Facebook and research support: the jury’s still out

I thought it was worth posting something I’ve just been reading on another blog. The question was posed: If you could contact a librarian via Facebook or MySpace for help with your research, would you? If not, why?

This is something that is interesting to many of us at the moment – the value of Facebook to our work as archivists and in user support. This research refers to librarians, but doubtless the results for archivists would be similar. It was also carried out in the States, although I suspect UK students might have similar ideas.

The survey found that a total of 23% of respondents stated yes or maybe they would be interested in contacting a librarian via these two social networking sites, so there is some scope for this. Undergrads had a slightly higher than average percentage of 34%.

However, nearly half of the total respondents stated they would not be interested. The reasons given were various – the biggest reason being that they feel the current methods (in-person, email, instant messaging) are more than sufficient.

14% said no because they felt it was inappropriate or that Facebook/MySpace is a social tool, not a research tool. This is an opinion that has been expressed on several occassions in talks and articles I have read. I’m interested to see whether this changes as the service develops, although my suspicion is that by this time next year we’ll be talking about a different social networking service anyway!

My feeling as far as the Archives Hub is concerned is that I would still be happy to put up a search widget and to enable people to contact us via Facebook – it may be a minority but that’s fine – it just gives people another option if they want to take it.

Have a look at the survey results at http://onlinesocialnetworks.blogspot.com/2008/01/data-students-facebook-library-outreach.html
Image: No Facebook – Blessington St, St Kilda by avlxyz from Flickr (Creative Commons licence)