Social Software in Libraries, a presentation

Yesterday I was down in Lakeville Massachusetts talking about social software in libraries. It was a longish timeslot and I split it up into a small talk about software, some examples of what New England libraries have been doing and less time than I would have wanted, discussing the difference between tools and brands in the social software world.

What I mean is, a wiki is a tool. Mediawiki is a brand or type of wiki. Wikipedia is an example of a Mediawiki wiki. I decided that part of really getting the idea of social software or technology generally is that many people confuse tools and brands and examples and I think people will feel more in charge of technology if they know how to explain it. From working with novice users, I know they use turns of phrases like “My Yahoo s broken” and don’t even realize that they’re not really speaking sensically to someone who understands the terms. On the other hand, I can understand how the idea of “a browser” can be pretty transparent and ethereal to someone who only knows that you click the blue E and you get the Internet. I had an Internet before web browsing, many people haven’t.

In any case, I met a lot of neat librarians, had less time than I wanted to — a perpetual problem for me and one that I work on constantly — and made some useful handouts and slides that you should feel free to adapt to your needs. They are here

I only have screenshots for the examples page but they are linked from the main page. I live in fear that I’ll set up a lot of excellent links and then I’ll have no Internet access to show them off so I try to prepare a zillion different ways. I think this can sometimes lead to a less-than-awesome experience because part of what’s great about social software is the sheer aliveness of it “Oh look, my friend is doing that right now” “Hey I can add this tag and see who else has used it right now” but hopefully I gave people enough to chew on and an enthusiasm to seek out more.

13 thoughts on “Social Software in Libraries, a presentation

  1. “From working with novice users, I know they use turns of phrases like “My Yahoo s broken” and don’t even realize that they’re not really speaking sensically to someone who understands the terms….”

    YES! I often find myself having to delineate between ISP and actual Internet access, between library services and proprietary software, and on and on. The subtle differences are what make understanding and being comfortable with technology possible, I think.

    … You wouldn’t happen to have a presentation on that topic, would you? Or know of one?

    Love your blog, thanks for being awesome!

    ~Jenn Nolte

  2. Great resources and presentation except, Yipes! Anatomy of a “social” -ite link busted.

  3. “they use turns of phrases like “My Yahoo s broken” and don’t even realize that they’re not really speaking sensically to someone who understands the terms.”

    Same here when staff tell me about a computer problem they’re having. I get caught up in the words and forget that the person I’m talking with doesn’t use the same vocabulary I do. I’ve tried to do some educating, but I’m finally resigned to the fact that it’s easier for me to change the way I listen than it is for them to change the way they talk. I think of it as good practice for reference desk customer interviews.

  4. JFYI, you’ve got a bunch of spam in the comments.

    When you do live demos or use screenshots of sites like Facebook, do you ever show the feed page? For me, that’s the attraction of Facebook and it’s what I want to show others so that they’ll understand the socialness of it.

    But I’ve been struggling with the question of privacy around doing this. Should I ask all of my friends who are showing on that page right now? Should I post a notification? So far, I’ve just been blanking out names and profile pictures on screenshots, but that means I don’t show anything live, which as you noted, is half the fun. So, just curious how you handle this.

    Is that a Word document link?? :-p

  5. I recently did a webinar to about 200 librarians on how librarians can use resources like and to improve their professional skills as well as help their patrons connect to good books and web sites. For novice users, I think our field is having a tough time understanding the value of Web 2.0, including the concept of Social Libraries. So my approach below is to emphasize using it for professional development via good old New Year resolutions! And after they’ve experienced it with library things they understand, perhaps they can br more creative in using it to connect to their communities.

    The presentation, “10 ways to make your library great in 2008, using Web 2.0”, is at

    The blog associated with it is at

    The more we share, the more we grow. Keep up the good work!

  6. @darren: fixed!

    @sharon: I agrtee it’s a good idea to not alienate people who don’t know the right words, but I also wonder if we’re not doing people a disservice by not giving them the language they’ll need to talk to other people. This is particularly true when I talk to librarians who, in my opinion, really SHOULD know this stuff. I think there’s a way to get the right words across without being a pill about it and that’s what I aim for.

    @jenny: I usually try to get a screenshot of the feed at a time when no one is doing anything particularly sensitive. My Mom just joined facebook and her feed is pretty tame and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me sharing so I sometimes show that. Anyone who has a public profile already has their photo available, and I look for that. I also show a facebook group and the many people from all over who can participate sort of like a mailing list but online, not filling up your mailbox I usually show off Amewsome Resources because it’s fun and started by a librarian. And yes, I use Word. Just because I think open source is a good idea doesn’t mean I’m a zealot about it.

  7. Only recently did I make the transition from a “blogger” workshop to a “blogging” workshop and just recently recently made the move to “online journaling”…..

    ….more people come by and ask about the class now….

    …my own myopicity was probably to blame for failing to connect with the users in terms that they themselves use.

  8. Sorry – didn’t mean to imply you were a zealot about not using Word. I just remember you admonishing other places where Word is used to disseminate information, so I was surprsied to see the info this way here. No big deal. :)

  9. My issue is with organizations who link to Word dcuments online instead of just putting the text up on their website so Google can find and index it and people can read it without helper applications. In this case, people wanted handouts. So, the handout that had a lot of hyperlinks was also available in HTML. I should probably make the other handout available that way as well.

  10. That would be awesome, as it would make it easier for those of us who love the list to link directly to it. Really – didn’t mean to snark. Was just surprised. And thanks for sharing the info about how you handle screenshots from social networks.

    PS Previous comment somehow got linked to my ALA info unintentionally. Comments on this thread are totally my own.

  11. Jessamyn, I was one of the librarians at your Lakeville presentation. I’m still, almost a week later, going through the links and going off exploring in different directions, sorting through what’s useful to me personally and what I think will be useful in my library. This was one of the most useful programs I’ve been to in a while, and I loved your supportive style of presenting it all.

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