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Social Networks

Learning Objectives
• Define social networks and describe patron use, professional interaction, and library marketing.
• Describe features of virtual communities.
• Describe types of social networks.
• Discuss library-oriented social cataloging and networks (e.g., GoodReads, LibraryThing).

Social networks are virtual spaces where people of all ages can make contacts, share information and ideas, and build a sense of community.

Like all technologies, they are built with tools that can serve many purposes.

Although some tools such as Facebook are designed for the general public, others have specific audiences and purposes. For instance Fold3 is a subscription-based social network for those interested in primary source documents. Others are focused on art, music, sports, and other topics.

For instance, YouTube is a file sharing services, but it also has features of a social network.

Try It!
Go to the JFK Presidential Library. Notice the social media links.

Social Network Characteristics

social mediaWell-constructed social library environments provide an excellent opportunity to model positive online experiences in a safe online environment. In other words, experienced users can share their experience with new users.

Whether looking for a long, lost family member or seeking a good place to discuss books, social networks have become a popular way to connect with others. Since the advent of Web 2.0, many tools are available to provide this dynamic environment for those seeking social interaction. Generally social networks have the following characteristics:

Features of Virtual Environments

likeAs you explore virtual communities, you'll notice that although many use the same basic social technologies, they are applied differently to meet particular needs. These online communities are often focused around three elements:

Audience. Most social networks are geared to a particular audience. Some communities are focused on professions such as librarianship, education, or law.

Theme. Look for the goal of the social interaction. Some networks are designed for dating, while others are intended for sharing or adventure. Although some virtual communities are designed to meet general needs, many are focused on a particular theme such as music or books.

Structure. Although rooted in social technologies, the user interface may vary. For example, social networks are generally text-driven providing search tools, invitations to join, and standard navigation and communication tools. On the other hand, virtual worlds like Second Life provide visual tools for exploration and navigation. Rather than typing or choosing from options, users walk, fly, and physically move objects.

Types of Social Networks

Let's explore different types of social networks.

Let's Be Friends

Google+ is popular with Google users.

Some social networks for the general public such as Facebook are geared toward friendship-type interactions.

Keep in mind that although they provide safety tips and a mechanism to report inappropriate content, anyone can "be" anyone and post anything they wish. Also, the advertising can be very distracting.

Facebook is most popular with those who want to interact with friends. Most social networks have group spaces or areas where like minded people can get together.

Explore library-oriented Facebook pages such as American Library Association and Library of Congress.

Explore some libraries on Facebook:

Let's Learn

Some students use social networks as an area for making learning connections. Oncourse is an example. Social networks are a place learners can get together and study or hold a discussion. It's also a place for making professional contacts. Unfortunately the clutter and distractions don't always make it the best environment to focus on learning. As a result, an increasing number of users are seeking other virtual spaces geared to more specific needs such as study or discussion. Although children sometimes register on these sites, most of these services do not allow children under 13.

Instead, use a tool specifically designed for young people. Edmodo can be used by teachers and libraries who would like to work with groups of students in a closed social networking environment. An adult sets up the space and invites students. Each student receives a code to enter the group. It's an effective, free service.

Try It!
Watch the YouTube video about Edmodo.
Think about the value of social networks in learning situations.

Let's Be Professional

Although Facebook is best known, there are dozens of other popular "friendship-type" social networks.

In addition to these “friendship” networks, seek out professional social networks.

LinkedIn focuses on professional relationships. It’s a great way to maintain long-distance professional relationships and also connect with new professional.

Ning is a subscription-based service that allows users to create their own professional networks.

Social Networks in Libraries

Social networks are adding a new dimension to the library book club. Think about how you could start or expand your existing book club using these resources.

GoodReads is one of the most popular social networks for online book clubs. They are easy to set up and use.

LibraryThing is a great example of a focused, social community. Like Facebook, it's based on a user profile. However instead of being geared to the general public, the focus is on people who want to share their personal libraries. Members catalog their books and/or media, share reviews, hold discussions, and connect with others holding similar interests. The website has the atmosphere of community where members share resources and reviews, seek out others who share their interests, discuss their ideas.

There are many other focused social communities that could be woven into library activities and programs. For instance, deviantArt for art lovers.


Social networks are online environments where individuals interact with others. Based on a user profile, individuals can participate in a wide range of activities including discussions, polls, surveys, and file sharing.

Many social networks can be adapted for use by libraries. GoodReads is an example.

| eduscapes | IUPUI Online Courses | Contact Us | 2014 Annette Lamb (Adapted from earlier s401 materials)

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