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Facebook as a social search engine and the implications for libraries in the twenty‐first century

Mark‐Shane Scale (Library and Information Studies, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Article publication date: 21 November 2008




The primary objectives of this research paper are to explore the concept of social search, evaluate the performance of Facebook as a social search engine, and to understand the relationship between social networking sites (SNS) and social search. The author's intention is to examine the possibility that Facebook presents as the future of on‐line search and the implications for libraries.


This study reviews the literature on SNSs, Facebook studies, and the concept of social search. It then explores Facebook as a social search engine through participant observation, personal experience and experiment. The experiment is based on two identified search queries. Both queries are performed, wherein the results retrieved are displayed using tables and evaluated.


Facebook as a people search engine, yields irrelevant results in response to search queries for unknown persons or groups. Facebook may also fail to provide timely and relevant results when attempting to get information from persons with whom the user has a weak relationship. Findings also indicate the limitations of users functioning as quasi‐librarians as it relates to the quality of information retrieval.

Practical implications

The findings are relevant for library and information science academics and professional practitioners.


The author provides an approach for evaluating the quality of information retrieval in social search using the traditional information retrieval evaluation methods of library and information scientists. He also revisits old arguments on the importance of the profession to web information in light of new trends and data.



Scale, M. (2008), "Facebook as a social search engine and the implications for libraries in the twenty‐first century", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 540-556.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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