Saturday, January 23, 2010

Facebook and patrons and religion

So I've been having some "issues" with one of our regular patrons.

As a librarian one of my job duties is to talk to the lonely people who come into the library. After awhile you learn who the "regulars" are. Some of these people just want to be left alone and want peace and quite. Some of these people want to come and chat with you for a bit every single day.

Well, one of my groupies has asked me several times over the past year to become his friend on Facebook. I can tell that he's a lonely guy and he wants more friends. I've really thought about this and decided awhile ago that as a professional librarian I needed to make certain "rules" regarding my behavior in the Web 2.0 world. For instance, I try to never explicitly say where I work in my blog. I never try to talk about specific issues at my work. The wild and crazy internal politics that could, quite frankly, make this blog a LOT more interesting! but could also get me fired and/or make a bad impression on any potential employer.

One of my other "rules" I made for myself was that I would not accept friend requests from patrons. I dunno... it just seems to cross some sort of "line" for me. Of course all of this Web 2.0 stuff is new and it seems like the rules are still being worked out but I'm doing what I feel comfortable with. I have pictures of my kids up. Personal info about my work and school history. I have all of this set to private so only my friends can see the good stuff. It just doesn't seem right to me to open up this level of personal information to whoever walks in off the street into the library. Even if they do want to come up and chat with me each day.

This same patron recently asked me about a Facebook "issue" he was having and wanted my advice on. He had put up a series of questions that were all sort of philosophy/religion 101 sort of stuff. Most of them were quasi religious questions. He was upset because not a single one of his Facebook friends had bothered to put up a single answer/response to any of his questions. He first wanted me to become his Facebook friend so I could contribute some answers to his questions. I explained to him again that I have a "rule" about that. Then he wanted me to read his questions and let him know what I thought and why nobody was answering them. Where they bad questions? I read them and I thought there were somewhat thought provoking and I told him so. He really wanted to know why nobody had answered them. I didn't know what to say and really didn't want to be involved in this mess in the first place. Fortunately it was closing time so I got off the hook.

But his questions and concerns nagged at me when I got home. Why hadn't any of his friends answered his questions? Then it hit me. They were all about God and religion. I for one won't touch religion in Facebook. It's to personal, to controversial... If I see one of my friends post something of a religious matter in Facebook I don't post a comment on it. I think because I feel religion is so personal and controversial I would be worried about possibly offending one of my friends. Even if it wasn't intentional.

So I've been wanting to talk to this particular patron again about this. I feel in a funny way like things were left hanging the last time because we closed. Although I was glad about it because I was able to think about it all a little more and articulate my thoughts. I expect I'll see him soon.

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