Umbrella 2011 – Session B – Creating a personal learning network and keeping up to date using social media

Key points:

  • Websites are dead. They’re not where development is happening.
  • Instead, development is happening in social media resources.
  • People are cyber-nomadic now. They go where the conversations are.
  • Namechk.com  – find out where you are online.
  • Personalizemedia.com – Gary’s social media count.
  • Facebook becoming a search engine
  • Quora – a Q&A website.
  • Flipboard.com – news collation service.  – getting social media to bring the data to you.
  • Liking and +1ing now influencing search engine ranking. This can be seen on Google.
  • Blekko.com create your own search engines. Uses slashtags to restrict searched sites to particular topics.
  • Search is becoming social. The traditional idea of search is no longer useful.

Thoughts:

  • The idea is to create a personal learning network, but who (realistically) has the time to do that?
  • Can the librarian take on this work – aggregating searches and creating bespoke (subject specific) search engines so that the end user doesn’t have to?
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Umbrella 2011 overview

This is going to be a (personal) overview of the conference. I’ll post some notes, thoughts and ideas from the sessions I attended in separate posts.

It’s rare to leave an event and feel that you did everything you set out to. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the years that I’ve sat on the train home and thought ‘Damn! I really should have spoken to X and Y’. I spoke to everyone I wanted to and felt quite happy going up to someone randomly in the exhibition, sticking my hand out and saying ‘Hi…’. The me of 12 years ago would be rather shocked at the boldness of her older self.

I even managed to rescue a situation where I got one person confused with another and (after dying inside for about 30 seconds) had a nice conversation with them about their work. Long story, don’t ask…

Wearing a name badge helped and saved a couple of seconds at the introductions stage. The first thing that everyone asked me was what my workplace acronym  stood for.  It often led to an interesting conversation about my work, why it was different to lots of other library jobs and the old ‘making a real difference’ chestnut. By day 2 of the conference I had developed a natty little patter to regurgitate when the question arose.

I was really struck, particularly on the second day, by how downbeat lots of the attendees were. That in turn impacted on the mood of the conference. I think many of us are feeling battered and bruised, particularly if we’ve been affected by restructures and redundancies over the last couple of years. Maybe I’m being a bit soft here (it’s my age) but I would’ve really appreciated someone senior standing up and thanking us for all that we do and to keep fighting for our libraries. It may seem like a silly gesture but a simple word of thanks can mean so much.

The workshops and talks are the major feature of the conference (of course) but as a solo professional I really valued the chance to network. It’s something I do so rarely ‘in the flesh’ and I was pleased to see that my brain hadn’t completely atrophied in the two years(!) since I last attended a library conference. It was good to have conversations about libraries without sounding like a massive geek (not that there’s anything wrong with a. Talking about libraries and b. Being a massive geek).

It was also fun to put faces to names and find out if the Library Crowd on Twitter matched their online personalities. For the most part, they did. Goodness knows what they made of me with my grinning, hand-flapping and gabbling at 100mph. Oh well, to quote an Apprentice candidate, I am what I say on the tin.

An Umbrella of anonymity

Ela-ela-ela (just getting it out of my system before tomorrow)

I have been allowed out of a. Work and b. The House of Twins to attend the bi-annual library conference, Umbrella.

I attended the 2009 conference and had rather a good time. I suspect that this one will be a bit different. Back in then I was completely and utterly anonymous in the library world. Ok, not totally anonymous. There were a few people there that I knew from courses, other conferences, previous workplaces and the #oxfordlibrarymafia.

Two years on….

I actually don’t know. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that even a third of the people there will know who I am, but I reckon that I’m probably going to at least recognise approximately 20-30 people and a few of them might recognise me in return.

I’ve done a little bit of self-promotion in the last two years. I started engaging with fellow professionals on Twitter and (bloody) LinkedIn and I started Librarians with Lives. I don’t put my full name or my workplace online but my social networking profiles have a picture of me and it probably isn’t that hard to work out who I am and where I work if you were nosey enough to want to.

Preparation-wise I haven’t done a huge amount. I have already decided which sessions I’m going to attend, with the exception of Session E on Wednesday morning. I think I’ll just make a last-minute punt and go for something unusual. Other than that, I have largely focussed on professional development; social networking in the workplace; and IT development. I’m also looking forward to the exhibition (not just for the freebies); the poster sessions; the chance to catch up with a few people and the social aspects of it.

I’m not taking my laptop. It’s too big to lug around for two days. I’m going to rely on my iphone, pen and notepad for notes. I don’t have personal cards but do have business cards so I’ll take a few of those. I think I know what I’m wearing (my outfit for the gala dinner is sorted) and I used to spend a lot of time travelling for work so I’m pretty adept at fitting everything I need into a small wheely suitcase. I have joined the Umbrella Spruz network. I need to pack my gala dinner ticket and joining instructions.

Now, a word about the social events. I actually think they’re almost as important as the conference itself. Unless something terrible happens I’m not planning on having an early night on Tuesday evening. I can (and often do) go to bed early so, as a parent of young children, the chance to stay up a bit later, socialise with grown-ups and have proper conversations appeals hugely. I’m not exactly going to be dancing on the bar at 1am (I’ll leave that to the other party animals) but I hope to make a decent show of being sociable.

