Lately, I’ve been thinking about the difference between public/academic social libraries and corporate libraries. It’s highly unusual to even consider something like a social corporate library. Why? Because of security. Think of it this way: with public and academic libraries, librarians are trying to get the information out to whomever requests it. Sometimes, even to those who don’t request it. They try to make sure that information is accessible to anyone and everyone.
In a corporate library, librarians are trying to make sure that information gets into THE RIGHT HANDS. What makes up a corporate library? Generally, proprietary information: corporate archives, employee generated content, awards submissions, presentations, meetings minutes, etc. If there are requests for third-party information, the reason for the request might often be sensitive and confidential. Corporate libraries don’t lend themselves automatically to the “open” culture of social media. These are things you don’t want to share with outsiders, let alone colleagues.
But there must be a place for corporate library 2.0. It’s the wave of the future; it’s where everything is going. Social media is hot, and consumer generated media is even hotter. Libraries are disappearing because people are doing their own research, and they don’t think professionals are needed. So where do we go from here?
I’m not doing a commercial here, but a few months ago, I saw an article about special library 2.0 in Information Outlook Magazine. It was an interesting article to begin with but what cemented it in my mind were two things.
1) The author described social libraries in a way that really resonated with me:
“Social libraries combine traditional library automation and workflow with collections of diverse content and vetted knowledge. These are then fused with the ‘wisdom of the community,’ or the network. The result is ‘social knowledge.'”
2) The author works for the database company that my workplace uses as a repository for our information requests. The irony is that the organization that I work for, before I began working there, decided not to update the version of the database that we use. Although it’s very useful to us, and fits our needs, the version that we have is clunky. The version that is described in this article is beyond our ken.
But it’s not out of the question. It’s brilliant, and it could be very useful. After all, the article goes on to explain:
“Social knowledge networks let organizations quickly harness collective wisdom and use this wisdom to enhance vetted content. The relevant knowledge that results (and is in the repository) helps organizations enhance content, improve productivity and collaboration, and ultimately, become more competitive, innovative and effective.”
And who wouldn’t want THAT?
So therefore, we take a step back and explore how our organization can leverage this promising new way of reaching our members/users:
Use chat reference–not to answer research questions (which can have a week to two week turnaround time), but to refer the user to other departments or to manage their expectations. However it is used, it is another touchpoint; another way for users to reach us.
Develop a wiki where users can interact with one another, and contact each other for offline conversations/networking/contacts.
Develop an anonymous forum for users to pose questions to their colleagues who may have recommendations, benchmarks, and information borne of experience. The insights found there may not be available in published form.
Develop a safe and anonymous area for people to comment on content in the database. This may include content ratings, but may also include insights and/or detailed ways to improve content.
An area for users to post new content – insights, articles, charts, graphs – whatever may be deemed useful to fellow users or colleagues, based on experience, training or education.
The true challenge here is to enable corporate users to be anonymous and to create a space where corporate users feel comfortable to interact with each other and share with one another. This can be done. Let’s do it.