There’s a section in the first chapter (a much better teaser than most introductions, btw) that I think asks the essential question: Why should librarians care about social software? Answer it for you and your library, adopt Meredith’s answers, or do whatever else it takes, but don’t leave this question on the back burner.
My answers? Well, they map very closely onto Meredith’s, and they’re constantly evolving, but here’s a sketch of their current state. I have not found that my students are very familiar with many of the social software we talk about all the time. I’ve had students ask me why I’d want to IM, diss Facebook and MySpace, give me blank stares when I mention social bookmarks, wonder what Flickr is and point out that I’ve left of the “e.” And don’t even get me started on RSS. But that doesn’t mean that social software isn’t important to me in my library with my user community.
No, social software is still important for many reasons, but foremost in my environment is that it’s a way for me to provide value-added, nimble, real-time, personalized access to online resources and research support, learn from and collaborate with colleagues near and far, and improve my own workflow and my students’ workflows. Six months from now, these reasons will have evolved again, I’m sure. But through it all Meredith’s last paragraph says it all. These things are, above all, tools. They’re tools that help libraries stop being faceless institutions and start being teams of people helping people.