Task Force on Social Networking Software

Medical Library Association

Discussion Post: 5 points to ponder about social networking

Filed under: discussion post,TF — Molly Knapp at 6:47 pm on Monday, October 29, 2007

Discuss ButtonSocial Networking Software multiplies faster than tribbles these days. In our first discussion post, we’d like to offer some talking points on the benefits and detractors of social networking software in the professional sphere of librarianship.

  Point 1: It’s where the patrons are, right?
As we’ve mentioned before, undergraduates are flocking to social networking sites in droves. But reaching this user base is not as simple as setting up a library profile and finding friends. As Meredith Farkas observes, “there is a big difference between “being where our patrons are” and “being USEFUL to our patrons where they are.” To make social networking software work for your institution you have to be proactive: mention your Facebook presence in classes, solicit feedback from students using features available in the social networking software, and use your profile as a portal to the library within the social networking site.

Point 2: Where do hospital libraries fit in?
There are 59 profiles that match a keyword search for ‘hospital’ in MySpace, and I can assure you, not one of them is related to the health sciences. From locked-down networks to the simple fact that time is precious, perhaps hospital libraries would do better to explore social networking resources that put on a more serious face. Free online reference management systems like Connotea and Citeulike, new sharing and discussion features in open access journals such as BioMed Central and PLoS ONE and professional social networking sites like LinkedIn, or Pronetos and Sermo (an online network for physicians which counts the AMA as a strategic partner) focus on the health sciences and leave the “hooking up” to the kids.

Point 3: There’s simply not enough time in the day
The growth and amount of social networking software available can be threatening to a new user, but you don’t have to take on everything at once. We’ve mentioned 23 things, the self-directed exercises designed to give hands-on experience with social networking software tools. The soundest advice may be to pick out a couple sites that sound interesting to you and just jump in. (Don’t worry, you are not going to break the Internet.)

Point 4: The technology disconnect
Libraries have a long history as policy-driven privacy advocates, while social networking tools encourage users to tell the world everything about themselves. McDonald & Thomas ponder this disconnect in Educause Quarterly’s “Disconnects Between Library Culture and Millennial Generation Values”:

Dogmatic library protection of privacy inhibits library support for file-sharing, work-sharing, and online trust-based transactions that are increasingly common in online environments, thus limiting seamless integration of web-based services.

This is an interesting observation about philosophies of information. Do our users trust us? Does staunch support of patron privacy & protection of copyright limit a library’s influence when it comes to current trends in online interaction?

Point 5: Multi-tasking vs. critical thinking
Did you hear the one about the law professor who banned laptops from his lectures, or were you too busy chatting up friends online? As a Chronicle of Higher Education article points out, social networking encourages distraction in the classroom & multitasking, which thwarts traditional objectives of higher education such as inspiring critical thinking in learners.

Final Thoughts: The move from one-way to two-way information
We put up information on library websites and assume patrons will find and use it when they need it, while social networking sites encourage interaction between users by design. With the advent of Web 2.0, patron/user behavior is changing. For better or worse, as you consider your library and it’s position on social networking software, here’s a few more questions to mull over (taken again from McDonald & Thomson)

What is your library doing to:

  • Support the user’s affinity for self-paced, independent, trial-and-error methods of learning?
  • Create opportunities to make library information look and behave like information that exists in online entertainment venues?
  • Explore alternative options for delivering information literacy skills to users in online environments and alternate spaces?
  • Apply the typical user’s desire for instant gratification to the ways that libraries could be using technology for streamlined services?
  • Redefine administrative, security, and policy restrictions to permit online users an online library experience that rivals that of a library site visit?
  • Preserve born-digital information?

Well, what is your [medical] library doing? We’d love to hear your comments.

OCLC Report

Filed under: Social Networking Applications,TF — Sue_Ben-Dor at 6:10 pm on Monday, October 29, 2007

This came across my desk today. It is an interesting report by OCLC on Social Networking. Check it out.



Let’s go…shopping?

Filed under: Social Networking Applications,TF — Kate_Corcoran at 12:56 pm on Monday, October 29, 2007

With Facebook’s recent highly-publicized valuation of more than $15 billion, businesses are flocking to this social utility in droves. Now we know: it’s all about the eyeballs. It will be interesting to see if this is, in fact, what Facebook users want—or will tolerate.

