It was a full house for Meredith Farkas’ session on social software this morning.
Farkas, author of a new book recently published by Information Today, Social Software in Libraries, defined social software in terms of several of its capabilities. Her talk also focused on the ways libraries can use social software:
- Social software democratizes communications and promotes online collaboration. Conversations are changed, and it’s no longer necessary to join a listserv. Now you can comment on blogs and link directly to other blogs. You can also track who is commenting on your comments.
- Communication can occur in real time, and this can be exploited by libraries. Instant messaging (IM) is extremely widely used by university students; what if the library could be on an IM "Buddy List"? This opens up many possibilities.
- You can take advantage of the wisdom of crowds and see what other people have found interesting. By means of a wiki, you can also collect knowledge and use it in your marketing.
- Social software systems are transparent. For example, student evaluation forms were formerly filled out in print and given to faculty. One wondered if the forms ever had an impact. Now, rating sites like Rate My Professors are visible by anyone, so they have a much more powerful impact.
- Personalizaton becomes easy: you can make your own newspaper with news only of interest to you, and using podcasting, you can create your own "radio station".
- Social software platforms are portable. Now that Blackberry devices, iPods, etc. are widely used, why not deliver content from the library to these.
Farkas then showed a number of fascinating sites illustrating innovative uses that libraries have made of social software. She helpfully provided a link to them all on her website that she has created, so you can have a look at them there if you’re interested.
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator