Social Networking Literacy
Every once and while, a series of posts from different blogs, related or unrelated, will converge to form a coherent thought in my head. One worth blogging about, I mean.
Library Garden, normally a crack blog on using social networking tools and how to use them in libraries, posted this a few days ago, in relation to a post about “Sexy Librarians of the Future” at ReadWriteWeb. Actually, there are a litany of good responses, but this got me thinking:
Reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post made me wonder how well the average librarian would do if asked to help someone embed a video and catalog, er, I mean tag it, digg it, furl it, stumbleupon it, or otherwise advise on how to make the information discoverable.
Aren’t these also information literacy issues?
No criticism of anyone intended here, but as a real live librarian who works at a real live library answering real live information desk questions, let’s go through what I’ve been asked today:
My mother has this painting and I can’t find it in any art book. I plan on “googling” it when I get it home, but do you have any special databases that might have it? (For the record, I also “googled” it and found nothing).
How do I sign up for a computer? (several times)
Do you have any books with pictures of flowers that I can paint still lifes from?
Where are the resume templates?
Do you have anything on Howard Hughes?
I would like the most recent issue of Consumer Reports on kitchens? (With a couple of other CR questions).
Where are the back issues of Newsweek?
Nothing here that I could answer with how to post something to You Tube, or MySpace, or Facebook.
Indeed, that is the other problem with ReadWrite’s view of “information literacy”. Yesterday, information literacy was having a MySpace account. Today it’s a Facebook application. What, you’re still on Facebook? Virb is the new thing, duh.
Information Literacy is not about knowing which social networking tool du jour is the new thing. It’s not about knowing Web 2.0 tools, search engines or the Reader’s Guide. Will those tools help you get the job done? Perhaps. Should I have, or am I even capable of having, accounts on and knowing the ins and outs of MySpace, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, Library Thing, etc? Probably not.
Perhaps we just need to wait for this space to shake itself out. Much like the Reader’s Guide became to standard in print periodicals searching, YouTube may become the standard in sharing low quality flash videos of your song and dance routine. Maybe.
Until then, however, librarianship remains much more boring than that. Teaching people how to sign up for an email account is about at “Web 2.0″ as my job gets. I’d rather focus on what continue to be core library skills, knowledge of your physical and digital collections to answer real life reference questions and get people real life resources.
Maybe I’m not at the right library.
As Jessamyn so eloquently put it:
Working on the web isn’t just about collecting real and/or imaginary friends and new interactive ways of sharing photos of your cat, it’s also about saving real time and real money so that you can do real things in your offline world.
I think we should apply this to libraries, not just Web 2.0.