Social Networking for Information Professionals: An Evaluation

The future for Information Professionals is exciting. Rather than existing purely in a paper-based world, today’s library operates in an increasingly multimodal landscape, with an ever-increasing web of tools, resources and contributions at their disposal (Harvey, 2009). It is essential that a 21st century librarian is able to adapt to the changes around them, and to strive to provide the best service they can to their clients (Bonanno, 2011). Drawing on the extraordinary variety of Web2.0 tools, then, is an essential element of the librarian’s service.

Web 2.0, as discussed in Rodgers’ blogpost “Oh what a tangled web we weave – Web2.0” (2015a) provides extraordinary opportunities for libraries to leverage the quality and quantity of web resources and information to clients. Web 2.0 provides opportunities for users to engage with the wider web world – the Wikipedia definition (n.d.) of Web 2.0 as encompassing “user-generated content, usability, and interoperability” reflects key goals of the 21st library, as engaging with their users, and as such, resonates as an important reason for information professionals to include Web 2.0 tools as one of their core tools. Employing Web 2.0 tools as part of the library service supports allowing users “to contribute content in order to enhance their learning experience and provide assistance to their peers” (Cohen, 2007), and it takes advantage of the idea that Web 2.0 tools allow for the development of relationships with the sites, as they create, exchange and use information (Miller, 2005). These types of relationships are essential if we wish to ensure that our libraries continue to be meaningful today and into the future.

The notion of community is one that appears in much of the literature around the library of the present and future. Valenza (2014) discusses the value of collegial interaction, as we surround ourselves with people who “reflect and share their practice through their slide decks, videos, blogs, and tweets—all high-quality, informal learning opportunities.” The importance of community applies not just to collegial connections, but also to users and the wider social network. Exploring options that are available to develop community connections is a vital aspect of library practice, and the proliferation of virtual worlds in today’s online experiences is a fascinating opportunity to develop community connections, allowing for a sense of presence for users who may not necessarily be able to be physically present, but can still develop that sense of community connection (Hill and Meister, 2013). It is important to consider the needs and interests of the users in these seemingly endless options for online community building, however. Rodgers’ blogpost discusses the concerns of more in-depth virtual worlds for people who aren’t familiar with the platforms (2015b). As such, it’s critical to consider the potential learning curve when deciding on using a social network or site, and analyse whether the benefit for the users is worth the potential problems that may be associated with its implementation and use.

Given the proliferation of opportunities for information professionals in developing new ways to interact with, and provide services to, their users, it is inevitable then that there needs to be a reevaluation of the way in which libraries are managed. This reflects both on the types of leaders we have in our libraries, and the policies which govern the management of 21st century library services. It is vital that policies which are put in place provide flexibility for growth, and allow for future innovations. As such, they should provide guidance for actions and interactions, rather than specific instructions which relate to individual sites, as discussed in Rodgers’ blogpost “Social media: engagement with policies” (2015c). Policies which support the development of effective social media profiles will reflect the value of every person’s contributions – both those from staff members, and from students and community members. Implementing policies which support and encourage positive interactions, respond to negative comments and replies with tact and honesty, and demonstrate trust in the integrity of those participating, will help establish the integrity of the social media account (socialmedia.biz, 2015) and ensure it’s effectiveness for its users.

So, what does all that mean for the information professional of today, and days to come? It would be a mistake to assume that, because the library of the future is so dependent on the input of so many other people, the librarian is of less importance. The reality is that a library is, in many ways, driven by the personality of its leader (Donovan, 2009). If a teacher librarian in charge of the learning heart of the school models a sense of courage and innovation, students are more likely to be inspired to adopt the same practices. If TL demonstrates a willingness to learn and fail in order to achieve new outcomes, their staff are more likely to join them on the journey. An information professional, supported by effective and innovative social media policy, and willing to embrace new opportunities and experiences in developing connections, both with people and information, will have amazing impacts on the learning culture in their school. What an exciting opportunity.

References

Bonanno, K. (2011). A profession at the tipping point: Time to change the game plan. http://vimeo.com/31003940

Cohen, L (2007) A manifesto for our times. American Libraries Vol. 38, No. 7 (Aug., 2007), pp. 47-49

Donovan, C. (2009) Sense of self: embracing your teacher identity. In the library with the lead-pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2009/sense-of-self-embracing-your-teacher-identity/

Harvey, M. (2009) What does it mean to be a Science Librarian 2.0? http://www.istl.org/09-summer/article2.html

Hill, V., & Meister, M. (2013). Virtual worlds and libraries Gridhopping to new worlds. College & Research Libraries News, 74(1), 43-47. http://crln.acrl.org/content/74/1/43.full

Miller, P. (2005) Web 2.0: Building the new library. Ariadne.  www.ariadne.ac.uk/print/issue45/miller

Rodgers, T (2015a) Oh what a tangled web we weave … Web 2.0. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2015/05/01/web2/

Rodgers, T (2015b) Second Life Adventures. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2015/05/17/second-life-adventures/

Rodgers, T (2015c) Social Media: engagement with policies. http://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/biggerontheinside/2015/05/16/social-media-engagement-with-policies/

Socialmedia.biz,. (2015). Best practices for developing a social media policy. Retrieved 15 May 2015, from http://socialmedia.biz/social-media-policies/best-practices-for-developing-a-social-media-policy/

Valenza, J. (2014, December 18). School Library Journal.

http://blogs.slj.com/neverendingsearch/2014/12/18/my-top-10-tech-trends-expanded-with-infographic/

Wikipedia (n.d). Web 2.0 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0

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