Library Facebook Applications

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Computers in Libraries 2009 Conference Notes

Joseph Ryan
Digital Initiatives Librarian and User Experience Advocate
NCSU Libraries

This was a very relevant presentation. We are currently trying to determine what the future will be of our own Libraries Facebook Application and whether it merits any further development.

Joe referenced Dana Boyd's PhD Dissertation on why people use social networks. For adults, it's professional networking and for teens, it's socializing, commenting on friends' activities and extending their own persona online.

But, applications are just not very popular.  NCSU Library asked the question, why is use so low? If there is a way for the libraries to help students connect with each other, usage might increase. So, NCSU created a wireframe for a Libraries Activity Wall with the goal of helping students who are at the library meet up in an informal way.

The application:
  1. Asks what are you working on right now?
  2. Shows recent activity by your friends.
  3. Shows recent activity by everyone in the library.
  4. Provides a link to room reservation system.
  5. Provides checkbox for allowing other people to join you. "I am...         "  - you can fill in what you are working on and text for where in the library you are.
Before developing further, NCSU conducted a focus group (four students who were all undergrads). Students wanted a tool to form study groups in low barrier way, especially at the end of the semester.  They disliked the fact that it was a facebook app! Every student hated fb apps (fb is too noisy already) and they also stated that they wanted to build groups around courses, not around location as provided in the app design.

So NCSU is not going to further develop this application within facebook. They do want to help people meet up in the library, but would like it in some other venue or format - possible a kiosk at the libraries entrances, a link off the libraries website, a widget for internal and external integration, etc.  They did find out that although students want to get together based on courses they are, but many students have no idea of the real course name, number and even the prof's name.

Next steps
NCSU is going to have a larger focus group to find out about how a larger group of students feel about facebook apps. They will probably continue to develop a study group application, but it may not be integrated into facebook at all.

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