I posted recently about our library web survey but I thought it’d be interesting to talk a little about one particular question:
If you could contact a librarian via Facebook or MySpace for help with your research, would you? If not, why?
The main impetus for this question comes from a current trend for libraries to create Facebook apps that allow OPAC searching and other library related functionality from within Facebook. There has also been a lot of discussion and experimentation with using Facebook for reference and outreach.
There were a total of 330 responses. This was a free-text entry field so responses were organized and coded into basic categories.
Breakdown of coded responses:
The data was cross-tabulated based on the respondent’s status to see if there were any trends in how they responded.
Responses by UM affiliation/status:
A total of 23% of respondents stated that ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ they would be interested in contacting a librarian via these two social networking sites. Undergrads had a slightly higher than average percentage of 34%.
Nearly half of the total respondents stated they would not be interested, but for various reasons – the biggest reason being that they feel the current methods (in-person, email, IM) are more than sufficient. 14% said no because they felt it was inappropriate or that Facebook/MySpace is a social tool, not a research tool. Though this latter category does not represent a majority, these responses were the most emphatic. Of those who stated their reason as having to do with seeing Facebook/MySpace as a social thing and not a research thing, undergraduates and graduate students comprised the largest group.
Some of the interesting responses:
“Sure because its something that I check often and is quick and easy to use.”
“I wouldn’t, because I feel as if I can do most of the research on my own.”
“…facebook and myspace are very public sites…it’d be weird to contact a librarian that way.”
“No, facebook does not seem like a site I would use for school purposes. I don’t want librarians looking at my profile. Facebook is not for school, it’s for fun.”
“No, because you can already chat with them online through the library website and I wouldn’t want to contact a faculty member using my personal networking site.”
“No. I would rather just send an email or go to the library and talk to them in person.”
So what can we learn from this? There is definitely some interest in using facebook as a tool for more than just social interactions even though some perceive it as pretty weird. The weird factor is likely to change as more apps (like lookabee and CourseFeed) are created and adopted, more students friend their professors, and they start to realize more and more that privacy on facebook isn’t a given.
And what’s the harm? We’re not talking about friending every student in your subject specialization and sending them vampire and zombie invites (or whatever those stupid things are)… we’re just talking about being where our users are, marketing our services, and trying not to be left in the dust.