Assessment Item 3: OLJ/Evaluative Report

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Part A: Evaluative Statement

The course work for Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506) has provided opportunities to participate in social media environments and examine literature on this topic. These experiential and academic exercises aimed to broaden students’ understanding of the concept, theory and practice of social networking technologies for education and public organisations. An examination of three blog posts created during the course, RSS feeds for school libraries, ASU Libraries: do they achieve the 4C’s of social media? and Reasons why school libraries should be using social media, highlights an expanding knowledge of social networks, Library 2.0, information services and library management in digital and networked environments.

Understanding social networking technologies

Understanding social networking technologies and their use in the professional setting, first involves learning how to use social media tools. Some of the tools investigated and evidenced in the blog posts include Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, RSS and Google+. In addition to this, the goal of using new tools should be to improve patron services rather than provide an excuse for implementing cool technologies (Farkas, 2008, para. 1). As such, it is essential that library professionals comprehend what different tools may offer patrons and any issues and processes that need to be considered when adopting these (Dellit & Schnindler, 2012, P.3). Schrier states it is also essential that librarians’ usage of these tools is focused on developing a rapport with users, broadening an awareness of the collections and establishing the librarian as an easily accessible source of authoritative information or they will achieve the opposite of the desired outcome and result in disconnecting rather than connecting the library (2011, para. 21). An examination of RSS feeds for school libraries will provide one example of these understandings.

Understanding Library 2.0

A key learning in INF506 has been that social media use by libraries is about transforming them into the participatory services that characterise the Library 2.0 movement. The blog post, ASU Libraries: do they achieve the 4C’s of social media?, evaluates one library’s attempts to adopt a Library 2.0 model. Integral to such a model is customer driven service in which feedback is an essential component (Casey & Savastinuk, 2010). The blog post examines how ASU Libraries do this through an online suggestion box.   Meredith Farkas states that Library 2.0 is a difficult concept to grasp and whereas libraries have always sought to meet user needs and garner feedback to that end, in a 2.0 model, they also need to: embrace a position of radical trust and give users a role in the library; get rid of the culture of perfect and adopt constant iterative processes; keep up with new technologies; and look outside the library world for inspiration By embracing these values, it is believed, libraries will move towards a greater culture of assessment and learning (2008, para. 8). The analysis presented in the blog post concludes that the ASU libraries had embraced some of these values but could improve further by incorporating the fourth principle of Library 2.0, that is, content creation by methods such as publishing user reviews and inviting patrons to participate in tagging resources.

Delivering information services via social media

An examination of all three blog posts, will demonstrate that the course work in INF506 required participants to investigate how social media can be used to deliver information services. The blog posts document that one of the common ways libraries have employed social media tools is to promote their collections, events and services. According to Schrier, the power of social media for libraries lies in the use of these tools to communicate with users. The danger, he warns, is that libraries will use social media only as a means of promoting content rather than establishing trusted relationships with users (2007, para.5). Other usages for social media in the delivery of information services include: providing reference help to patrons; obtaining feedback; providing opportunities for patrons to participate in online communities; and crowd sourcing in which users contribute to the work of an organisation (Dellit & Schnindler, 2008, P.2).  Examples of these usages are also found within all three blog posts and in particular the post entitled Reasons why school libraries should be using social media, provides an infographic that illustrates how three libraries use social networking to support service provision. The role of involving users to value add to collections via crowd sourcing and content curation to find, aggregate, tag, rate, comment on and update information are among the interesting possibilities made available to libraries using social media.

Managing social media for an educational organisation

For school librarians, a key takeaway from INF506 is an understanding of how to develop and implement strategies and policies around the social, educational, ethical and technical management issues that exist when using social media. The blog post Reasons why school libraries should be using social media, explores the issues of why school libraries are sometimes tentative to adopt social media for information service. Following this, a number of examples of libraries using social media are provided and a case is made for the special role social media use can play in the education of young people. Digital citizenship education is among the opportunities afforded to students when school libraries engage social media in their service delivery (Valenza, 2009). It is important, however, that strategies for the use of these tools are clear so that the scope of use can be defined, budgets can be allocated, training can be provided and staff roles are adjusted to provide time for managing these communications. To this end, policies and guidelines should be developed as means of enabling and protecting both the educational organisation and the staff within (Society for new communication research. n.d.).

Conclusion

Students in Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506) were provided a variety of opportunities to explore social media use in both practical and academic learning experiences. These experiences will instruct future initiatives undertaken by students to use social media in their work places and to build Library 2.0 practices.

