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)

 

Guest Post #9 – Following events from afar

Jo Alcock is an Evidence Based Researcher at Evidence Base in Birmingham City University. This basically means she’s a librarian without a library who spends her time on research, evaluation and consultancy for the library and information community. You can find Jo on Twitter @joeyanne and blogging at Joeyanne Libraryanne. Here, Jo introduces the concept of ‘Event Amplification’ and demonstrates that even librarians with the most active of lives can still find ways to participate in CPD:

I’m not at the stage of my life yet where I have delightful children who take up all my spare time (though our two cats can be demanding little fusspots at times!), but I do like to think that I have a life outside of work, so I consider myself a librarian with a life. I also have a few professional plates to juggle; I’m still completing my MSc dissertation, I’m a member of two different CILIP committees, and I write a blog.

CPD is important to me. I love to attend events, but it’s not always possible to attend the ones you’d like to – sometimes for financial reasons, or lack of time, or maybe it’s during the day and you have work commitments. But nowadays you can often still follow the event without physically being there.

Event amplification is a term which is being used more commonly now – it refers to the event being amplified beyond its physical barriers, often by utilising technology such as Twitter, live blogging or live streaming. Many event organisers are starting to utilise these technologies to enable people to follow the event from afar. It helps the event get more publicity and could mean more people attending their next event – I’ve certainly earmarked a few events I’d like to attend based on the information I have followed.

Through my Twitter connections, I’ve been able to follow events from all over the world. Sometimes it might not even be an event you’re aware of, but if you spot a tweet from someone and it has an event hashtag, you can then set up a saved search to see all the tweets with the hashtag.

More and more, event amplification information is publicised on the event fliers and emails, so you can even set it in your calendar and try to set aside some time during the day to catch up on the tweets from the event, or watch a particular section of the event when it is live streamed if it’s something you are interested in.

So, if you want to follow events from afar and help others do the same, here are some quick tips:

  • join Twitter and follow people within the community with similar interests to your own – they will be most likely to tweet from events that you will also be interested in following
  • keep an eye out for details of a Twitter hashtag for events or details of any live streaming or live blogging for events you are interested in – add them to your calendar with appropriate URLs where applicable
  • if you attend an event and are able to tweet, explain to your followers what event you are at and include a hashtag if there is one (if there isn’t, consider creating your own to keep all tweets together and make it easier for people to follow)

Here’s to more event amplification enabling us to follow events whilst sat at home in our jim jams or drinking wine – cheers!

First-time voter – CILIP 2011 Elections

I’ve been a member of CILIP (in various guises) since 2003 and every October, without fail, I receive my ballot form for the elections and think ‘Ooh I should really investigate that’ before I put the paper down somewhere, promptly forget all about it and rediscover the form about a month after the voting has finished.

(Actually, that’s not quite true. On occasion I have opened the envelope, looked at the form and promptly filed it in the recycling bin. Bad Jo.)

So, why did I decide to participate this year? Blame Twitter. For the first time I actually *knew* a few of the people running for Council and Vice-President of CILIP. I read the manifestos (for a change) and then did a slightly odd thing. I voted for the candidates that:

1.       I ‘knew’….in a virtual sense at least

2.       Didn’t mention UCL in their manifesto.

Ok, the first one is probably quite normal. In any given situation you’re likely to support the people you have some sort of relationship with, unless they’ve ‘wronged’ you and you’re set on revenge – ‘Pah! I disagree with their stance on copyright. I will show them who’s boss by not voting for them. BWAHAHAHAHA!’. The second reason is actually very pathetic but having been humiliated by that particular institution twice in my thirty years on this planet I tend to give it a wide berth. Incidentally I know some really nice people that went to UCL, good friends, etc., but still. I’m not proud of how I did it, I’m just saying.

Reader, I voted. I sent the form off, rather pleased with myself for not only completing the form but actually finding a stamp and a post box and posting it.

A couple of days later I started to feel…uneasy. Had I really made the right choices? Had I been seduced by people that were part of the Twitterati – the infamous Librarian Crowd – and had fed my ego (and therefore encouraged silly old me to vote for them) by replying to some inanity I’d voted on Twitter? Also, were people running on an unofficial slate and had I blindly – and stupidly – voted for the people on that slate?

