(November 2007: Facebook launched Facebook Pages which libraries can use to create profiles. This post is now outdated.)
For those of you experimenting with Facebook, I want to give you a word of caution. The University of Kentucky Libraries created a Facebook profile for the library back in July. We created the profile as yet another place to find library contact information and basic library information. We were quite hopeful in starting a dialogue with students as we continued to add friends and promote the Facebook profile through freshmen orientation classes and other means. On Wednesday when I tried to log onto the profile, I got the message that it had been disabled by an administrator. What follows below is the correspondence I had with Facebook’s technical support.
As it stands now, we are unable to log into our profile and so far they have refused to reinstate even temporary access in order for me to retrieve our Notes, Photo Albums, and other information. As you can imagine, it would be really great to have this content so that I can at least create a Facebook group for the library.
The implication is, to me at least, that all library
profiles are threatened and at some point may be shut down. I just wanted everyone to be advised, and
I’ll provide updates on our situation as I have them – we are still attempting
to get a few specific answers from Facebook. In the meantime I am working on creating a Facebook Group for the University of Kentucky Libraries.
From: XXXXXXXXX from Facebook [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 21, 2006 6:20 PM
To: Greenwell, Stacey
Subject: [rt.facebook.com #788092] Account disabled
Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Facebook profiles are intended for use by a single individual. Groups, clubs, and other types of organizations are not permitted to maintain an account. I apologize for the inconvenience, but you will no longer be able to use this account. I will not be able to reinstate the account under a different email address.
As I said before, if you would like to use Facebook to bring your organization together and coordinate activities, we offer a Groups feature. Facebook Groups allow people to come together to express objectives, discuss issues, post photos, etc. If you have a personal Facebook profile, you can create one these groups from that account. The option to 'Create Group' is available at the bottom of the My Groups page.
Thanks for contacting Facebook!
[Thu Sep 21 06:13:55 2006]:
After having our profile disabled yesterday, we did some research and found another instance of a library profile being turned off. His profile was re-instated as a personal account. Could we please ask to be reinstated as a personal account so we can retrieve our content (photo albums, notes, etc)?
We would also like to register a complaint about this policy. First, we do not believe that your Terms prohibit organizational profiles. The terms do specify "personal, non-commercial use only", but we believe that our profile satisfies this requirement. We represent the University of Kentucky Library - the profile represents actual humans, and we make no attempt to disguise our identities. We provide contact information and have created additional separate profiles for several of the librarians who contribute to the main Library profile. We're not selling anything. Please send us the specific section of the terms that you believe we have violated.
We also believe that an interpretation of the terms that prohibits university libraries from having a Library profile is counter-productive. Facebook is focused on creating an institutional identity. A university library has a place within this network.
Several libraries around the country have created Facebook profiles and had a very positive response from the students, faculty and staff who have individual profiles. Our profile had been active only a couple of months and we already had 50 friends. Libraries are a growing presence on Facebook. Several blogs, articles and discussion lists cite numerous libraries with profiles and the positive response they are seeing from patrons. Search for "Library" and you'll find 82 names on Facebook accounts across many networks. (And we doubt even one of those represents a human whose mother named him "Library".) Librarians love Facebook.
We appreciate the suggestion to form a group to serve as the Library profile, but that option is not satisfactory. We want people to know that our profile is the institutional profile. We don't want to be yet another one of the 70 library "groups" already available in the Kentucky network. If a Facebook user searches for a library group within the Kentucky network, we will be sandwiched between organizations like "Library Hoes" and "I Get My Drink On In the Library". Before we were shut down, searching for Library in the Kentucky network brought up one name: Ours.
Libraries are just beginning to get involved with social networking, so the true benefit of our involvement in this arena has yet to be seen. It's unfortunate that Facebook is beginning to crack down on a new use of your site that in no way violates the intent of your terms (we are NOT misrepresenting ourselves) and which may in fact serve to promote your service and be a benefit to your users. We ask that you reconsider. Please reply to this request or let us know if we should contact someone else at Facebook.
From: XXXXXXXX from Facebook [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 5:28 PM
To: Greenwell, Stacey
Subject: [rt.facebook.com #788092] Account disabled
Thanks for contacting Facebook.
UPDATE: This is the final correspondence I received from Facebook:
I regret to inform you that we will not be able to comply with your request. The account has been permanently disabled. Thanks for understanding.
I've been experimenting with the Group feature for a few weeks now and it's just not the same. What do I miss? Having friends, for one. If someone joins our group, our group is buried under a whole bunch of other groups in the individual's profile. When we were a profile, we were front and center with the individual's friends. When we were a profile, we had Interests and Activities and Notes--now I'm forced to cram all that stuff on the Wall which just doesn't work very well.
The thing that bothers me most about being denied access to the profile one last time is that we lost all our friends. Friends we'd worked hard to collect--I know most of my library orientation class befriended us after a very enthusiastic presentation, and I know other librarians feel the same. I've been slowly inviting people who were once our friends to join our group, but it's still not the same. Facebook, we are disappointed!
UPDATE TWO: Another thing I dislike about the Facebook group is not knowing when there is activity on the group. With the profile, we'd get an email when we got a new friend or wall post. We must have had a flurry of activity yesterday, as when I checked this morning, we had a wall post and 38 group members.
I miss changing our picture, as well. The Wildcat posed for a number of promotional pictures we use for freshmen orientation classes, and it was great to switch our profile photo to one of those many pictures. Sometimes when you see a friend has a new profile photo, you are inclined to click on the profile and see what's new--something else we've definitely lost with the group.