I’m now half way through my studies in the Masters of Education (Teacher Librarianship) course, and it’s been an interesting journey (cue bad reality tv metaphors here!) The subject that this blog post is submitted in requirements for, Social Media for Information Professionals, has been in many ways the most challenging for me. I approached the subject with what now appears to be a sense of over-confidence. I’m considered somewhat of a social media expert in my region, and have been frequently called upon to present at conferences or professional development sessions, as well as liaising with the NSWDEC on the development of departmental social media policies and plans. I’m confident in my ability to use social media in both my personal and professional life. So, to have struggled to hit the mark, I believe, given the results I received from the social media project assessment task, was particularly disappointing. I’m glad about this though. It’s given me much food for thought as I consider my role as a social media advocate, and the way in which I integrate my academic life and my professional life. This is a cogent point for consideration, given the focus of this subject on the use of social media in information services, and the potential (indeed, often the goal) of blurring the lines between work life and social life.
If I, as someone who is quite comfortable in the use of social media, and prides myself on presenting excellence in academic and professional work, can get “sucked in” by the relative familiarity of social media tools, and end up presenting an assessment task which fails to meet the required academic conventions and standards expected, what are the implications of this? Particularly for my target group of users, high school students – teens who are perhaps more fluent in many ways in social media and web2.0 than I am, but perhaps not as committed to the idea of importance of academic conventions. So, it’s given me much food for thought on how I lead the blending of social media and the necessary focus on academic writing, particularly for my senior students as they prepare for HSC and further study.
It has also led me to consider much about what I thought I knew about social media, and to realise that I’m very reliant on what I know, and am familiar with. My experiences with Second Life, for example, highlighted how quickly I retreat to what is familiar – even when I don’t find a task difficult, I don’t necessarily adopt it as part of my common practice if it isn’t in my immediate frame of reference. This prompted more reflection on the roles of social media in my library practice, and consolidated the importance of ensuring that when we decide on implementing a social media strategy for our patrons, it’s based on their needs and interests, not on what is familiar to us. Cohen’s Librarian 2.0 Manifesto was incredibly resonant for me in this regard – the notion of us as professionals being willing, and indeed embracing, the idea that we need to go to where our users are, rather than expecting them to come to us (Cohen, 2007). If the students in my school are familiar with, and active users of, Instagram, it makes sense to explore ways in which our library can connect with them, and this has been one of the key successes of my ongoing Library Warriors project, as has the establishment of a Facebook group, which I continuing to develop into a successful platform for collaboration and discussion amongst this passionate group of students. My initial thoughts about developing a Goodreads presence, however, was more about my own skills and experiences, rather than what met the needs of my school community. For me, then, one of the key takeaway messages of this subject has been the focus on what my users need and want – not just what I’m comfortable in delivering. Thankfully sometimes those two things will line up – but I’m more comfortable now with embracing the idea that I don’t have to be the expert. I can find someone who is, and learn from them, which has the dual effect of developing my own skills, and also modelling for my students the benefits of lifelong learning.
So, reflecting on my learning for this session has consolidated for me a few things. Firstly, I am evermore in love with my career of choice. The focus on lifelong learning is a core passion of mine, and the fact that I have been able to gain new insights into both my own learning processes, and draw upon this to examine the way I operate professionally, has been immensely rewarding. I have printed out Cohen’s Manifesto, and have it in sight each day at work (with some helpful suggestions added by students – “buy more chocolate!!”). I am encouraged by my failures, and have discussed them with my students as an example of what I am learning, in the hope that they will learn something from it, as I have. And I will continue to advocate social media in education, and in our libraries – and I will make sure that in the future I will give as much credence to the opinions of my school community as I do my own preferences. Isn’t it interesting when the subjects you will initially think will be the easiest to conquer, will be the ones that become the most challenging and thought-provoking?