Slate. For those that don’t know, at The Place That Shall Not Be Named (you’re bright, you’ll work it out) and probably other institutions but it’s the one I have experience of) a new student committee is elected every term and one of the peculiarities of their elections is that the nominees are not allowed to canvass for votes. Not publicly, anyway. It’s a well-known secret that people are buttered-up, people decide to run ‘together’ on the quiet and if candidate A, B, and C, all running for different positions and decide to co-ordinate their efforts, an agreement is made that any friends of candidate A will also vote for B and C, and so on. Officially, slates don’t exist, but everyone knows that they do and turns a blind eye, effectively (well, not always but that’s another story…).

So, there were (are) hashtags on twitter that imply that certain people are running together. They aren’t (as far as I know) but their similar views on certain issues make them a good team. I’m not a complete moron. I’d read the manifestos. I got the measure of the candidates through their Web 2.0 output. I felt I knew them well enough to believe that they would do a good job.

I spent a good week or so after posting my ballot off feeling a bit…used. Then I got over it. Only the truly Machiavellian (I encountered plenty of those in my brief stint at the Place That Shall Not Be Named) types deliberately set out to win friends and influence people. The people I voted for in the CILIP Elections had decided to run because they wanted to change things from the inside. They all seem like good, genuine people whom I have grown to like and respect. Heck, I’d happily go for a drink with them. Moreover, they are happy to put their heads above the parapet and advocate what we’ve all been thinking about the profession and about CILIP in particular (don’t get me started…) and for that I can only applaud them. I finally feel that, if elected, the people I’ve voted for might actually be able to represent the interests of the average information professional – if such a thing exists.

My reasons for voting the way I did may not be the most scientific but after seven years of apathy I finally put some crosses in some boxes, and voted.

No, I’m not telling you who I voted for… 😉

Commenting is free…so why don’t I do it more often?

Despite being fairly active on various social networks I have to confess that I’m quite selfish when it comes to blogging and Tweeting. Despite following about 260 people on Twitter and 10-15 blogs by librarians via Google Reader I write my own, original stuff far more than I comment on the content of others.

As a Librarian with a Life, one of the timestretched (no, it’s not a real word but it is a Divine Comedy song and if it’s good enough for Neil Hannon…), it strikes me that I’m creating a lot of work for myself here. There are a number of blog posts that discuss how to make the most of Twitter but one that really struck a chord with me was this by The Wikiman. It advocates the importance of regarding Twitter as a conversation tool rather than just punting a random thought out into cyberspace and hoping that someone, somewhere will see it.

This makes sense. Why spend ages wracking my brain for interesting/witty/wise/controversial things to write about when I can simply read something that someone else has written (which I do anyway) and spend an extra minute or two writing a comment? I could then pat myself on the back for participating in a conversation, make someone else feel valuable and popular and put it in my Revalidation portfolio. Job done.

So why don’t I comment more often? The first excuse reason is that on Twitter it’s hard to fit what you want to say in 140 characters and you don’t want to clog up someone’s stream with a six-part diatribe on something you feel passionate on. Google Reader is brilliant but I do find myself skimming much of the content, thinking ‘Ooh, that’s interesting’ and then switching off the laptop to watch The X-Factor. It makes me a consumer of content, rather than a participator in it.

There’s also the fear factor to consider. What if I say something and it’s the comment equivalent of making a joke at a dinner party that no-one laughs at? Or worse, what if everyone thinks I’m a pathetic simpleton? On occasion, I find myself disagreeing with something that I read and have a long discussion with the angel on my right shoulder and the devil on my left as to whether I should be nice and leave well alone or nasty and instigate a virtual plate-hurling argument. The upshot of this is that I generally manage to talk myself out of writing anything at all.

