For our group project we looked at the uses for Ning in an academic library setting. Let me just say… I’m addicted! We created a Ning for the fictional L2University Library where we highlighted some of the features that Ning has to offer for the academic library and its users that also ended up including our own collaborative Ning where we did all of our planning for L2University. Now I could focus on the great features that Ning has to offer in this post and you could be reading for days, but what I would rather talk about is the deeper social implications of this social networking tool.
When I would tell my friends and family about the project I was working on the most common reaction was “what’s a Ning?” Well I got tired of trying to explain what Ning is and how it works, so I came up with this simple definition… it’s like MySpace but with a purpose. What I mean by that is while MySpace is one giant social network where the sky is the limit and people only tend to communicate with the people that are “friends” with, Ning however is a bunch of mini-social networks that people join based on a common interest. This is what Henri and Pudelko might call a “community of interest” or a “community of practice.” These people are gathered together in their own little virtual community because they share an interest or a profession.
What does all of this mean for academic libraries you may ask? Well look at why most college students join Facebook. They want to be able to connect with their friends from school virtually. And what is the commonly understood time-waster for most college students? Facebook. So if the academic library offers a virtual meeting ground where students can connect with each other and maybe have the opportunity to tap into some library resources while they’re at it what could be the harm?