When I was 4, one of my favourite Little Golden Books was The Wait-for-Me Kitten. I probably identified with the little cat who could never keep up with the rest of the litter and was left plaintively crying “wait for meeeee”. My parents’ friends all had kids several years older than me. I remember trailing the big kids from game to game, wanting to join in. Sometimes they’d even climb a tree to avoid me.
OK…now to relate it to libraries. Yesterday, I read in The Ubiquitous Librarian about how he has uploaded his library’s instructional material to You Tube. “How cool, that’s where the users already hang out”, I thought. This morning I wasn’t quite so sure. It was definitley an appropriate use of the site, and he describes very well how he set it up and the technical gap it fills. I’m just not sure about my knee jerk reaction.
Meredith Farkas has talked extensively about whether we are invading our clients’ “personal web space” by having a facebook or MySpace. presence. She concluded that we are not, but with the proviso that it should be done well if we are going to do it. (Read the post, as that is a very slim description.)
Our younger users are definitely there. The question is “should we be there too?”. Or would we come across like a little kid following the big kids around, yelling “wait for meeeee?”.
I guess it’s a bit like blogs. If there is a need for them, then they are great tools. A couple of times recently I’ve heard of organisations considering starting blogs “because there’s an expectation”, but without really knowing what they’d post. Same applies with some of the social web sites. If there is a need that they fill and we enjoy using them, then we should do so. If we are just doing it to join our users on their own turf, I’m not sure it is a good enough reason, and that we won’t come off looking like prats.
I’d like to see us focus on the big, big advantage we have over Amazon.com, YouTube and MySpace. We have physical space as well as web space. We have realtime, realtouch, realsee chat available with realpeople. We can create a social environment that should leave the social web spaces crying “wait for meeeee”.