I've seen lots of blog posts and articles and discussions on what G+ is about, and how it is a this killer or that killer. If I had a penny for each of them I'd be quite rich. Does that stop me writing my own? Of course it doesn't.
G+ isn't an anything killer. Sure, I imagine that Google would love it if Twitter got whumped, or Facebook fell off the face of the earth as we all flocked like dutiful sheep across to G+, but it's not happening anytime soon. And, as per my previous blog post, Microsoft is going to be wading into the mire in the not too distant future with their offering. G+ isn't (and this is of course all just my own opinion) bothered about them. Google is doing what Google always does, and that's to go after the money.
The problem that Google has always had is that its main method of making money - search - is at absolute odds with the end goal. Google wants to serve us lots of adverts and get us to click on them. It has to provide a vaguely decent search engine in order to do this, but if the search engine does what it should do, we click on a good site and we're off. We've left Google and their adverts behind. Google doesn't make money out of being a good search engine, it makes money out of being good at serving us with appropriate adverts that match our search. If Google is constantly fighting itself, Facebook is doing the exact opposite, because it's bringing the advertisers to the users. What Google should, and I suspect is worried about isn't the number of users of Facebook per se, it's the fact that companies are now creating their own Facebook sites and are encouraging users to go directly to those, instead of doing a search for the company at Google and clicking on the advert, thus making Big G a pile of cash.
Google has a bunch of different and interesting products - some of which directly provide you with adverts, such as Gmail, and others that don't, but even in that case, they're all part of the Google family. The problem up until now is that they're all separate and individual. I can use Gmail without using Search, and I can certainly use Firefox or IE without a consideration for Chrome at all. Consequently the thing that I find most interesting with G+ is this:
Wherever I go in the Google world I'm now seeing this. It's a constant reminder to click on that little red notification box to see what's going on. With Facebook, it's either an email (which guess what, I get via Gmail) or I have to open the tab and take a look. As long as I'm anywhere in Google, I'm now being kept informed. As another point - and I admit that I might be taking paranoia to new heights here, is that I find that I get a much better feel for G+ when I'm in Chrome. Notifications are faster, smoother and more effective. In Firefox and IE it does seem to lag slightly. Consequently I'm now tending to have Chome open in my second monitor with G+ open on the screen all of the time.
G+ is going to be adding new functionality in the coming weeks, and I'm guessing that just about every single major change that they make is going to be to embrace more of their resources. I'm expecting to see the ability to import GoogleDocs for example. GoogleReader isn't far behind, and that may well bolster up the weakness that is the Sparks option. If G+ can add in my RSS feeds that's going to be a huge thing for me. iGoogle is going to be coming along sooner or later as well.
Do libraries/librarians really need to know this stuff?
In my opinion, it's absolutely vital that they do. Libraries will need to create their own profiles and presence on G+ in exactly the same way that some of them having been doing on Facebook. I'd like to see librarians getting a good grip on G+ so that they can explain it to library users. I think it would be really cool to see some posters above workstations that go through the basics AND offer invites to users as well.
As an aside, you'll doubtless get people whining on about how you've already wasted time on Facebook, and now you want to do the same thing on G+ and can't you just get it right first time and various other blah blah blah and meh comments. The constant here is that you need to go to where the conversations are. You weren't wrong, and are not wrong in having a presence on Facebook. But equally, you need to be anywhere online that it's important to be, and right now, that's including G+. Besides, a key role for the information professional is to inform and assist users, and if they want to know about G+ - and they will, we need to know enough in advance to help them.
Librarians need to start using the +1 option both in G+ and more generally. If you have people who are using G+ - and certainly if the library/librarian has invited them, they'll see the kind of thing that their librarian thinks is important. That in turn flags up the value of what the librarians are doing. The more that we can do in the area of +1'ing and Liking stuff (not forgetting Facebook of course) the more we're constantly bringing ourselves to the attention of our user groups. The more of this we can do, which in the medium term will also affect search results, preferably for the better for our users, the more they can see the value we can bring to them and their communities.
One last thing, which is an interesting graph. At the moment G+ 'only' has about 10,000,000 users. Small fry in comparison to Twitter and Facebook. But they've been around a while. Let's take a look at a graph that shows something different - how long it took to reach 10 mil users: