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Monday, October 1, 2012

Five trends impacting digital citizenship and library information policies


·         Increase in online readership of newspapers – when you add blogs, twitter, facebook and other online sources, there is a clear trend towards individuals seeking immediate access to information that suits their particular needs.  The amount of RSS and aggregator services now available means that individuals can have ready access to news and information that suits them, on topics that interest them, when they want it. What does that mean for information policy (and collection development policy)? Libraries needs to facilitate access to online news sources, through unimpeded in-house access, through education of users about how to access and personalise news and information streams, and through evaluating and recommending quality online news sources, just as they have traditionally evaluated and provided access to hardcopy news sources
  •  Music (and video) piracy - the large amount of pirated information available on-line presents a number of problems for libraries.  From an information policy standpoint, issues such as how to prevent patrons using library supplied equipment to breach copyright, how to reduce bandwidth drain from file-sharing, and how staff should respond to requests to assist patrons perform illegal activities.  This issue also often raises tension between library and IT staff, as library staff defend freedom of access to information, and IT staff wish to protect their network and bandwidth by blocking obvious sources of file-sharing and video content providers.
·         Growth of Twitter as a communication, advertising and search tool – huge numbers of users and tweets means that Twitter has the power to rapidly disseminate information and opinions – Library information policies need to consider if and how libraries should utilise this type of tool - is the potential to reach a wide audience, and disseminate information rapidly important to the library, and if so, how will the library establish itself in the channel?  It is important to consider what the goals of participation are, and how the customers will benefit from the Library engaging in Twitter.

·      Employee use of social networking -  this topic raised interesting notions of freedom of expression, balanced against an organisations need to protect its image, and prevent dissemination of potentially damaging or valuable information.  Information policy needs to include a code of ethics for employees, and employees need to be educated about the need to consider carefully what they publish as private citizens.  Recent examples of employees suffering consequences in the workplace for private online behaviour (the Charlotte Dawson Twitter troll incident) reinforce the need for library information policy to include ethical issues.

  •  Proliferation of mobile devices as internet access tools – as the growth of mobile devices continues, libraries will need to take action to ensure that their online presence is mobile friendly.  We are already seeing libraries provide mobile apps for their catalogue, and this trend is going to have huge impacts on the way we do business over coming years.  Information policies need to allow the flexibility to adapt to changing demands, and to embrace new technology, and also to move towards an acceptance of “less-than-perfect” solutions.  By the time we wait for “perfect”, we have missed the boat – patrons will have moved on, and found other sources.

This has been an interesting exercise in considering information policy, and how important it is in providing a foundation for libraries and other information agencies to build strong services that balance a number of competing demands.  There are a number of issues that I need to consider more carefully when I next review my own organisations policies.

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