Sunday, March 20, 2005

Public Libraries' role in building social networks

Came across Preetam's blog* post about how he couldn't get hold of the latest Murakami book. Preetam goes on to add:
You know something - public libraries should take lead in building social networks. People love to talk about books. What better way to link people then to have them list their favourites, their reading list and then let them find others with interest similar to theirs. Add recommendation engines like Amazon - “the people who read this book also read these other books”.

My comment to his post was:
We (NLB) recognise that — the social networks part. Not trying to defend NLB or anything but well, just trying to meet our targets for loans and visitors has been tough enough. And not many Singaporeans are comfortable with engaging in conversations with each other people (the very small blogging community may be an exception). That’s the real obstacle in my opinion.

But NLB is coming to the end of the L2000 phase of development. Next lap, you’ll see more of the social networking part. We have to. It’s the next logical step and a given really.
Upon hindsight, it would have easy to ask why NLB did not anticipated the need for the system to support say, OPAC users, to link and share. Actually I can tell you that as far back as 5 years ago, our librarians were talking about it. We ourselves had high hopes for our OPAC (most consciously or unconsciously using as the benchmark). I don't have enough information as to what went on at higher-level discussions, so I won't speculate.

In some ways, the timing might not have been right. Had we provided that kind of feature then, majority of users would not have caught on. It's only in recent years that IM, blogging etc became the "in-thing" of sorts.

Whatever the case, the thing is that NLB recognises the need for public libraries to go beyond just providing loans and services. In my opinion, the next 10 years will see public librarians playing a more prominent role in building and sustaining "social networks". But first, I have to get more librarians to Blog...

* I just love his blog name -- "betterdays". Bet he goes around asking "Have you seen better days?"

Related post:
Public Libraries' role in building social networks - Part 2 (20 Mar 2005)

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  1. The social network may not necessarily require the user to write about the book. The reader may just mention that he likes the book and the software could then locate people close to him based on the books he likes.

    Singaporeans are one of the most active people on social networks like and, I think they will love any site that encourages them to get to know people with similar interests.

  2. True. Social networking is about networking rather than book discussions per se. I think the discussions are an outcome of the networking, rather than the other way around.

  3. I was pleasantly surprised that this post (which spun off from Preetam's) was quoted at Library Stuff, which spun off another discussion. Now I wonder if we trace the entire post back to source, how would the "web of conversations" look like? Hmmm.... a "6-degrees" thingy.


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