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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

Our online identity

identity crisis by woodleywonderworks via flickr CC

In June, I blogged about the issues of online privacy and security and I’m revisiting that a bit in the context of online identities.

The places you can find me online are outlined in a post here but the issue of online identity is a bit more complex than just a list of social media sites.

Because our online identities are public (often more public than we realise, in spite of privacy controls (Pearson 2009, Raynes-Goldie 2010)) it is important to manage the message that goes out to other people. Pearson says many people use a form of censorship in thinking about what to put out under their online identity – for example, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother/kids/boss to read.

This is a practical form of privacy control and allows for the ever-present possibility that someone other than your target audience is reading your profile, status updates, e-portfolio or blog posts.

Harris (2010) looks at this from the other end – what can those of us in perceived positions of power or authority do to protect ourselves and our online identities so that they are not construed as being used inappropriately? The example Harris uses is teachers but this is relevant for those working in library and information services as well. From an institutional point of view, good policies around social media and communication can be an important part of safeguarding online identity, of both the institution and the individual staff involved.

In the professional world of libraries and information science, maintaining an online identity is increasingly important for individuals working in the space. Much of my professional informal learning and information exchange is via social media and it enables me to stay connected with others working in a similar field.

Managing the standard of that personal brand may be tricky because social media allows the personal and the professional brands to merge online – for example, my Facebook presence is largely for family and friends but some of those people are also professional colleagues.

Merely by putting our personal brand ‘out there’ in cyber space means we are, to some degree, forfeiting the right to privacy as it has been traditionally understood (Pearson 2010). We need to be aware that working and posting and commenting in the public social media space is akin to putting up a poster on a telegraph pole with our personal details and photograph attached (Hutton 2008). As I said in my June post – I’m ok with that, but the integrity of my personal brand is dependent on that being in the back of my mind every time I press send or publish.

References:

Harris, C. (2010). Friend me?: School policy may address friending students online, School Library Journal, 1 April. Available http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6724235.html

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
Pearson, J. (2009). Life as a dog: Personal identity and the internet. Meanjin, 68(2), 67-77.
Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Availablehttp://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2775/2432

Information policy

The video Did you know 4.0 highlights a number of trends in the way we use information that have implications for policy development within the library and information sector.

Some of the shifts and trends identified in this video include:

  • a significant (and climbing) increase in the use of mobile devices
  • the increase in digital publishing,
  • increased participation by ‘mainstream’ consumers of Web 2.0 technologies means that more people are getting their news and information from social networking sites and they are using cloud services for collaboration and instant feedback
  • the rise of social media usage in organisations has led to the need for new policies to cover activities that were not invented 6 years ago
  • the cost of technology such as smart phones and tablets continues to decrease while the power and capabilities of those devices continues to increase
What does all of this mean for those of us working in the information management space? We have new ways of connecting with our customer base and need to explore which of those ways we implement.
Our organisations must make our services more mobile friendly with specially designed websites or creation of ‘Apps’ for smart phones and tablets.  We need the flexibility to enable us to keep up with new technologies and be able to experiment with new ideas, find our where our customers are and whether we can meet them there in that space.
Making these decisions is easier within a policy framework that provides guidelines for staff venturing into new spaces. The challenge for policy makers is allowing enough flexibility to enable changes (Web 2.0 technologies are only a few years old and would not have been forseen when policy was being written in the early 2000’s) while still ensuring decisions and actions are in keeping with the organisation’s goals and philosophies.  A good policy can protect the organisation and its staff while also allowing room for some creativity and quick decision making in order to meet a customer need.
References:
Bryson, J. (2007). Managing information services: A transformational approach  Burlington. Ashgate e-book

Participatory culture and cloud computing

Clouds by fifikins via flickr CC

At MPOW we get many requests from both academics and postgraduate students for help with referencing software such as Endnote.  One of the problems with download-able software such as Endnote is the portability of data between the devices on which it is installed. You either accept that you have different lists, or carry around USB sticks with data and never be quite sure which is the most up to date….. Enter products such as Endnote Web – storing the information in the cloud and accessing it from home, work, beside the children’s tennis lessons or while waiting in the doctor’s surgery.