There are undoubted benefits for getting involved and engaging with the conversation though. I started LWL six weeks ago and I’ve already recruited a co-editor and ‘met’ a number of people through Twitter that I would like to meet up and have a drink (or three) with in real life. My follower count on Twitter is now far higher than my Tweets deserve. I almost got involved in a campaign…then stopped myself when I realised that I couldn’t add anything to it. I feel more engaged professionally. I don’t feel like I’m wandering down the high street in my pyjamas, shouting random thoughts on librarianship to passers-by any more.

I’m making a conscious effort to make the leap and participate and I’m now doing this reasonably effectively on Twitter. Most of the conversations I get involved with aren’t actually about librarianship – recent subjects have included: winter boots, the Labour leadership contest (the lesson here? Don’t get involved in political Tweeting after a stomach bug), whether Phileas Fogg was a real person or not (don’t ask), the X Factor (of course) and the merits of dancing librarians (must never, ever post links to those You Tube Videos). It’s a step in the right direction though.

I need to get better at commenting on blog posts. I read so many interesting things and I really need to stop absorbing them mindlessly and start using them as a catalyst for my own thoughts. I need to put aside the sneaking suspicion that everything I say is stupid and instead focus on the fact that bloggers like receiving comments on their posts…as long as they’re positive and/or constructive. I’ll try to keep the hissy-fits to a minimum.

Guest post #1: Keep your(professional)self alive

This is our first (of, hopefully, many) guest post on Librarians with Lives and I’m very pleased to say that it comes from Bethan Ruddock @bethanar on Twitter and library blogger extraordinaire – she of recently Chartered, Mimas, recently honoured by the SLA, Librarian Crowd fame and a rather marvellous example of ‘our’ kind, who was pressganged offered to write a piece for me. Here it is and I think it’s brilliant We would both love your thoughts on it…

So, get me on Twitter of an evening after a glass of wine and I’ll agree to anything!  Such as writing a blog post for this ace new blog.  I really liked the ‘no more than 15 mins on a post’ rule – that’s something I can fit into my overcrowded days!

But what to write about?  I asked Jo, and got the response ‘anything with a prof dev/ revalidation slant really’ and so, me being me, I’ve taken inspiration from the tweet directly below that in my @ replies – from SimonXIX in response to a rather messy (in many ways) thread that had been going about sticky toffee pudding and celery. Don’t ask.  It said: ‘Perhaps suicide is unprofessional. Discuss’

This got me thinking: what is professional suicide? Is it doing something hideously, horrendously unprofessional – insulting members of the audience from the stage at a conference?  Being sued by the music industry for file-sharing? Going on a rampage through the library, destroying books and computers and traumatising users?

Or is it something more insidious?  Rather than going out with a bang, perhaps it’s a gradual death, a slow wasting-away, a gentle decline.  Perhaps professional death starts where professional growth ends.

We’re constantly told that by not eating properly and not doing enough exercise, we’re gradually killing ourselves with neglect.  I’d say the same is true of our careers.  Professional suicide comes not so much from doing anything wrong, but from failing to do the right things, failing to commit to continuing your professional development.  And just like diet and exercise, we need to find that small window of time to cram it into our busy day.

So, 15 minutes of CPD a day then, to keep your career healthy, happy, and active? Sounds eminently achievable.  And you don’t have to do anything spectacular in those 15 minutes – think gentle stretching rather than full-on sprint.  Spend 5 minutes reading a blog post, and then 10 minutes thinking about it while you’re doing the washing up, or waiting for a bus.  Scribble down a to-do list with some long-term goals.  Learn a fact about the information profession, your workplace, or your colleagues that you didn’t know before.

Keep stretching. Keep growing. Keep your career alive.

Other suggestions for 15 minute CPD fixes? Comments please!

CPD for the CBA

Ok, so the CBA isn’t stricty true. Maybe CPD for the timestretched is more accurate?

One of the things I’d really like to do on this blog in share ideas and tips for doing quick, easy and cheap (preferably free) CPD activities.

Using Twitter is a no-brainer. Making friends with CPD-obsessed peers and colleagues so that you can steal borrow their notes from courses and conferences is another. It’s the equivalent of copying their homework. Following blogs (and having a good blog reader) is another must because you can dip in and out.

What else can I do? What else do you do to keep up your CPD?