23 Things for Archivists

Thing 6: Social Networking

By Kathryn Otto

Facebook probably gets more mainstream press than any other tool on this list—besides blogging and Twitter. And, as we all know, not all the press is positive. Social networks, however, are one of the main ways that young adults communicate with each other—65% of teens 12-17, according to a February 2008 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  A 2011 report by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR) found that 90% of undergraduate college students use Facebook. 

But young adults are no longer the only users of social networks. According to another Pew study published in October 2009, 46% of American adults 18 and older use a social networking site, up from a mere 8% in 2005.

Facebook began as a college-focused social network—it originally required a dot-edu address to join. When it opened up to all comers, many Facebook users were not happy as the exclusivity for young adults seemed lost. Many adults joined Facebook as a way to communicate with their college-age children away at school. Soon they were “friending” other relatives, friends, and acquaintances, quickly realizing why their children liked this new way of communicating.

According to comScore, Facebook is the leading social networking site based on monthly unique visitors, having overtaken its then-main competitor MySpace in April 2008. The October 2009 Pew study reports that 73% of adults using a social network site had a Facebook account and 48% had a MySpace profile.

So, what does it all mean to archives? Whether or not you become a social networking convert, it is important to understand how they work. If our users are communicating through these networks, we need to be able to be there, too. Many libraries have a presence on social networks, and more and more archives are showing up too.

You may be thinking, “why even consider MySpace?” Since social networking sites allow you to have a presence where your patrons are, you might want to consider MySpace if you have or want to attract History Day students. That age group is more likely to be on MySpace. Also, MySpace recently launched what it is calling a mashup of Facebook and MySpace: “Mashup turns your Likes into real content on Myspace, creating a personalized entertainment stream full of videos, music, and more just for you.” 

Please “like” the RAO Facebook page at: Reference, Access & Outreach Section of the Society of American Archivists. There is also a “group” page for 23 Things called: 23 Things for Archivists. There is not a lot of activity there so far; to see how a more active  open group works, check out the Twin Cities Archives Round Table. You can also make a group page “closed,” which means that the members need to be invited or ask to belong, and only members can see the posts.


  • In this Thing you are going to explore a social network. You have the choice of visiting either Facebook or MySpace or, if you are already familiar with those two, try a social network created specifically for adults, such as Gather (“Social Networking with Substance”) or BigTent (for community groups and volunteer groups).
  • Establish a profile; search for people you know and “friend” them; review the privacy settings; join a Facebook group or become a fan of a page; look for other archives-related groups and pages to associate with.

Blog Prompts

  • Write a post on your blog about the groups/pages/friends you find and your thoughts about social networking sites.
  • How can you see yourself using social networking, either for work or personally?


  • If you are interested in having a Facebook presence for your archives, go ahead and set one up now.


*New resources (11-1-11)

Some Archives Pages on Facebook

  1. […] 4 is social networking; it corresponds with Thing 7 on the libraries list and Thing 6 on the archives […]

  2. […] Thing was the first one that really made me self-conscious about my spot on the generational divide. As […]

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