OK, actually I'm mostly curious about your thoughts, 'cause I haven't sorted mine out yet.
This post is a result of the social network stuff Brian Mathews has been working on (honest, this will be the last time I mention him today, unless he does something else interesting ;-). When I first saw Brian's post about lurking and participating as a librarian in places where students hang out online (MySpace, Live Journal, Facebook, where ever), my gut reaction was that it was somehow an invasion of privacy, and from a couple of the comments Brian got on his orignal post I'm not the only one. But before posting my summary I emailed Brian and his response made sense to me; that the students he'd contacted actually seemed to appreciate the contact, and that these were completely open and accessible sites.
Add to that the quotes I grabbed from Marshall Keys' keynote that "Young folks today (13 - 25?) have no expectation of privacy because they do not believe that it exists in an electronic environment. "If I view it or send it, they will see it, and I don’t care." and perhaps more telling, the note I paraphrased that "Privacy is unimportant - community is important. This was a strong theme of his keynote, and later he pointed out that libraries seem to care more about our patrons privacy than our patrons do, and this may actually hinder our ability to deliver some of the services our patrons would like to see!" (I've just emailed Marshall to see if I can track down the sources on those ideas).
When Marshall said that I remembered thinking how much I agreed that even if we wanted to, there's no way our OPAC would allow us to provide some Amazon-like interesting information (recommendations based on previous circulation, for instance) to our patrons, and the PATRIOT Act is a whole 'nother issue altogether (one that even has a major impact on us up here in Canada - think of where we buy our systems from!).
But what if it's true that our patrons don't care at all about their privacy as long as they get cool and useful services? Is the fact that the institution (PL or University) is legally bound by privacy legislation going to forever hinder our ability to compete with the social networks? Does that mean librarians are forced to resort to the guerrilla warfare that Brian suggests if we want to participate even in the smallest of ways? Do our students even want us there?
Maybe it's all true - maybe offering IM and SMS reference service is the first baby step to understanding how important it is to meet the students on their turf. I haven't payed any attention at all to the gaming in libraries posts, but that would be part of it too. The idea of sticking our content in to their course shells is also a continuation of this idea.
I think I'm coming around to the conclusion that if that's where the students are, and if we want to provide them with the best service, we should be there too. At least until the students tell us to leave them alone, and I haven't heard of that happening yet. Have you? What are your thoughts on this, please?
Technorati Tags: privacy, libraries, social_networks, students, turf