Finally: a visual clue if you’re not sure who I am. I will be sporting very interesting nails.

Hope to see you there…

Are you a cheerleader or an Eeyore?

What image do you project?

In person?

Online?

I’m going to take a wild guess here and speculate that the ‘real’ you and the ‘online’ you are a bit different.

In person, my outwardly controlled yet chatty and smiley persona is a fabulous mask for the internal conflict I’m experiencing inside. I’m a duck – everything looks serene on the surface but I’m actually flapping wildly under the water.

Online I’m a bit more relaxed. On occasion, too relaxed. I’ve deleted tweets, rewritten blog posts and regretted Facebook status updates. It’s easy to forget that no matter how large or small your ‘reach’ is someone somewhere will read what you write.

If you’re using social media in a professional capacity it’s really important to think about the image you project. A very good friend of mine recently told me, emboldened by a glass or two of an excellent Sauvignon Blanc, that I came across as ‘Quite cross’ on Twitter. They knew that this wasn’t the ‘real’ me and (I think) thought it was a shame as I’m not quite as relentlessly grumpy in real life.

I reflected on the conversation afterwards and concluded that they might be right…to a point. It depends how closely you follow someone and whether you’re a workplace tweeter or a 24/7 tweeter. I suspect that they don’t read my commentary on The Apprentice or my excitement about weekend visits to the zoo. I’d like to think that my overall ‘package’ of tweets/updates falls into the sometimes curmudgeonly, mostly positive, occasionally whimsical and that you get a rounded picture of me as both a professional and as a person.

Sometimes I see other people’s tweets or status updates and roll my eyes and/or sigh a bit. I’m a contrary soul because relentless ‘YEAH YEAH I’M HAPPY THE WORLD IS BRILLIANT AND I’M THE BEST PERSON IN IT. I’M THE SAVIOUR OF EVERYTHING! HI-FIVE ME!’ stuff drives me a bit nuts but equally the constant ‘Woe is me, the world owes me a living, everyone is out to get me, I’m suffering.’ comments are…ill-advised. The relentlessly upbeat stuff makes everyone hate you and the Eeyore stuff leads to compassion fatigue.

Don’t forget that past, present and future employers can read what you write. The person you disliked in that conference round-table might be the person you end up sitting next to for three years in your next job, so don’t slag them off online. People come back from maternity leave. No-one likes a show-off. Equally, we might laugh at Victor Meldrew but would we want to live next door to him?

I’m not suggesting for a second that you create an entirely separate online persona for the perfect professional inside you. You’ll only get found out in the end. In any case, the perfect professional doesn’t exist. They’d be terribly dull, I suspect. The duck principle isn’t a bad one – project calm confidence on the surface and keep the internal conflict locked away.

Or start writing a blog.

Disillusioned

Before I start – I love my job. My family have jokingly described the Library I run as ‘My other baby’ and they are pretty much right. I birthed the library, I water and nurture it. I protect and defend it. It has grown into something I’m rather proud of.

I’m feeling rather disillusioned with the information profession generally.

Why?

1. I think we’ve forgotten why we exist. Libraries cannot exist without their patrons/end-users/public. In the general stampede to stand up and shout and defend information provision for the great unwashed (and to tell everyone we’re doing it) we’ve forgotten to ask them what they actually want. Information professionals have a tendency (and I include myself in this) to decide that they know what’s best for the users, which isn’t always the case.

There’s a definite whiff of ‘Dad at the disco’ about some of the leaps we’ve made in terms of online presence, Web 2.0, etc. Yeah! We’re groovy! We’re hip! We’re down with the kids! A great example of this is Second Life. A number of libraries leapt on the Second Life bandwagon a few years ago because they thought they should. Do many Libraries have a Second Life presence now? I’d love to know. Instead of assuming that we know what our users want and imposing our will on them whilst also trying to be cutting edge means that we can forget what a good service actually looks like.

2. A Library isn’t a means to an end. We are, lest we forget, a support service. To define ourselves in the same bracket as doctors, lawyers and accountants in terms of professionalization is utterly ludicrous. We promote learning. We support evidence-based practice. We enable people to do their jobs; and/or conduct their lives just that little bit better.

I’m under no illusions about my job and my place in the organisation I work for. I support front-line practice and I enable people to undertake CPD. If people stop using the library, I’ll lose my job. It’s as simple as that. I’m not out on the front line dealing with the messy stuff in social work. I (hopefully) make the social workers’ lives a little bit easier. If I provide some information that can influence a decision in a small way that will positively benefit a family or a child, I’m doing my job properly. I can make the library as pretty and forward-thinking as I like but the moment I stop focusing on the needs of the end user, I’m sunk.

3. There’s too many people trying to make a name for themselves rather than focusing on their jobs. I do wonder when some people actually do the work they’re allegedly paid to do. How can they fit it in between the CPD and telling us what to think and how to behave? Giving someone a platform and a voice doesn’t make them God (before you ask, I’m aware of the irony of that sentence….)

