Online Community That Works: Alaska School Librarians

Taking up @Kyle’s challenge to provide an example of a good online community, I’d like to describe the Alaska School Librarians group on Facebook. It’s a closed group, but existing members can add other members. I’m a member. I like to believe that it is because I have a reputation as a friendly but not too prolific sharer of resources.

It was established a year ago or so and currently has 94 members. There appears to be a small core group actively posting links, photos and questions, but most items appear to have comments. There appears to be idea trading going on a regular basis. The group has been lauded by The Puffin, the newsletter of the Alaska Association of School Librarians. Finally, I note in passing that with 94 members the Alaska School Librarians group appears more consistently engaged that the 280 fans of the Alaska Library Association Facebook (AkLA) page, which is open to all.

Like most Facebook groups, Alaska School Librarians has a main page, an about page with a photo listing of members and tabs, for events, photos and files. The main wall and the photo tab appear to be the most active. A casual examination of the members list show a diversity of ages and geography.

So why does this work? Without evidence to back it up, I posit three reasons. I think the main reason this group works is because it answers a need for connection and fellowship. Alaska’s school librarians usually work in professional isolation and may not even be full time. Having a group where they can interact online is a big deal and may represent the only time they “see” like minded individuals between conferences.

I think the second reason the Facebook group works as community because of the relatively narrow focus – school librarianship. The AkLA page needs to be all things to all librarians and may not be doing the best job at that. The School Librarian group focuses on one type, so more things are likely to be of interest to more people in the online community.

Finally, I think that school librarianship has benefited from results oriented social media evangelism from people such as Shannon McClintock Miller, who really rocked the school librarians who attended the 2013 AkLA conference in Valdez. While the general library field also has social media evangelists (many in this virtual room, for example), school librarian social media evangelists can point to things like enhanced interaction with children’s authors. This is an immediate concrete benefit to participating in social media that school librarians can latch onto.

Can the success of the Alaska School Librarians group be translated elsewhere? Perhaps to AkLA’s Facebook presence? That’s an open question. We do have librarians working in isolation, though not as completely as school librarians. We might see if there are some common desires among the fans of the AkLA page. Or maybe there’s an interaction difference between pages and groups that we could look into.

via MOOCing Up North

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