This is not a post about Endnote – it’s just one example.

Access is the key – and if you are writing a paper or presentation with others, then sharing also becomes important. Web 2.0 tools enable us to show academics and students how to create a public Dropbox folder for documents, store favourite links in an online bookmarking service such as delicious or diigo, or use Google Docs to collaborate on a paper with colleagues. Kathryn Greenhill describes this process perfectly over at Librarians matter:

Zotero itself has taken the place of any social bookmarking like delicious or diigo. [We] used it to collect references for our [shared] VALA2010 paper over the last couple of months – just adding to a shared group library. We read through and tagged these references and pulled out useful quotes, so now as we write up the paper, we just click on a tag and instantly have a list of references on that topic.

Participatory culture means we need new, social skills as part of our work or study. Cloud services allow our skills in collective intelligence, judgement, transmedia navigation and networking to be utilised easily.

Cloud services carry risks that must be weighed up in making the decision to use them. Control over access to your data is largely out of your hands – behind whatever security has been set up by the company or organisation taking responsibility for the data. The security disaster faced by Sony earlier this year highlights how easily it can all go wrong.

On balance? I’m happy to take advantage of the convenience of cloud services, the way they allow access to my information and allow collaboration with colleagues.

References:

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Available http://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF

Nelson, M. R. (2009). Building an open cloud [Cloud computing as platform]. Science, 324(5935), 1656-1657. Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/cgi/reprint/324/5935/1656.pdf

Mapping my PLN

image created using Popplet for iPad

Alisa Howlett, blogging at Flight Path recently wrote a post based on Jeff Utecht’s 5 stages of PLN adoption.  I would echo much of what Alisa has written, so pop over and read it rather than have me repeat it all here.

Essentially, the 5 stages are identified as immersion, evaluation, know it all, perspective and balance.

It’s hard to identify at which stage I find myself – I have been through intense periods of involvement with my PLN and am certainly no longer at immersion. However, neither am I entirely happy with my current involvement with my PLN so I wouldn’t call it balanced.

Possibly ‘perspective’ is where I am at.  I know I can’t possibly see or take in everything my PLN puts out on twitter and I have stopped trying to follow all of it. Sometimes I find myself feeling left out when there appears to be an interesting conversation going on – and it’s apparent I’ve missed the good bits – but mostly I acknowledge that I can’t possibly see, understand, comment on and participate in every conversation. Or even most of them.

Meredith Farkas wrote a great post over at Information wants to be free about the problems associated with keeping up with the news flow on twitter and her preference for blogging as a medium for keeping all the big ideas in one place.  Adopting this philosophy, I still follow a lot of blogs – an RSS feed (I use Google reader) collects them for me and they sit and wait until I’m ready to read them, rather than rush by me in a busy twitter stream.

Between my RSS reader and my diigo bookmarks, I feel like I’ve got some measure of control over the information flow – and hopefully some balance (or at the very least, perspective).

(The image of my PLN and it’s connectivity is from a great little iPad app called Popplet, I found out about that via a blog post from Kathryn Greenhill over at Librarians matter).

Library 2.0 – really?