Part B: Reflective Statement

As a Teacher-Librarian, the use of social media to deliver information services has been a key focus of my practice over the past three years. In my first blog post for this subject, I wrote:

“By completing INF506, I hope to achieve the following goals for both my personal and professional use of social networking:

  • examine and interrogate the effectiveness of existing practices;
  • explore methods to improve the effectiveness of social networking; and
  • develop a set of good practice points and recommendations for future involvement in social networking”.

The course work for Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506) has provided many opportunities in these areas and significantly broadened my thinking about future professional directions. For the purposes of this reflection, I would like to address these points firstly in reference to the use of social media for the school library I manage and secondly in reference to my personal use of social media for professional growth.

Interrogating the effectiveness of existing practices has certainly been an outcome of completing Social Networking for Information Professionals. One of the opportunities afforded through the course was to complete a case study based on the practical application of a social networking site or environment. I chose to interrogate our library use of social media to investigate how well we are satisfying user needs in our community. The recommendations from this case study have already been passed on to the rest of the team for consideration and discussion about how we might better lead and manage future use of social media. One of the recommendations resulting from this case study was to move beyond using social media purely for promoting our services and collections. The team and I are now rethinking our strategies so that we can have more meaningful interactions with users via our social media channels such as offering reference services. It was also highlighted that we need to obtain feedback from our teachers and students for the ongoing evaluation and updating of services (Casey & Savatinuk, 2010, para.21).

Exploring methods to improve the effectiveness of our library’s social networking practices was a second goal of completing INF506. The blog post Embracing Library 2.0 reflects on some methods we can employ to improve the effectiveness of our existing services. Additionally, one of the readings for this subject was a case study of social media use by the National Library of Australia (Trove). This study presented a successful example of a library utilising crowd sourcing to facilitate participation and contribution to the collection as Trove do through the Flickr and the newspaper correction programs they operate (Dellit & Schnindler, 2012, p.2). This idea is particularly exciting to us because a survey together with a number of focus group discussions we conducted suggest teachers and students at our school want a direct say in what information they need or find useful. Resultantly, we have begun our first attempts at crowd sourcing by setting up group boards in Pinterest and inviting teachers to contribute to these. Further methods for improving our use of social media were also explored during the online journal (OLJ) tasks during which the Arizona State University Libraries and the New York Public Library presented examples of effective practices in action such as the use of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

The course work for Social Networking for Information Professionals has also informed my personal use of social media for professional practice. Through participation in the subject, I used Facebook as a learning environment for the first time and this broadened my knowledge of the platform, including its functionality. It also gave me confidence to extend my personal use of Facebook to share ideas as opposed to simply posting and catching up on day-to-day events. The requirement to complete reflective blogging through online journal (OLJ) tasks has been a fruitful process for me. The opportunity to step back and think critically about the motivations and patterns of my PLN as per blog post PLNs – is there ever too much of a good thing?, brought an awareness of my habits of engagement in my PLN and the need to seek balance.

Furthermore, as a teacher-librarian and curriculum leader, one of my responsibilities as set out in my role description is, “promoting the positive interaction of individuals in online environments through digital citizenship” (Mt Alvernia College, Staff Handbook, 2014). Being a student of INF506, has required digital citizenship in many forms and is a good example of positive interaction in online environments. Such interactions took place through sharing resources on Twitter and Facebook, and posting, reading and commenting on blogs. The blog post, What are the right questions for digital literacy?, reflects on how I can subsequently assist students to learn in social media environments.

As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. My goal is to transfer these understandings to library and classroom practice to prepare students for futures in connected and participatory environments.

References

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2010). Library 2.0. Library Journal, (May), 21st ser. Retrieved January 24, 2015, from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2010/05/technology/library-2-0/

Dellit, A., & Schindeler, S. (2012, February 7). VALA2012 concurrent session 2: Discovery. In Trove: The Terrors and Triumphs of Service-based Social Media. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from http://www.vala.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=547&catid=87&Itemid=159

Farkas, M. (2008, January 24). The essence of Library 2.0? [Web log post]. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2008/01/24/the-essence-of-library-20/

Schrier, R. A. (2007). Digital librarianship & social media: The digital library as conversation facilitator. D-Lib Magazine, 17(7/8). doi:doi:10.1045/july2011-schrier

Society for new communications research. (n.d.). Best practices for developing a social media policy. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from http://socialmedia.biz/social-media-policies/best-practices-for-developing-a-social-media-policy/

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