Online social networking is an area where more and more libraries experimenting with. The current flavour is Ning, a platform where you can create your own social network. Many organizations and groups use this as their live and interactive meeting places. Facebook, Myspace, Orkut, etc are also social networks but the control key is not with you. All the personal information you oblige to give when join the network are stored and used by the websites according to their will (may be for financial benefits). But in the case of Ning, the situation is a little different. Thousands for Ning networks are hosted by the mother Ning database. The creators of the Nings are given with some authorities to control the content and data flow. They can manage the members, change the appearance, decide which blog post, forum, image, multimedia to be published, etc. So the Nings became popular. You can visit networks of families, forums, clubs, schools, associations, institutions, etc on the Ningsphere.
Our question is how Nings can be used in Libraries? Many libraries (academic, public, etc) in Europe and USA have already added Nings as their user interactive tools. Based on initial observations, Nings can be used in the libraries as,
* Networking tool to interact with users: Secured and library administered platform help the library staff to communicate and interact with the active users.
* Library promotional and publicity medium: The Library can promote and publicize its resources and services on the network.
* Library evaluation tool: The discussion forums on the Nings can be designed to collect user feedbacks and analysis.
* Online personal space within the Library: The user designed personal pages act as personal spaces where they can express themselves through text, images and multimedia with in the wall of the library’s online interface.
* Collaborative sharing and learning platform: The groups created on the network based on topics can facilitate sharing of ideas and conduct collaborative learning practices (teacher-student/student-student/teacher-teacher, etc).
“Library Junction” is a project to experiment with these ideas. This is a platform to share ideas or views on libraries, books, reading, web, networking and learning. Those who are interested can join the network.