Jun 24th, 2009
When I write, talk about and present on social tools, media distribution and library futures I ALWAYS talk about functionality. Brand names are important but *functionality* is what really matters. It has always been my strong opinion that LIBRARIES need to be creating the spaces where people interact with each other the way they do on facebook/Twitter etc. Why?
Facebook, and a dozen other for profit orgs, reaches too deeply into our REAL lives and connections to be held responsible to business principles/concerns only. Meanwhile, library orgs understand community and the deeper issues of privacy and democracy more than any company tasked with making profit ever could. But quite frankly, we (the entire library industry) generally stink at software development. Happily though, for thoughtful (and talented) software development companies, library folks get privacy and the sacred trust of protecting information (and therefore democracy at large) in ways that would escape most any other professional. The understanding libraries have here is built into our mission statements and policies. These aren’t vague promises or “statements” to “not be evil” that have no teeth when it comes to how we operate in our communities. No, these policies and practices demonstrate understanding of and commitment to protecting privacy all the while focusing on developing communities for the benefit of the community at large. Once a company like facebook get the critical mass it has now, this sort of consideration must be part of its operational intent. If not, there will be dire consequences for our society.
So will we make the next sea change as an industry or will we get cast about by the whims of info fads, social buzz, and shiny tools…at the cost of our core democratic principles? Or, just maybe, can we find a work together for the betterment of all involved…
And to Twitter, facebook, etc, I would personally challenge you to approach us, and work with us. Step up and be more than a business. You have a powerful impact and your promise is inspiring…in much the same way libraries are inspiring (after all we are both all about information and community, aren’t we?). In many ways you already are fulfilling your promise, but you are treading on dangerous ground for society at large if you don’t guard information based on a higher set of principles than business success. We want to work with you, honestly. Please get in touch with us. Heck, start with me here! I can get a slew of us together to help you and we’ll all be better organizations for it.