Only Connect! Discussion Post

Filed under: Task Force Updates,TF — Bart Ragon at 12:23 pm on Friday, October 26, 2007

Mark Funk’s inaugural speech asked MLA members to Only Connect!  While the Social Networking Software Task Force encourages comments on all blog posts, we would like to announce a new series of posts specifically designed to generate discussion among MLA members.  Starting on Monday look for the blog post prefaced ‘Only Connect! Discussion Post’.

We really want to hear what you have to say!

$15 Billion – the price of credibility?

Filed under: TF — Molly Knapp at 11:26 pm on Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fifteen billion dollars – that’s 15 and 9 zeros – is the market value of Facebook, according to a press release announcing the $240 million dollar business transaction establishing a “strategic alliance” between Facebook and Microsoft. The deal makes Microsoft the exclusive third-party advertising platform partner for Facebook, giving them access to a user base which purportedly expands by 200,000 registered users every day. Microsoft will begin to sell advertising for Facebook internationally in addition to the United States.

Implications for Medical Libraries

To say this purchase increases the legitimacy of Social Networking websites is a no-brainer. For academia, this could spell a boon to librarians who already use Facebook to outreach to patrons. Perhaps you’ve already heard of Springshare’s LibGuides, a sort of resource guide/pathfinder/blog/wiki/widget that’s fully integrated with Facebook. (If you haven’t, check out this review from medical librarian blog omg tuna is kewl.) Microsoft’s backing will hopefully bring improved functionality of Facebook applications like LibShare (and maybe even convince my library to subscribe to the service.)

Microsoft already provides the Office suite to many academic institutions. How long before we see a move towards integration of social networking software into Word, Excel, PowerPoint? How about a link to a user’s Facebook profile from your Outlook contacts? Google already provides similar collaborative tools with their Google Docs & Spreadsheets. Microsoft, Google’s long-time competitor, can’t be far behind.

So does a $15 billion valuation make social networking credible? What do you see in this integrated future? As always, we’re interested to hear your thoughts.

Blogs – Does size matter?

Filed under: Task Force Updates — Melissa_Rethlefsen at 2:09 pm on Thursday, October 25, 2007

After I put out my analysis of the blog-related results of the Task Force survey, two of the big medical library blogs picked it up. First, David Rothman asked, “What do hospital librarians have against blogs?” and second, Michelle Kraft (a task force member) tried to answer. Both Michelle’s answer and the comments on David’s blog pointed to one major theme–hospital librarians generally work alone and thus have less time to experiment with these tools.

I have to admit, I initially skipped looking at the relationship of library size to use or belief of importance in the tools, even though I had initially suggested that knowing library size might be important to the survey. Apparently, I just decided that hospital libraries are small and academic libraries are big, so that using the library type was the equivalent of using library size. But, although speculation is well and good, after seeing David, Michelle, and the commenters’ thoughts, I knew library size’s relationship to blog use and belief of importance should be revisited. Here’s what I found out.

Is library size related to library type?

Undoubtedly, yes. I ran a cross-tab on the results and found that there is a very significant relationship between library size and library type (p=.0001). Here is the contingency table showing the results:

Library Type Solo 2-5 staff 6-10 staff 11-20 staff 21-40 staff 41-60 staff 61+ staff
Academic 2 20 20 35 88 50 28
Hospital 66 57 26 1 0 0 0
Other 23 17 8 10 10 4 18

Is library size related to blog use professionally?

Yes. The larger the library is, the more likely blogs are used “daily” or “weekly.” Respondents with 20-40 and 41-60 staff at their libraries are twice as likely to use blogs daily than solo librarians or respondents with 2-5 staff at their libraries. The mosaic plot below shows library size on the X axis, and frequency of professional use on the Y axis. On the Y axis, a “5″ represents “daily”; a “1″ represents “never.”


Is library size related to blog use personally?

Yes, but to a lesser degree. Interestingly, respondents, no matter what the library size, more frequently “never” or “occasionally” use blogs for personal reasons than for professional ones. The mosaic plot below shows library size on the X axis, and frequency of personal use on the Y axis. On the Y axis, a “5″ represents “daily”; a “1″ represents “never.”


The final question: Is library size related to belief of importance of blogs for MLA?

Yes. The larger the library, the more respondents felt blogs were “very important” to MLA. If both “very important” and “somewhat important” responses are conflated, however, the difference is much less. The mosaic plot below shows library size on the X axis, and belief of importance to MLA on the Y axis. On the Y axis, a “5″ represents “very important”; a “1″ represents “not at all important.”


