Librarians in Student Social Networks

The March 2007 issue of University Business has an article on students and facebook. They interviewed students for the article and some of the interview content was made available. It was interesting that the students seem to be against faculty and administrators (like librarians) having a place in facebook. I wonder if that's a message that we should be more cautious in putting ourselves into these spaces. I'm on the fence on this one. What do others think of the student comments found in the article?

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Comment by Matthew Hamilton on March 19, 2007 at 1:18pm
Well, since I've been on MySpace since before I worked in a library, so I don't feel the "us vs. them" mentality. I use it at home in my own time to communicate.

For work, I don't go commenting on their personal posts or anything like that. They decide whether to interact with the Libraries if they want to, and for the most part they don't.

However, I've talked to students who are on the friends list and they don't seem to be put off by it at all. They don't see me as a professor or an administrator, they know the difference....

Maybe injecting a little personality into your interactions online and giving the students more credit for sophistication than is generally done may make this "debate" more meaningful....
Comment by Aaron Dobbs on March 19, 2007 at 9:24am
As an occasional updater on Facebook, I don't know that I'm 'trying to hang out with the kids' so much as looking for likely College Bowl material. (both players and content)
I already miss enough of the pop-culture references that I'm basically worthless in Trash tournaments (that were never my strong suit anyway) but it helps to 'be there' enough to be able to generate relevant questions for team practice.

To me there's an exclusionary 'us vs. them' aspect from the students' comments in the article:
"College faculty and administrators are there to be professional and, well, administrative." (I disagree, though I'm sure the monitioring does happen -- in a CYA sense from the administrators' point of view, I'm there more for anthropological gleaning)

"Facebook and MySpace, to me, are seen more for fun and a way to keep in touch with people that you don't see every day or to find old friends." (Me, too, but I'm in the wrong demographic for "them" to create a space for me (and classmates just doesn't cut it) so I do Facebook/MySpace/etc.)

"we feel differently about our professors than we do our friends. It's somewhat awkward to think about my professors looking at goofy pictures that I took over the weekend and then expect them to still think I am intelligent." (a telling comment, showing a lack of understanding; stuff that is posted to the web is constantly being repurposed from the original posters' intentions by both the intended and unintended audience.

Education, or at least an increase in awareness of the ramifications, about sharing personal stuff (info, pix, whatever) is needed.

Go where the users are; they won't be coming to us until and unless they are aware of us and are in a tight spot where they really need the help.
Comment by Ellen Druda on March 18, 2007 at 12:47pm
I agree with the students. They don't like teachers/administrators/librarians in what they used to feel was their space. It's like trying to hang out with the kids. Creepy. On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with institutions/administrators/teachers/librarians blogging in other spaces. Just get out of the kids' places.
Comment by adri on March 18, 2007 at 12:25pm
Interesting article!

If the students think that faculty just recently started looking at facebook (when it was open for the wider public) then the students need a reality check. Ever since it was available to edu email addresses Uni admins and faculty have been lurking. The only difference is now the late adapters are venturing in...

It's in the Uni admin's best business interest to read what's posted in facebook (especially if it's going to be broadcast to the entire world) -- just like every faculty member (or teacher) should know about ratemyprofessors or ratemyteacher. If the students are that concerned about privacy then they need to develop their online persona separate from their real life one.

On the flip side -- instructors who use facebook, myspace, blogs, etc need to be aware of how their words will be interpreted by Uni admin and future employers. It could put their employment at risk.

Unfortunately this brave new world of 2.0 communication freedom hasn't fully come to terms with administrators in the non-virtual world.


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