One night, in lamenting this social quagmire, I suggested that we work out a system to avoid this person. It was a perfectly horrible yet wonderful utilitarian reasoning that brought forth a solution to the problem: the guilt we felt about ditching the person was minor compared to the aggravation and misery caused by bringing them along. So, we used the phones, messages in passing, and we successfully ditched the person most of the time from then on. Meal times once again became fun.

The bottom line for me is that social network sites are the best way to keeping tabs and sharing life with the people I really truly care about. Some are old friends, some new, others from work, and still others from shared experiences and activities. If you don’t fall into those categories, then I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about what you are doing, I don’t want you to have the ability to comment on my activities, and I think we should lead our lives in parallel: never crossing. Even as I write this, it seems harsh, but the truth sometimes is. The social networks have turned the connectivity from a trickle to a flood, and I’m not interested in the noise outside my select social circle.

Believe me when I say, “It’s not me, it’s you.”