Numbers of course cannot explain why these differences exist, but Michelle, David, and the comments on those posts suggest a number of reasons: lack of time, work-enforced restrictions on web sites, and adversarial relationships with IT departments. Do you have more ideas?

[NOTE: updated title of David Rothman's blog post, which was grossly incorrect in my first version of this post.  My apologies.]

Blogs – social networking software survey analysis

Filed under: Task Force Updates — Melissa_Rethlefsen at 9:46 pm on Tuesday, October 23, 2007

One of the first questions I had after the Task Force’s survey on social networking software was complete and the data in was, did a respondent’s age or library type have a relationship to their use of social software tools or their belief in their importance to the MLA? (Well, that was really more like 6 questions, wasn’t it?)

Starting with respondents’ answers to the blog-related questions, I used statistical software to create mosaic plots and contingency tables to help me answer my questions. Here’s what I found out:

  • Library type and use of blogs
    • Hospital librarians are significantly more likely to never use blogs in their professional lives, whereas academic librarians are significantly more likely to use blogs daily in their professional lives (p <.0001)
    • The same trend holds true for blog use in personal life, but to a much lesser degree of significance (p=0.2370)–hospital librarians are slightly more likely to never use blogs and academic librarians slightly more likely to use blogs daily in their personal lives.
    • There is a very strong relationship between use of blogs in respondents’ personal and professional lives (p <.0001*)
  • Belief of importance to the Medical Library Association
    • Academic librarians are more likely to think that blogs are very important for the Medical Library Association.
    • Hospital librarians are more likely to think that blogs are of little importance to the MLA.
    • There is a strong relationship between use of blogs in respondents’ personal lives and their belief in blogs’ importance to MLA (p <.0001*)
    • There is a stronger relationship between use of blogs in respondents’ professional lives and their belief in blogs’ importance to MLA (p <.0001*)
  • Years experience and relationship to use and belief of importance to MLA
    • There is a very significant relationship between years experience and use of blogs in professional (p=.0018) and personal (p <.0001) lives.
    • Respondents with 3 years or less of library experience were twice as likely to use blogs daily in both their personal and professional lives than respondents with 11-20 or 21 or more years of experience.
    • Even though use of blogs differs greatly between groups with varying years of experience, there is very little variation in belief of importance of blogs to MLA. Respondents with 3 years or less experience were only very slightly more likely to find blogs very important or important to MLA.

*chi square suspect as more than 20% of squares had expected count less than 5

Mosiac Plots

For those of you who prefer a more visual look at these findings, here are some selected mosiac plots.


The mosaic plot above illustrates responses to the question “How often do you use blogs in your professional life?” by type of library. A response of “5″ indicates daily use; a response of “1″ indicates never used.


This plot shows the strong relationship between blog use in professional and personal life. The Y axis shows responses to use in professional life, and the X axis shows responses about use in personal life. A response of “5″ indicates daily use; a response of “1″ indicates never used.


This plot shows the breakdown of responses to the question, “What is your opinion of the use of blogs for sections, chapters, and SIGs of MLA?”, by respondents’ library type. A response of “5″ indicates very important; a response of “1″ indicates not important at all.


The plot above demonstrates the relationship between respondents’ use of blogs in their professional lives (Y axis) and their belief in blogs’ importance to MLA (X axis). On the Y axis (use of blogs), a response of “5″ indicates daily use; a response of “1″ indicates never used. On the X axis (belief of importance), a response of “5″ indicates very important; a response of “1″ indicates not important at all.

The two plots below demonstrate one of the most interesting findings–there is very little impact of years of library experience on the belief of importance of blogs to the MLA (first plot below). On the other hand, the second plot shows that there is a very large gap in actual use of blogs for professional reasons by years of library experience. In the first plot, a response of “5″ indicates very important; a response of “1″ indicates not important at all. In the second plot, a response of “5″ indicates daily use; a response of “1″ indicates never used.



Because this post is already lengthy, I will leave off posting the contingency tables. If anyone is interested in seeing the contingency tables, however, comment on this post! I can prepare a second post with the tables if there is demand.

Undergrad 2.007

Filed under: Current Awareness,TF — Molly Knapp at 9:54 pm on Thursday, October 18, 2007

EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) recently published their 2007 report on the usage of information technology by undergraduate students.

