Archive for the ‘Skills’ Category

Evaluating social networking for information professionals

To aid me in evaluating social networking for information professionals, I will be referring to issues raised in three of my previous posts:

  1. RSS – A new way of keeping informed https://socialescapism.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/rss-a-new-way-of-keeping-informed/
  2. Librarian 2.0: Is it anything new? https://socialescapism.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/librarian-2-0-is-it-anything-new/
  3. Social media policies – a lot to think about! https://socialescapism.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/social-media-policies-a-lot-to-think-about/

RSS uses push technology, which means that the user only need to visit one feed reader and it will deliver all of the content for the RSS feeds they have subscribed to (Mu, 2008, p. 10). Not only does this help users keep up to date with websites they are interested in, it can be easily changed or customised by the user to meet their changing information needs.

Fast turnaround time is one of the many benefits of RSS. In the past, library clients would wait for a book to be published to receive information. Turnaround times shortened with journals, and the demand is growing for information being available instantly. Using RSS technology, any blog or website can send information to the user as soon as it is published, which helps libraries remain relevant in the age of “any information I want, any time, anywhere I am” (Holvoet, 2006, p. 32). RSS entries also tend to be much shorter in length, allowing the client to quickly determine if the article is of interest, which is always beneficial in the age of Google snippets!

While investigating RSS technologies, I have discovered that my library’s catalogue has RSS capabilities, allowing our clients to set up a RSS feed for any search that they conduct, allowing them to be updated instantly (almost) when relevant items are catalogued. Our email program has an inbuilt feed reader, so it will not take a great deal of training to get our clients used to these technologies and the feed will display every time they open their email.

Training has become an ever increasing issue for library managers. Information professionals in the digital age, or “Librarian 2.0”, need to ensure their skills remain current in the technologies that could be useful to their clients (Allard, 2009, p. 63). The particular challenge in this training requirement is that technologies are developing at a very fast rate and library staff need to be comfortable enough to not only use the technologies for the library services, but also train library clients in the applications of the technologies.

One traditional attribute of information professionals has become vital in the world of social networking and fast-changing technologies: evaluation of tools and resources (Harvey, 2009). Many clients do not have the time or inclination to evaluate a wide range of tools and decide which ones are the most useful for their information and entertainment needs. Therefore, in many instances, it falls to the information professional to develop their evaluative skills and be able to guide clients in the direction of the tools that would be most suited to them. This role as guide may not be a new one, however it is likely to become even more important as technologies and civilisations develop.

Social media is slowly invading many portions of our lives and many have written about the “blurring between the personal and professional life” for people who use these media (Lynch, 2009). While some amount of this blurring has occurred, there are limitations. Library clients may be happy to have some contact with their library via social media, however some studies have shown that a large proportion do not want to be “friended” by librarians (Liu & Barbaux, 2011, p. 1; Harvey, 2009). Information professionals need to use their professional judgment and knowledge of their clients to ensure they are providing information to the client where they are, without becoming too pushy.

One of the ways to determine these types of issues is to implement a social media policy. A policy, if developed with care, will provide guidelines for employees within an organisation and also help clients know what is considered acceptable when communicating with the library or its clients online. A social media policy is not necessarily just a list of rules; it can provide a blueprint for the future of communications in the organisation (Hopkins, 2011, p. 12). For example, when developing the strategy, a need for knowledge sharing within the organisation may be uncovered. Appropriate social media technologies can be investigated to meet this need, and any associated issues covered in the policy, to help encourage knowledge sharing.

A well thought out social media policy will give the information professionals a sense of confidence about using social media, which may in turn help to foster a closer connection between library staff and clients, allowing staff to understand the clients’ needs more clearly and consequently providing more appropriate resources to them (Hopkins, 2011, p. 12).

While drafting a social media policy, it is essential to keep social media ethics in mind: truth, trust, transparency and accountability (Hopkins, 2011, p. 17). If you aim to consistently be truthful in your communications, build a sense of trust between yourself and your clients, are as transparent as possible about your operations and accountable for your actions, your social media experience will be a lot smoother and many risks mitigated.

My Development as a Social Networker and Implications for my Development as an Information Professional

Prior to my studies in INF506, I had a rather rudimentary understanding of social networking concepts and theories. I used Facebook as a purely personal communication tool, and had dabbled in Twitter, but had not delved further into the myriad of social media technologies. I was very excited to learn more about these, although a little unsure of how I would go!

My nerves were abated a great deal by jumping in head first into this blog as an online learning journal (OLJ) and developing my project using wikis for knowledge sharing.

I had encountered Facebook fan pages and knew many companies used Twitter to communicate with their clients, however I was curious to see how the different technologies could be used by libraries, particularly Flickr, Delicious and Second Life (all of which I had virtually no experience). My interaction with these technologies has whetted my appetite and I am amazed at the potential. I now can see the powerful training and current awareness applications of these technologies. I have become slightly obsessed with Delicious, although I may need to find a new social bookmarking tool to obsess over if the reports of Delicious’ impending demise prove accurate!

Towards the end of this subject I attended the ALIA Information Online conference in Sydney and I discovered that many of the conference papers were about social media, particularly how different libraries were using these technologies. I was particularly impressed by the work that UTS have done in the social media arena, as can be seen by the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, RSS, Foursquare, Flickr, blog and iGoogle gadget icons that are shown on their homepage (http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/; McDonald & McDonald, 2011). My study of social media in the preceding months helped immensely as I already had a good overview of the technologies and could focus on the applications that the libraries had undertaken. I came away from the conference with a number of ideas, which would not have been possible without my previous study.

