Reflection and evaluation

reflections by flickPrince via flickr CC

This post is my final entry for the Social Media subject for my Masters and is designed to both evaluate and reflect on my learning throughout the semester.

As library and information professionals there is no doubt that web 2.0 technologies and social media tools are useful professional development tools and allow us to find new ways of presenting information and communicating and engaging with our customers, including our internal customers. However, as with the introduction of any new library service, there is a danger in providing that service without identification and analysis of user needs first and a strategic planning approach is essential (Choy 2010).

The three study exercises that have most informed my thinking on this are represented in the posts Mapping my PLN, Our online identity  and Information policy. The first two bring together many benefits of social media, particularly in the sense of collaboration and engagement between professionals. The third post looks briefly at how good policy can ensure the tools are used in a way that benefits both organisation and individuals.

Collaboration and engagement are key elements of web 2.0 technologies. In the library and information profession we can use these tools to connect with other professionals as well as with our customers. We know from Li and Bernoff’s Groundswell (2011) that in social media it is important to engage and have a conversation, not just use the tools as a marketing platform for our own causes. This holds true for PLN development, regardless of the tools used. A ‘water cooler’ conversation in the physical office relies on at least two people, talking, listening and commenting, otherwise it is just broadcasting, not conversation.

Social media blurs the line between personal and professional and our online identities are often a blend between the two. Hutton (2008) points out that by participating in online communities we are putting our identities out there for all to see. In this situation it is difficult to keep our place of work from becoming connected with that online identity so careful management of that is required. The Victorian Department of Justice released a video to staff outlining the key points of its social media policy, including that they recognise staff are probably active users of social media and would like them to specify that any views in their personal online space are their own and not those of the department. This aspect of the policy protects both staff and employer from any unforseen consequences of reasonable online behaviour.

Information policy can also clear the way for staff within an organisation to use collaborative and innovative web 2.0 tools to work with each other and experiment with new ideas –in other words, to work in a Library 2.0 space. Support from management is essential if staff are to be allowed to try new things and take advantage of the benefits social media brings in the professional context. For example, an enterprise network such as yammer would provide an informal way for staff to communicate ideas, links, interesting readings and other things of professional interest to other staff, without further cluttering up the email inboxes of colleagues. However, setting up such a network requires support from management and parent organisations – again highlighting the need for good information policy that anticipates and allows for new services.

Personal reflections

To be honest, I started this subject unsure what there was to learn about the use of social media, given the already wide extent of my involvement. I am a heavy user of social media in both my private and professional life.

One of the reasons I participate in so much social media is because I feel that as an information professional I have a responsibility to experience and understand some of the information seeking tools that are being used. This is partly as a way of evaluating their usefulness to both my employer and me and partly as a way of attempting a connection or engagement with my client group (in this case university students).

However, as I started to do more reading about the subject and approach it from a learning perspective I found myself being more rigorous in my evaluation of various web 2.0 tools – to the extent where I even began to question the automatic adoption of them in academic libraries.  This shift from automatically assuming all social media is good and useful to critical evaluation of its application in my particular work environment has been significant.

A particularly significant moment for me during this semester came when I realised that my post questioning the automatic assumption that social media must be good for our customers was being referred to from a link inside a course management system at Monash University. This link started driving traffic to my blog a week or 2 after I wrote the post about ASU library minute videos – it is coming from a Library Science subject called Professional Practice. The implications of this for me are that I need to continue to think carefully about the views and opinions I publish online – they are highly visible and clearly linked to my online identity.

I have looked at Second Life as part of this subject but did not find it useful – I never seemed to be ‘in there’ at the same time as anyone else and found that it wasn’t intuitive to use and the viewer was resource intensive on my computer. Because I never met anyone else in Second Life, I can’t comment on its usefulness as a meeting place, but with so many other web based social media spaces available I can’t see that it offers any significant value given the difficulty in using it. There are, apparently, many benefits to using Second Life in the education/higher education sector but I was not able to engage with any of these benefits in the time I spent reviewing the space.

Similarly I did not really use delicious as part of this exercise. I looked at the collection of links tagged for our study group and added a few links to it but as I already have an extensive personal library set up within diigo I did not find it to be of much use (except as a way of looking at things highlighted by others in the study group).  However, it was a good introduction to using a bookmarking service collaboratively, as I use diigo as a personal tool rather than a way of sharing information.

And so we have come to the end of the semester. Drawing together some of the things that have interested me most in this subject has been an interesting exercise. I think my focus has been on the community development and engagement that web 2.0 and social media technologies allow – I think that Library 2.0 comes from this engagement rather than from a deliberate attempt to ‘2.0 the library’.

I also potentially now have a work related research project to explore further as a result of completing this subject.

As an information professional in an academic library, engagement with individuals is a large part of my role. My job is to build relationships and networks and leverage those to provide support and assistance to the research and teaching community at my university. Social media helps me do that – by helping me build and develop my networks and professional knowledge through engagement with others and their thoughts and opinions.

Building networks extends beyond my actual job – development and maintenance of my personal learning network (PLN) is a vital part of my ongoing professional development. Utecht’s 5 stages of PLN adoption is a useful measuring stick for understanding the process of PLN engagement but the true measure is whether it is a valuable personal resource or not.

References

Choy, F.C. 2010, From library stacks to library-in-a-pocket: will users be around? Library Management Vol. 32, No. 1 / 2 pp.62-72

Hutton, G. 2008, Privacy & online social networks: a proposed approach for academic librarians in university libraries, Dalhousie Journal of Interdisciplinary Management, Vol. 4 http://ocs.library.dal.ca/ojs/index.php/djim/article/view/2008vol4Hutton/67
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. 2011, Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Harvard Business Review Press
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