In addition to exploring student ownership of technology (laptop & iPod being standard school supplies these days) and how Information Technology impacts learning, the report provides some interesting insight into technology behaviors, preferences, and skills of undergraduates. Table 3 – Student computer & internet activities (p.6 of the Key Findings Report PDF) indicates:

  • 94.7% of students use the library on the university/college website
  • 81.6% use an online social network such as Facebook
  • 41.7% access or use wikis
  • 27.8% engage in blogging
  • Younger students tend to use social networking more than older students (88% of 18-19 year olds vs. 69% of respondents 40 years old or older.)
  • Email & PowerPoint are ubiquitous skills

Though this report focuses on undergraduate education, it’s still important for medical librarians to recognize these trends, especially if you’re involved with students of the health sciences. After all, a 2007 freshman Biology major may be your resident in 2016.

Interestingly enough, Life Sciences majors spent the least amount of time doing online activities, averaging about 14 hours a week online. Which is still 2 hours a day. Compare that to the amount of time you spent on a computer as an undergrad. (Even this 30 year old spring chicken remembers having to hoof it to a computer lab to check her email, which happened maybe twice a month.) How times have changed.

A final point of the survey asked the question, “Does technology improve learning?” Undergrads put this responsibility on the shoulders of instructors. “Rarely do students attribute I(nformation) T(echnology) related learning problems to their own limitations.” (p 14) ECAR offers several ideas on ‘optimizing technology effectiveness’:

  • developing instructor technology skill sets
  • training instructors on integrating technology into their teaching
  • improving institutional network reliability (i.e. making the course management software work properly)
  • increasing instructor/administrator awareness on how students differ on technological savvy & access to technology resources

As medical librarians, how could we adopt some of these solutions? Are we already doing it? How does this translate to hospital libraries and consumer health? And is any of this even our responsibility? Read the report & draw your own conclusions.

Behind Google’s Curtain

Filed under: Current Awareness,TF — Bart Ragon at 10:37 pm on Tuesday, October 16, 2007

An article came out on Adweek today entitled “Google: What Goes on Behind the Curtain?”  The article provides an interesting perspective on Google the business as well as some insight into Google a developer of social networking tools.   

“But for people who use Gmail [Google's e-mail service], Google Docs [which allows users to share documents] or iGoogle [a start-page tool where users can aggregate all their Google services], we sign into those services and we subscribe to them. We give personal information and use those services in a way that sends personal information over the Internet. In that case, it is clear Google has personal information on us.” 

On one hand, the tools are just so darn useful.  On the other hand, I really don’t like anyone tracking me.  And, if Google is developing something much grander than Second Life, as the article alludes to, what does this mean about the personal information I share with Google.

How to use a wiki

Filed under: TF,Tools in Use — Molly Knapp at 4:20 pm on Friday, October 12, 2007

Wired Magazine‘s annual ‘How to’ issue offers bits of advice on everything from baking a Wii cake to ruling the blogosphere. Here’s an excerpt from how their “How to work” feature on using a wiki**:

Use a Wiki

Free online applications like MediaWiki and PBWiki make this brainstorming and collaboration tool even more valuable. Observe these dos and don’ts.

Document, don’t discuss. Wikis are best for storing shared group knowledge — tutorials, style guides, agendas, meeting minutes, and so on. They’re not mailing lists or forums.

Learn the markup. Only wiki n00bs post big blobs of run-on text. Take a few minutes to learn how to add links and create readable bullet points, section headers, and paragraphs.

Sign your name. Many wikis allow for anonymous contributions, but your fellow collaborators will appreciate knowing who said what. Plus, users with a reputation for
making valuable contributions are less likely to get their edits rolled back than an AnonymousCoward.

Encourage participation.Inform colleagues that if they don’t participate in the wiki, you’ll be forced to have a — ugh! — long, boring meeting.

Compose offline, then cut and paste. Others may want to modify the file while you’re writing.

Who out there in library land uses a wiki?
For starters, there’s the Hospital Librarian’s Wiki, sponsored by the Hospital Libraries Section of the Medical Library Association, as well as UBC’s HealthLib Wiki, which has had over 300,000 page views since its launch in 2006. Meanwhile, the American Library Association has ReadWriteConnect, a wiki listing all of ALA’s blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasts, and “next generation” online tools. There’s over 30 wikis available. Where’s yours?

Want more information?
Check out Brenda Chawner & Paul Lewis’ 2006 article WikiWikiWebs: New Ways to Communicate in a Web Environment from Information Technology & Libraries for an overview of wikis and their applicability to libraries.

**Wiki (wik’e): A collaborative website workspace that multiple people can edit together, share files and documents, and collaborate.

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