Can I Quote You On That? Social Media Guidelines & Library Patrons

I’m taking the HyperlibMOOC class this fall. It’s been a fun experience: far exceeding my expectations with stimulating discussions, lectures, activities, and side conversations.

Currently, I’m working on a social media guidelines assignment for class. Browsing around the web for examples of other library social media policies, I stumbled on to one which I won’t call out by name. Their policy states:

“We reserve the right to use your comments in promotional materials, to use your stories to show others what makes [insert library name] unique and extraordinary.”

Is this standard boiler plate language? If so, what exactly does it mean?

  • Would retweeting a comment such as: Got my assignment done! This library rocks! count as part of this?

I do that at my library without really thinking about it. To me, it’s part of the ethos of Twitter.

Or, might I see your Twitter post or Facebook comment incorporated into promotional materials for the library? Like an advertisement or poster. That I have a problem with. I’m not part of tin-foil hate brigade when it comes to privacy, but I do expect a certain base amount of protection and I bristle at things that come across as pure advertising.

Let’s say I posted something on the library’s Facebook page and then saw it captured and featured on large plasma displays in the library:

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 3.00.58 PM

THAT would bug me. Without my permission? No.

I’m not exactly sure I have an answer for what IS the dividing line in terms of social media and privacy. It often seems rather fluid.

As a librarian and as a professional, I’ve always felt it was just the “right” thing to do to ASK people for their permission to use comments in advertisements and promotions. We’re inviting people to “friend” and “follow” us, I’d rather not risk that friendship just for an advertisement.

What do you think…Am I way off-base here? Is the library a business like anything else? Should we be mining our patrons’ comments and posts for our benefit without asking? Let me know!

18 thoughts on “Can I Quote You On That? Social Media Guidelines & Library Patrons

  1. I’m not sure I agree with you here. I think that if you post something publicly on your social media feed, you have to assume it could be re-tweeted, captured, or used in ways you don’t anticipate. I have no doubt the terms of the social media agreement even explicitly permit it (though who reads those?!). If it is a private or friends-locked post, that’s different, but a public one? I reckon it’s fair game.

    Not saying I necessarily think it SHOULD be like that, but I think it’s how it is.

    • I agree…I think I should have emphasized it terms of “ethics” and not “privacy.” Of course, anything you post in public could be fair game for anyone…but is it the “right” thing to do? That’s what I was trying to get at.

  2. That’s a tough one since basically all social media is published or public if you set it so. If it were on Twitter and your account was private that would be wrong. But asking is so simple!! Why not just ask. Anyway, it’s a great idea to even ask to reuse others posts. Cool ideas.

  3. It makes sense to me to put a broad scope of allowable use in that policy, especially because the library intends to use social media comments to promote the library to the community, not to sell products or otherwise make a profit from a user’s social media comments. If the library tied its hands by instituting a permission-only based use of social media content, it would quickly find the process bogged down by procedure (obtaining & maintaining permission forms, etc.), activities for which I’m sure that no library has the extra staff time.

    I agree that public posts are fair game, and would only change the policy by adding a quick and easy method to submit a take down/opt out request for anyone who does not want their social media comments to be used by the library.

    • Here’s the thing I have a problem with: yes, many of our posts are “public” unless you have everything locked down, but I still wouldn’t want to see ME in an advertisement for ANYTHING. Re-tweets? No problem. That’s the game of Twitter. But taking comments/posts and re-arranging them into ads/promotions? I still have an issue with that. Definitely agree with you on covering your bases with a policy. Just keep in mind the public doesn’t usually read it. I’m also really peeved at everything set to opt-out. But that’s just me. 🙂

  4. I think they should be able to use but should contact you first. Most people would be happy to have their post, instagram, etc featured.

    • Thanks, Carlie…love your social media policy – particularly the “Be” statements (be curious, be creative) – that’s a great way to frame the guidelines. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Well, I am focusing on what you said about your comment “being captured and featured on a large plasma at the library”. I think that is not fair game to transport someone from the web to another media display.

    If you think about it, we are public persons on the street, also the stores have their front doors on the street and if you are out, anyone can see you, see the storefronts, you cannot hide from someone if you’re out… but! If someone wants to take a picture of you or a picture of the storefront or filming it, they have to ask permission: to reproduce the faces, the storefront logo, facade and else…

    So, yes, it is not fair to do it, not ethical of course.

    I can retweet, repost and forwared digital content that is out there on the internet because they’re there.. out there, to be seen by anyone. As anyone can see you on the street if they’re walking in front of you. But to REUSE this information (reproduce and also record and archive) without consent, that of course I think is illegal. This issue might get further: they’re using you to publicize their services… are you getting paid for that? I don’t think so.

    So, yes, I think is wrong, unethical at some point might be illegal. Not a great issue on illegal aspects, but still.

    Well, that’s my opinion… any comments?

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  8. Hmm for years now I’ve taken recent “thank you” comments from students (usually from emails, occasionally from hand-written notes) and posted them on my “Welcome” libguide pages as anonymous peer testimonials (“Some Spring 2013 testimonials from students”, ex. I have a calendar reminder to update those comments each winter and summer break. Now I feel guilty for not asking permission first.

  9. That’s an interesting one! I think asking permission is best.

    1. (particularly if this is a library’s social media policy)……I think messaging people to ask permission helps to promote a culture of good practice re ‘ask permission’ (/check copyright) before using content; and I think the opposite is also true – if people are accustomed to having their content reused (whether they mind or not) without their knowledge, that sets a precedent for doing the same in other contexts.

    2. I think messaging people to ask permissions is a good opportunity to engage with your users. If you contact the commenter it creates dialogue – commenter will feel valued in their contribution on the site; builds up a more personal relationship; can build greater trust.

    3. I agree with what you say about the difference between Twitter re-sharing culture and re-usage of your comment in a different context of separate advertising or promotional material. I would react very differently to the two.
    Another factor would be did the user comment on a public or closed group Facebook page? Say someone is a member of a large closed Facebook group with hundreds of members. Anything posted there is pretty public, but within limits. I think taking a comment from a group such as that, and using it as advertising in a completely public setting is ethically ‘a bit hmmmm’ (technical term there) even if legally you covered yourself with the policy disclaimer.

    • Lots to think about, isn’t it? I definitely agree there’s a big difference in what’s legal (a lot!) versus what’s ethical. I’m surprised I haven’t seen a “best practices” for this type of thing – or maybe I’m not digging hard enough!

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