This subject has, without a doubt had the biggest impact on my professional life of any subjects I have studied at a university level. Firstly, the timing was quite opportune as my organisation had just started to discuss whether we should have a Facebook presence and oh, hang on, we will need a social media policy before we do that! As organisationally speaking, I sit within the IT team; it has given me a good opportunity to share my newfound knowledge and resources with the IT manager.

In addition to the potential new social media policy, I have been asked to develop a library strategy to chart the future of library services in our organisation over the next few years. To be honest, I had not even considered the social media aspect of this, and I feel that my strategy will now have an added depth and help to ensure that we move in the right direction.

After having a play with Twitter throughout the subject and learning more about the ways in which information professionals are using Twitter at the ALIA conference (Doessel & Freedman, 2011), I decided to take the plunge. I have created a Twitter account for my professional life and have “followed” quite a number of information professionals that I met at the conference and others who have been suggested to me. The impact of being able to easily see what other library professionals are doing and ask questions or make comments is profound for someone working in a one person library!

I have taken to heart the advice of using RSS feeds to keep up to date and as a means to undertake current awareness activities. I spent some time researching RSS feeds for subjects that are of interest to my library clients, particularly in the areas of government policy, auditing and sector related information; and have subscribed to these. At this stage I am simply forwarding links to the relevant client, however I will be creating a blog and adding them to that once our social media policy is in place and I have approval.

The importance of continuous learning has been reinforced throughout this subject (Broady-Preston, 2009, p. 265). I have not been keeping up with the many technological changes and this has prevented me from exploiting all the opportunities they provide for both my professional development and for my library clients. My newfound appreciation for continuous learning will help me drive the future of my library service, instead of simply reacting to things as they become issues.

In reflection of the knowledge that I have gained and my new enthusiasm for social media specifically and learning in general, I would like to finish with a quote that really made me stop and think over the last week or so. I am looking forward to a more “literate” future!

 “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who can’t learn, unlearn and relearn.” –Alvin Toffler

 

Image sourced from http://looklinklove.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/social-media-pulitzer.jpg

Reference List 

  1. Allard, S. (2009). Library managers and information in World 2.0. Library Management, 30(1/2), p. 57-68.
  2. Broady-Preston, J. (2009). Professional education, development and training in a Web 2.0 environment. New Library World, 110(5/6), p. 265-279.
  3. Doessel, N. & Freedman, K. (2011). How to write a paper in 140 characters or less: Social media for professional development. ALIA Information Online Conference. Retrieved from http://www.information-online.com.au/sb_clients/iog/data/content_item_files/000001/paper_2011_B6.pdf
  4. Harvey, M. (2009). What does it mean to be a Science Librarian 2.0? Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (Summer). Retrieved from http://www.istl.org/09-summer/article2.html
  5. Holvoet, K. (2006). What is RSS and how can libraries use it to improve patron service? Library Hi Tech News, 8, p. 32-33.
  6. Hopkins, L. (2011). Making social media work for your business. London: Ark Group.
  7. Liu, M. & Barbaux, M-T. (2011). Location, location, location! Meeting students where they seek information. ALIA Information Online Conference. Retrieved from http://www.information-online.com.au/sb_clients/iog/data/content_item_files/000001/paper_2011_B14.pdf
  8. Lynch, C. G. (2009). Twitter tips: How to safely blend the personal and the professional. CIO, 8 April. Retrieved from http://www.cio.com/article/488776/Twitter_Tips_How_to_Safely_Blend_the_Personal_and_the_Professional
  9. McDonald, S. & McDonald, J. (2011). Information literacy for ubiquitous learning. ALIA Information Online Conference. Retrieved from http://www.information-online.com.au/sb_clients/iog/data/content_item_files/000001/paper_2011_C2.pdf
  10. Mu, C. (2008). Using RSS feeds and social bookmarking tools to keep current. Library Hi Tech News, 9, p. 10-11.

With the advent of Web 2.0, it seems that the “2.0” moniker has been used for all sorts of concepts, including Government 2.0, Bank 2.0, Vegemite’s iSnack 2.0(!), as well as Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0. This has caused some confusion about the skills and attributes required by library professionals in the 2.0 world.

 

With so many new technologies and resources being developed every day, librarians need to be adaptable, continuously learning and evaluating new technologies to find the ones that work for our clients. We can not be risk averse; rather, we need to trust in our evaluative skills and our knowledge of our clients to find the best path forward.

 

In order to find the best solutions for our clients, we need to experiment, play with new resources and tools and communicate with our clients about what they need and what works for them. We need to be confident about providing their information needs, even if that means using resources that are not traditionally found in libraries (i.e. links to Google Books, Amazon or so on). In the Web 2.0 world, our clients will find their information one way or another, so we have the opportunity to market ourselves as being able to provide information anytime, anywhere and on any technology our clients use.

 

We need to collaborate and communicate with our clients on a much broader scale, using a wide variety of mediums, including in person, telephone, library website, social networking sites, blogs/wikis, VOIP, mashups, and anything else that they use. In order to do that, we need to keep our technology skills up to date and continuously learning. Training skills will be even more important as we help clients become familiar with some of these tools.

 

Trusting our users is vital. We need their input on what works for them and their collaboration will help to make our collections and knowledge a lot more relevant to the community as a whole. In fact, many of the skills required by a Librarian 2.0 are skills that information professionals have been obtaining for many years. The biggest change however, may be the closer relationships we have with our clients and the level of influence they have into our libraries.

 

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