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The social library, defined

Welcome class, Social Libraries 101 is now in session! We'll be covering social library basics over the coming weeks, including what social libraries are, how they change the role of the librarian, and how to use them in your organization.

I thought the best way to kick off the series is by defining a social library. Simply put, a social library is a library where content is two-directional. It provides a framework to manage and enhance library collections, augmenting top-down, vetted information with bottom-up social
information.

This concept should sound familiar if you're a regular Inmagic blog reader! A social library is also considered an instance of a social knowledge network. It lets users create a community around a specific domain of knowledge, and add contextual value through the wisdom of the community.

If we combine all these ideas, we see that a social library is the confluence of three components, which are illustrated in the diagram below:
  1. Knowledge management and content publishing
  2. Library workflow management
  3. Socialization
Social libraries can be used in three primary applications. First, they can be located inside the firewall, designed to manage domain-specific library assets or collections, and the knowledge community. The object here would be to address a particular research, business, or functional need or problem.

Alternatively, social libraries can be published outside the firewall. In this case, they would be designed to address the unique needs of common interest groups and the information assets and collections assembled to educate and advance a particular body of knowledge.

And thirdly, social libraries can be used by organizations for mutual commercial interest. They could be published outside a firewall, but with a focus on building affinity and advancing an organization’s commercial interests with customers, supporters, or trading partners.

The common thread uniting these forms of social library applications is enhancing the value of information to improve productivity and organizational effectiveness, and to preserve and enhance knowledge assets.

When we define social libraries, we also must touch upon library 2.0. A social library characterizes library 2.0. It moves forward the traditional library by capitalizing on user participation, creating an interactive, content-rich user community.

Library 2.0 and the social library are relatively new concepts, but they represent many information professionals' vision for the future of the library. Just look at presentations at recent SLA conferences and the Five Weeks to a Social Library course. They signify it is time to extend traditional definitions of the library, rethink content and collection management, and evolve toward new levels of community knowledge and research support.

I'll unfold more of these ideas next week, when I talk about what makes a library social.

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