I do not have time to sit and ponder the great conundrums of the information profession during working hours. Why? I’m too busy ploughing on with my job. If I had time to look up and take a breather I’d be concerned about the effect that would have on the very detailed statistics I keep that help to justify the existence of the Library. Which reminds me – it’s not just public and academic libraries that are struggling at the moment. Show me a library service that isn’t under some sort of threat and I’ll show you someone with serious delusions. We’re all fighting demons, even if we’re not prepared to shout about it publicly.

I keep trying to remind myself that Information Professionals are BRILLIANT. We’re great at doing more with less. We provide fantastic, comprehensive services. Above all, we CARE so much about what we do that we’re evangelical about it. These are all great things, and we should be proud of them. I just think we need to be more self-aware and not think that we’re the gatekeepers of all knowledge. We can learn as much from our users as they can from us.

That’s a fairly key point. I think the root of my malaise is the sense that, as a group, we’re losing sight of what we’re for and why we do it. I sincerely hope that isn’t the case. I don’t want to fall out of love with the information profession completely, but at this point, my relationship with it is pretty rocky.

The little things that you hide…

…and the little things you show (a prize for the first person to work out which song that – slightly paraphrased – line comes from). I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much I reveal of myself on Twitter and what it really says about me as a Librarian with a Life.

I started off my Twitter life with one account and now have three:

JWo79 – personal/librarian. Likely to be fairly professional 9-5 Monday-Friday. Outside working hours the content is fairly random.

House of Twins – the Twitter presence for my ‘other’ life – terribly Twee and Twinny. Best avoided if you don’t like children. (It’s ok – sometimes I don’t like them much either)

Libswithlives – rather neglected, but it’s the official feed for this blog.

For some inexplicable reason the JWo79 account has the most followers and I’m aware that the vast majority of them are librarians.  As a result I’m now putting much more thought into my Tweets. Well, that’s the theory anyway. I still have red mist moments where I punt something out into the Twittersphere, experience instant Tweet regret and delete the offending message(s) immediately afterwards. If, like me, you rarely follow Twitter live, you won’t see the Tweet. If you follow in ‘real time’ then you’ll see my wobbler in 140-character technicolour.

With my grown-up head on, I know it’s not wise to have brain farts on Twitter. My JWo79 account is private but I don’t want to put myself in a position where I end up working with someone I previously had a falling-out with on Twitter or, even worse, not get a job because my social networking presence is considered to be too unprofessional.

I really like a balance of professional and personal content.  I’m far more likely to click on a link or follow a blog if I know more about the person than just the occasional link to a CILIP document. I personally find it harder to engage with librarian Twitter accounts that *just* talk about library stuff. I like to get to know the person beyond their job. A bunch of dry links and RTs and nothing else don’t really do it for me.

However you choose to conduct your Twitter account (and it’s very much a personal thing), you have to be comfortable with the image you project. Some people balance the personal and professional with ease. Others hide behind their professional front and offer tantalising hints as to their life beyond work. I’m fairly convinced that some people have no life at all beyond the profession. A few would rather tell you about the cocktail they’ve just mixed rather than the meeting they attended. As long as they’re not mixing a White Russian at 9am on a Monday morning…

Everyone develops their own boundaries and strong sense of what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour on Twitter. I don’t like being shouted at for not committing more of my time to library campaigning (to which I desperately wanted to reply ‘I can’t because I’ve got a F*****G life’. See? A classic red mist moment. I had to physically walk away from my iPhone, which is quite difficult to do on a train). My view on library campaigners is now a much more balanced ‘If they didn’t exist we’d have to invent them and I’m mostly glad that they’re around and that they care so much’.  I don’t like being ‘told’ not to watch a certain TV programme. Start imposing your will on others and you’re practically begging for an Unfollow. I know that the messages aren’t personal but it’s easy to forget that behind the usernames lie real people. That reminds me: a simple ‘Thank you’ when you answer a question doesn’t go amiss. Politeness costs nothing you know.

The longer you Tweet, the more you learn. Recently I joined in with a particular hashtag, but did so on my HoT feed rather than the JWo one because it revealed something about me that I wouldn’t be totally comfortable with a bunch of professional contacts knowing. Six months ago I probably would have Tweeted it as JWo79. I feel that I have developed a strong sense of who I am on Twitter and the image I want to project. It may not be perfect, but at least it proves that I am a rounded human being.

LwL seminar – 14-December-2010

I mentioned in a previous post: CPD in three dimensions that I was going to do a seminar on CPD and Librarians with Lives. I had grand plans to do a Prezi thing (bells, whistles, etc) but then, as it always does, life took over and I found myself hastily cobbling together an extremely primitive Powerpoint presentation the night before. I have posted it here for your delectation. Don’t laugh too much:

LwL presentation – SCIE 14-Dec-10

(Note – the original presentation had an extra slide in, which I have since removed)

I took away three messages from the seminar:

1. Find your CPD niche (I’ll write a post on that in the New Year)

2. Twitter isn’t always the answer (especially if you are uber-suspicious of the medium and you have vowed never to use it)

3. Don’t let the profession take over your life (if you don’t want it to)