Discussion paper: Social media policies for public libraries
Social media describes software tools that allow groups to generate content and engage in peer-to-peer conversations and exchange of content (examples include blogs, wikis, tagging, online video, online photo sharing, social networking sites for example Facebook, Myspace etc). These web-based technologies provide vehicles to facilitate collaboration and sharing between Library clients and staff and also client to client. These policies are designed to be applicable as new web 2.0 tools emerge.
- To facilitate the use of web 2.0 tools for Library purposes
- To integrate these tools with existing communication and information management processes
Legislative and Policy Framework
Alphabetical list of most relevant legislation:
- Copyright Act, 1968 (Cth)
- Spam Act, 2003 (Cth)
- Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, 1998
- State Records Act, 1998 – including Standards and Disposal Authorities issued under the Act
- Local Government Act 1993
- Library Act 1939
Also consider your council's:
- Code of Conduct
- Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Services Policies
Library staff are active in many social media spaces, including those developed and hosted by other agencies (eg. contributing to Wikipedia entries). The council may also develop and manage spaces for interaction with residents, clients, colleagues and also for internal communications and project work.
Consider the appropriate levels for authorising web 2.0 tools. For example:
- Managers and supervisors are accountable for approving the establishment of new social media spaces (eg. blogs).
- Staff are accountable for authoring, editing and monitoring library hosted social media spaces
- The council’s official website is an integral part of their services. The library page is representative of both the library and the council. This space is a formal channel of communication.
- The social media (web 2.0) spaces established by the council and the library, and those external spaces we choose to engage in, also represent the council and library. However, these spaces are designed to be collaborative and interactive engaging the wider community.
- The council utilises these spaces in the following ways:
To point members of the community to our collections and services (eg. Wikipedia, answer boards, Flickr, Google video) promoting discovery
To extend the reach of our collections and services
To create spaces for experience co-creation (eg. interactive blogs to accompany exhibitions, supporting discussion around local plans and publications, resources for family history and local history researchers)
To publish for key audiences
- Nothing that contravenes the spirit or the letter of the council’s Code of Conduct and other policies including the ICT Services Policy is to be published.
Principles underpinning the use of social networking technology
The following points are adapted from the work of Jason Ryan from the NZ Network of Public Sector Communicators.
- Sovereignty: prefer an internally hosted solution, where available, which allows use of the council domain name to indicate authority and ownership.
- Access: the site must be web standards compliant (W3C). If it is funded by the ratepayer, then it should be accessible to all people in the local government area.
- Transparency: make it very clear who is posting, and how to contact them, online and off.
- Trust: if you are engaging with the public through these media they should be able to expect a straightforward exchange of ideas and information.
- Fairness: social media is about reciprocity, if the Library is going to engage and invite comment then we must accept the good with the bad. Post a very clear comments policy and stick to it. Don’t delete comments because they are critical of the council or council policies.
- Timeliness: post regularly and be prepared to engage people when it suits them.
- Openness: share content that is an honest reflection of the council and library’s position.
- Ethics: consider the council Code of Conduct and the ICT Services policy when commenting in the public arena.
- Participation: engage appropriately similarly oriented communities via posting comments and emailing other bloggers.
- Integrity: at all times measure actions against the Code of Conduct. If staff think they are close to the line with a post, or a comment, check with a supervisor — or hold off posting overnight to reconsider the wording.
Publishing via weblogs (blogs) and wikis
- Establishment of an internally hosted blog or wiki to promote library services must be approved by the appropriate director or manager.
- External / public comments contributed must be screened by the staff member responsible for the blog or wiki and any inappropriate comments removed.
- Permission to post to, comment on or contribute to an existing blog or wiki is not required as long as the following conditions are observed:
a) All staff contributing to work related blogs are to remain aware that the library is part of council and all staff are bound to abide by the Code of Conduct and the ICT Services Policy when posting or commenting.
b) Contributions must be within the staff member’s area of expertise and staff must identify themselves.
- Externally hosted blogs or wikis which do not identify the contributor as a council staff member and do not discuss the council or library would normally fall outside Code of Conduct guidelines.
An official file is required for the establishment of a blog, wiki or similar application. This file should include the following information:
- Brief business case for the proposal describing the purpose, the intended audience, how it links to the Library strategy and who the administrator/authors will be
- URL and passwords
Resources hosted on the council domain would be included in regular backup and archiving. Externally hosted resources are outside the council’s span of control. Print copies could be added to file for a record.
Information published online is in the public domain. Users of council and library sites are entitled to expect that any information as a result of that use will be treated within the terms of the council's privacy responsibilities and obligations. The council’s privacy practices are regulated by the New South Wales Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998.
The council’s communications or marketing staff should be alerted to the establishment of blogs, wikis and other applications initiated by staff. They can use them as avenues to promote services and also monitor comments to improve communication and consultation with the community.
Contributing files to sites (eg. Flickr and YouTube)
- Contributing material to an externally hosted site to promote library services must be approved by the appropriate supervisor or library manager who will consider issues of provenance and copyright.
- All staff contributing to externally hosted are to remain aware that the library is a part of council and all staff are bound to abide by the council’s Code of Conduct and ICT Services Policy when contributing.
- Externally hosted sites which do not identify the contributor as a council staff member and do not discuss the council or library would normally fall outside Code of Conduct guidelines.
While specific examples of weblogs, wikis and contributing files to online sites have been used it is acknowledged that Web 2.0 tools are developing continually. As new tools appear these general principles should be applied to their use.
This policy was approved by the Library Manager / ICT Director on
This policy is implemented on dd/month/year.
This policy will be reviewed in 2 years.
For further information on this policy
Social media policy references:
Principles for public sector social media (NZ)
Updating your social media and staff blog policies (Powerhouse Museum – April 2008)
Powerhouse Museum’s official blog policy - April 2007
Social Media Checklist for consideration
- Is it a blog, wiki, other (please specify)
- Link to council strategy
- Hosted internally – intranet internet
- Hosted externally – location, please specify url, administration usernames and passwords
- Permanent or temporary – please specify time frame
- Where is the resource to be linked on the council / library website?
- Author/s and contributors
- Moderator for public comments
- Authorised by
- Official file name and number
- Disclaimer displayed
- Privacy statement
All external library blogs and wikis should carry a statement modelled on either of the following examples:
This blog does not represent official XXX Council communications.
Links to external internet sites on Council web pages do not constitute the council's endorsement of the content of their Web sites or of their policies or products.