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Social Media Policy

February 21, 2011

“(W)ith the opening of avenues that support freedom of expression comes much responsibility” (Haskell, 2007).

So far in this course, I have already been pondering the implications of opening up the library’s online presence (website and OPAC) to social interaction. I imagined the potential headaches that could arise from the constant policing of the library’s website for inappropriate comments or posts by patrons. I was happy to see this week’s readings exploring my concern. Haskell’s example suggested to me that social media policy should, in fact, be an extension of existing library policies – including “code of conduct” policy that patrons must follow in the physical space of the library (no insults, racial slurs, threats, etc.) and aspects of collection policy (no libelous statements, plagiarized material, or private information provided without consent). As well, the blog Librarians Matter presented a compelling reason for formalizing policy relating to patron use of the library’s social media: “we included a section on moderation as we wanted staff to be able to show the guidelines if anyone wanted to know why particular material was on any of the library’s online sites.” It is always useful to have a formalized set of regulations to turn to when making difficult decisions or when explaining these decisions to others.

What I had not really considered until this week was the need for policy to regulate the use of social media by library staff. Clearly, not all librarians are knowledgeable about social media – we may not understand privacy settings, or even the implications of posting opinions on our profiles outside of work. Most of the policies I came across seem straightforward. The blog Tame the Web: Libraries, Technology, and People offers a list of sensible guidelines for employees to follow: don’t publish confidential information, respect copyright, respect your audience, use disclaimers, don’t let social media interfere with your job, etc. In particular, Kroski’s example of a corporate executive’s Twitter faux pas did a good job illustrating why an organization might want to adopt an “acceptable use” policy. Training programs for librarians – young and old – may be the best way to implement social media effectively in the library while avoiding unfortunate Facebook or Twitter mishaps. No one wants to get dooced!

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