Social networking has been around for quite some time now. It is only recently, however, that it has made its way into libraries. It is now becoming common for libraries to utilize various forms of social networking sites for the purpose of social bookmarking, social cataloguing, and connecting to the public.
For those who are not familiar with the term “social bookmarking,” it is simply a method by which people can save web pages, assign tags to them to help find them later, and share sites they find interesting with others. “Social cataloguing” is very similar in nature. It allows ordinary users to assign tags to things such as books and media in order to create a working database.
In order to get a feel for how libraries are using this technology, I looked at Sacramento Public Library’s Pinterest account. I’ll be honest here, I have never liked Pinterest. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. Instead of finding the same sort of messy junk heap I have come to expect from this site, I found a series of beautifully organized boards. It’s true what they say, social media is what the users make of it.
Sacramento Public Library has boards for a wide variety of user interests, too. I found book recommendations, a list of books coming soon to the big screen, things to do in Sacramento, and even some library-related memes. It’s both informative and fun, and it appeals to such a wide audience. I think It’s a great way to get the public excited about the library.
Even after seeing a Pinterest account so beautifully laid out, I am still hesitant to use social bookmarking sites in my personal life. I am more interested in sorting and organizing content for myself rather than sharing webpages with others.
Despite my reluctance to use social bookmarking and cataloguing for myself, I still believe that they can be useful tools for libraries. As is shown by Sacramento Public Library’s Pinterest account, these kinds of sites can be great ways to drum up business for libraries, and to share information with patrons.
There are some drawbacks to this kind of technology, though. The thing that most concerns me is the fact that there is some talk about replacing traditional library cataloguing with user cataloguing, or, “folksonomies“. While this style of organization can be helpful to patrons, as users are more likely to apply tags to items in a way that is most useful to them, they may not be quite as accurate as professional catalogers. If this form of cataloguing is ever going to work in libraries, patrons and library staff will have to work together.