Trust is the Key to Web 2.0 by kid.mercury via flickr CC

Over the past year I have heard about the Arizona State University library’s (ASU) creative use of YouTube for their library minute initiative, but hadn’t had a look until today.  For the uninitiated, the library has put together about 30 short videos (they are literally a minute) on a range of topics – for instance, today I watched:

  • Using the Academic Search Premier database
  • Fun & games in the library
  • Meet your subject librarian
  • Top 5 resources for online students
  • Information about open access & why it is important to the library
All of these topics are presented by the same librarian and are a mash-up of live footage of the presenter, video footage, cartoons, photographs, animation and music.  They are very impressive – short and snappy, designed to be easy to watch and get a message across within the limited time a university student may be prepared to give to hearing about library services.  The current thinking in marketing academic library services is to meet the students where they are – and they are looking at YouTube (and Facebook, Foursquare & Twitter).
Now that I’m thinking about these issues from a learning perspective, I found this experience somewhat frustrating and raising more questions than it really answered. On the one hand, the ASU library minute videos and the other ‘library 2.0’ ways they have of communicating with their users and community certainly tick boxes.   Their facebook page in particular creates community, links back to the library website and/or blog and out to the YouTube channel and is a conversation, as library staff respond to comments left by (presumably?) students. In Groundswell, the authors stress throughout the entire book the importance of social media being a conversation.  The book is aimed at a commercial market, but there is much to learn in there for libraries.
On the other hand, while each of the five videos I looked at today have healthy statistics in terms of number of views (all over 1000, some over 3000 views) I can’t help wondering how many of those views might be other librarians from around the world checking out what ASU is doing in this area.  I’m sure the university itself has access to analytics that enable it to know where the ‘hits’ on the YouTube channel are coming from, but as an outsider, it’s hard to tell.
A quick and dirty search on both Google and in some scholarly databases failed to turn up much actual evidence that any of this library 2.0 marketing works. I found many blog posts that question the value of library 2.0, or its implementation, or whether the term itself is accurate. Most tellingly, over on Agnostic, maybe, Andy asked back in February 2010:
How much is Library 2.0 really driven by the user experience? I imagine the library-patron relationship less like a ‘horse and cart’ and more like a planet-moon relationship. (If information was the sun, patrons are the Earth and libraries are the Moon. We are roughly in sync with our patrons, sometimes ahead or behind, and sometimes in the way.) … [sometimes there is] little or no user feedback indicating such a tool or service was desired in the first place
In the case of the ASU videos, the university’s own evaluation of the library minute concept, presented as a poster at Educause 2010 reveals a large number of ‘other library’ users and the fact that 32% of undergraduate students at the university were aware of the videos. This would appear to confirm that the videos are meeting the needs of libraries and librarians but still leaves me wondering about the users. Do they even want to know this stuff?
I have blogged here before about the tendency of librarians (and I suspect, any given group of professionals) to talk amongst ourselves about our services, programs and ideas. Admittedly my ‘literature search’ was rough but I would really like to see some research into whether providing (great quality) videos, links and feedback on facebook has an impact on our users and their perception or use of the library services.
References
Ganster, L., & Schumacher, B. (2009). Expanding Beyond our Library Walls: Building an Active Online Community through Facebook. Journal of Web Librarianship, 3(2), 111-128. doi:10.1080/19322900902820929
Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell : winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Harvard Business Press. Boston.

The value of social networking

Taking off - Canberra 2009

I have blogged about the value of my personal learning network before and my use of social media to build this network, but I rarely think about what I consider social networking to be.

Social networking is the process of using social media tools to build a network of friends, colleagues, professionals, or business contacts, depending on the context of the social network.

Social media tools allow us to engage in conversation with others in a timely and active manner. They allow the one-to-many engagement that delivers quick results for informal learning and discovery.  This one-to-many enables multiple answers to a question or idea and delivers a range of perspectives.

Professionally, I use twitter as my main social networking tool – I have a good network of LIS folk that I engage with on a daily basis. Often this engagement is not on professional topics, but incorporates ‘water cooler’  conversations that encourage deepening of ties and connections over time.

Where else can you find me in the social network? I have an online presence:

I’ve recently started studying again and my subject this semester is Social networking for information professionals.  What do I hope to get from that? A deeper understanding of the structure and theoretical ‘why’ of social networking. I know how to do it, I know what I get from it but hope to formalise that in some way.