Libraries using Flickr to share photographs sometimes wonder about Flickr’s system of contacts. What are the benefits of making someone your contact? What should you do if someone makes you a contact? Do you need to reciprocate?
Flickr members name each other as contacts to make it easier to see each other’s new pictures. When you login, you always see four recent pictures from your contacts on the Flickr Welcome page, and every user has a contacts page which displays new pictures from your contacts.
Naming people as contacts, friends or family also allows you to set different levels of access to your pictures. For example, you can make certain pictures only visible to your contacts, and can set your profile so only contacts can add comments to your pictures. There are three levels of association between Flickr members: contacts, friends, and family.
You might find these features useful in your library account. Naming other libraries as contacts is one way to see what they’re doing with Flickr. And you might want to set some photographs to be seen or commented on only by people certain people, like staff or members of a reading group, for example.
But you don’t need to reciprocate and make someone a contact just because they make you one. I have a personal Flickr account, and have made many libraries contacts to make it easier for me to check in on them and see what they’re doing. But just because I am interested in looking at your library pictures, it doesn’t mean that your library is interested in looking at pictures of my dog or whatever.
The same will no doubt be true for your library users — some of them will name you as a Flickr contact because they’re interested in seeing what’s happening at the library, but they probably don’t expect you to care about their vacation and holiday photos.
Publicize your library’s Flickr account, and link to it from your library website. Encourage your users to name you as a contact, or follow your RSS feed. You’ll get a message when people name you as a contact, but don’t feel that you need to reciprocate — most people won’t expect this, or even notice it.