SPEC Kit 304: Social Software in Libraries · 15
activities. It then asked what percentage of the total
number of staff that FTE represents. The number of
FTE ranged from as few as .10 to as many as 280, de-
pending on the type of activity. The FTE averages in-
dicate that more staff participate in Wikis, VoIP, chat
or IM, blogs, and social networking sites. Similarly,
the percentages of total staff ranged from .10% to
100%. These averages confirm that more staff are us-
ing VoIP, Wikis, chat or IM, blogs, and social network-
ing sites. It was difficult for respondents to estimate
how many hours per week individual staff members
spend on social software activities. Estimates ranged
from half an hour to 20 hours per week with a mean
of 3.2 and a median of 2 hours.
Staff Training
All 59 respondents said that self-study is how library
staff have learned about social software. Fifty-seven
(97%) also report on-the-job experience as a training
method. Other common methods include workshops
taught by local librarians, professional development
workshops, and webinars. Eleven report that the par-
ent institution provides training.
Promoting Social Software to Users
All but a few of the respondents use links on the li-
brary Web page to promote social software participa-
tion to users. A majority also makes announcements
during orientations and instruction sessions, send
e-mail notices, and distribute flyers, handouts, and
bookmarks. Just under half provide training for in-
terested users and embed ads and links in social soft-
ware sites. Slightly more than a third include links
in courseware. Other promotional methods include
newspaper articles, screen savers on public worksta-
tions and coffee shop screens, and “word of Web.”
Just over half of the respondents have attempted to
evaluate the use of social software. The 30 that have
primarily rely on the volume of hits or level of par-
ticipation to measure success. Other methods that
have been used to assess the effectiveness of social
software activities include surveys, analysis of chat
and IM transcripts, and usability analysis.
Benefits and Challenges
Respondents were asked to list up to three benefits
and three challenges of using social software in their
libraries. The top three benefits, by number of re-
sponses, are enhanced visibility/presence/access,
communication, and marketing/promotion/public
relations. Other benefits include better collaboration,
improved service, and resource discovery. The top
two challenges are finding the time to learn and use
the tools, and developing staff expertise/training
staff. These are followed by the related challenges of
competing priorities, getting staff buy-in, and keep-
ing up with technology.
User Privacy
More than half of the respondents (33 or 57%) ex-
pressed some concern with the privacy implications
of social software usage in their libraries. Most con-
cerns are about the privacy of users’ personal in-
formation and how that information is tracked and
stored. Few report that there have been any problems,
so far, but some are looking at developing policies for
social software use. Others are attempting to educate
users about the implications of sharing personal in-
formation in online environments.
It is clear that the use of social software in ARL mem-
ber libraries has rapidly increased—from two institu-
tions in 1996 to 63 institutions in early 2008. The range
of social software applications has also diversified in
that time span—from chat and instant messaging in
1996 to ten, or more, types in 2008. Accompanying
this diversification, social software has also been
streamlined to some extent. A decade ago librar-
ies implemented one, or perhaps two, applications.
Today, libraries implement multiple applications as
part of larger integrated tools, e.g., subject guides that
are part wiki, part blog, part instant messaging, part
social tagging, etc., and social networking sites that
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