Winter 2013

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Policy Spotlight

By Tim Gavin

Winter 2013 issue of Trustee

Internet and Electronic Resources 2.0

Libraries are increasingly using blogs and social media sites, like Facebook and YouTube, to great advantage.  These electronic media are great tools for reminding the public about all the great work that libraries are doing and for quickly spreading awareness about local library programs and board meetings.  Some have used these tools so effectively that their libraries have gained statewide and even national followings.

Of course, the speed and scope with which these tools can convey information can also be a liability. As the 2010 Edition of the Handbook for Library Trustees states, “The best way to reduce risk is to be sure that the library is operating in a safe, legal manner according to carefully written policies and thoughtfully implemented procedures.”

So before jumping on the social media bandwagon, it might be a good idea to clearly define how these tools should be used, what they should not be used for, and by whom they should be used. 
Here are some thoughts to consider when discussing social media policy, broken down by the policy categories which they touch upon:

Public relations:  Social media is clearly effective about “getting the word out.”  But what is the message that you want getting out?  Advocacy?  Board meeting and budget vote dates? Library programs? For expressing a library’s opinions or for defending its actions?  Or all or some of the above?
Censorship: Should social media sites be blocked from certain age groups?  Should comments be filtered?  Should “offensive” public responses to library postings be blocked or removed – and if only certain responses are removed, what is the library’s pre-approved criteria to justify its actions?
Confidentiality: Most postings will be available to read beyond the walls of the library and even the limits of local community.  How can the privacy of patrons stay protected, especially minors?  How does the library protect itself so that a post does not breach patron confidentiality?
Fundraising:  Social media sites are great tools for generating funds, but which groups should be allowed to request funds?  Should a PayPal button be added to your site?  How well do your fundraising postings on social media sites fit in with previously established traditional fundraising policies?
Personnel:  Which library personnel should have access to social media sites, and which should have the authority to make library posts? 
Internet and Electronic Resources:  This touches on the flip side of the equation.  It is one thing to consider library sponsored social media tools, but what about social media tools in general?  Should patrons or personnel be allowed to access their own social media sites and make posts from library computers?  If not, what would give your library the right to block access or prohibit postings?

For some examples of policies which address social media, please visit LTA’s Policy Database.  If your library has a social media policy which has not been submitted for use in the database, kindly submit it for inclusion in the database so that it can be shared with your peers.

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