I've written before about the blurred lines between personal and professional where social networking is concerned. Now I'm thinking about whether libraries should have social networking policies, and what they should include.
There's the personal angle. If you have a personal blog (like this one) and you talk about the library where you work, you have to be careful what you say. Of course, most employers aren't going to mind if you say "My library is the best in the world," but what if you indicate that your library is less than perfect and needs to work on something? Any time you make your library look unflattering in a medium that the whole world has access to, I believe that you should accept the consequences. Is it acceptable for any workplace to dictate what you can and can not say on your own time and in your own space? No. Here's the thing about social media, though: it's not your own space. It's "social" by design, meaning that others WILL see it. It's certainly unprofessional to bash your library even in private conversations, but private conversations are not broadcast on the world wide web. Think about that: "world wide." I would argue that a library's social networking policy has the right to include what is allowed on "personal" profiles, blogs, and other internet platforms.
Then there's the library angle. This one is a little more obvious. My library (there I go again!) has a "Staff Choices" blog where staff members share reviews of library materials. We also have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a few staff-only blogs. A social media policy should also indicate what is appropriate to post in any of these places. These are accounts connected directly to the library. When the library name is attached, it is arguably more important than ever to post carefully. The information given in these places has an implied endorsement by the library.
Social media is a great way to share information with friends, family, clients, and the public at large. Libraries should embrace it! However, it is becoming more and more important that they spell out very clearly what is appropriate for their institution.
Some sample social media policies are online at http://socialmediagovernance.com/policies.php. They are not for libraries, specifically, but provide a nice shell for a library policy.