OCLC’s Report on Social Networking—A Work in Progress

CIL attendees are the “first people in the world” to hear about this report, according to
Alane Wilson, senior library market consultant for OCLC. A new membership study explored the web of social participation and cooperation on the Internet and how it may impact the library’s role in the public sphere. Its report will be “probably out by ALA in June.” After her interesting presentation in Track C on Monday, I sat down and chatted with Wilson about the study.
OCLC had Harris Interactive conduct the survey in six countries—Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States— in their own languages (unlike the earlier “Perceptions” study in 2005 that was only in English). There were over 6,163 respondents. Also different from the earlier report is that they did a separate survey of U.S. librarians (382 participated) and asked them similar questions to the main respondents to get their own views. But they also asked the librarians what they thought their patrons would answer. They also conducted 14 in-depth interviews and three 90-minute focus groups with undergrads, grads, and people from a hair salon (everyone but one was on MySpace, said Wilson).
Wilson said: “We’re not done—it’s a work in progress. A core team of 5 OCLC folks plus a consultant are working now to analyze the data, see the trends and the stories in the data, and write the report. It’s really hard.”
The survey has yielded hundreds of pages of data and graphs.
Here are some of the trends that they saw, all confirmed this morning by keynoter Rainie:
  • Individual-driven content is rising—personal publishing, digital images/video, tagging, etc.
  • The network as community
  • Instant verification
  • The wisdom of crowds or smart mobs—page rank, recommendations, etc.
Here’s one of Wilson’s favorite survey questions—“because it surprised the heck out of me.” The question to librarians was: 
In your professional opinion, do you think it should be the library’s role to build social networking sites for your community?
Overwhelmingly, librarians of all ages and from any type of library said, no or not sure. (over 80 percent) Even those who participate in some kind of online community said no–at a higher rate than those who do not. And this is one where general respondents were in sync…they too don’t think it is a role for libraries (over 90 percent).
Some other snippets of data (we’ll have to wait til this summer for more details…):
  • Librarians read “way, way more” than the general population—of the general community surveyed, nearly 40 percent said they read (anything) less than 5 hours a week!
  • In Japan 40 percent of people said they had never been to a library or library Web site!
  • Librarian behavior and our norms are different from the general population—this is important to keep in mind as we design services. Librarians use chat rooms and do IM less than the general pop—but we read blogs more

The general population doesn’t want others to know about their library borrowing–and librarians thought the same about their users. One implication—it’s a missed opportunity for librarians if they don’t post their library’s policies or bill of rights for patrons to see. It’s important to let them know we protect them.

 “Sharing, Privacy and Trust in the Age of the Networked Community: A Report to the OCLC Membership”

And, here’s the Youtube video OCLC did from the ALA mid-winter Symposium
OCLC is holding another symposium at ALA annual, titled “Is the Library Open?” Wilson said the following will be participants:
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
Siva Vaidhyanathan, associate professor of culture and communication at New York Univ.
Mary Minow, library law consultant with LibraryLaw.com
Paula J. Hane
News Bureau Chief, ITI

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