Social networking has changed the rules in many areas. It's changed the way people connect. Facebook and Twitter aren't just available on computers, but on phones and tablets as well. The way people search for information has changed as well. The old card catalog system is nearly extinct, replaced by computers throughout libraries, even in school libraries. It calls for a whole new set of rules for librarians to consider, and also gives librarians and teachers new tools for teaching.
Creating a Social Networking Policy
Each school library handles social networking differently than the next. Some have filters on the computers in the library, and sometimes even throughout the school, that stop all social networking and gaming sites. Others decide instead to just install a set of guidelines to help keep it all in check. Some ideas for guidelines include:
- Accept responsibility
- Respect copyright and fair use laws
- Don't spread commercial promotions or spam
- Secrets shouldn't be posted
- Don't pretend to be someone else
- Avoid personal attacks or insults
- Post only truthful information
- Avoid obscene or racist content
Social Networking as a Tool in Libraries
Because of the negative ways it's sometimes used, social networking sometimes gets a bad rap, but it can be used in a positive and beneficial way. It can be used as a tool in the learning environment. In this familiar environment, students are more likely to pick up the tips and try them out. The following are suggestions on ways librarians can use social networking to facilitate learning:
- Make a page on a social networking site such as Facebook and regularly update it with links and information on ways students can use the library.
- Provide training to students to show them how social networking can be used in a positive safe manner both in the library as well as out.
- Publish photos of different aspects of the library to Facebook or Flickr, creating a discussion on how to do it in a positive, safe manner, as far as public vs. private settings and tagging.
- Show students how to collect research sources online using sites like Del-icio-us, StumbleUpon, or Digg, then to network with other students to share the information they've gathered.
- Find certain artists and authors using social networking sites and invite students to try and connect with them online.
School Librarian Resources
- Teens and Social Media for Libraries ToolKit - This document offers school librarians ideas for using social networking to aid in the learning process, as well as ideas on teaching students to use social networking safely.
- School Library Monthly - Not only is this a useful article about using social media in the classroom, but it also has some great resources for librarians altogether.
- Resources for School Librarians - This is a long list of links with different resources for librarians, including some blogs, podcasts, and wikis of school libraries.
- Libraries and Learning Blog - This site has an entire blog series about social media in school libraries.
Some Useful Advice
While social networking can certainly be used in a positive way in an online environment, many parents may be biased against it. School librarians should educate the school's parents to make them aware that while they're using social networking in the library, it's not just for idol chit-chat. Parents should be shown that the students will be completely safe using social networking in the library, and that they should encourage their children to only access social networking sites in that type of environment to always ensure their safety.