Thursday, 31 May 2012

My social media journey

The first thing I ever used in social media was, a sort of weird German forum site. A friend recommended it while I was looking for information on the Cottingley Fairies. While uboot didn't really do it for me, it did give me an introduction to what was out there. Then, like many of my peers, I entered Friends Reunited.  To be honest, I mainly joined for the voyeuristic thrill of seeing what had happened to the people I went to school with. I also used the power of crowdsourcing on Sheffield Forum to locate my biological dad - it worked but long story, rubbish ending - not for here.

Then I left social media for a while. I didn't touch Bebo or Myspace - I had a brief flirtation with Faceparty but was a latecomer to Facebook and when I initially signed up it was for groups like 'I'd like to sing Phantom of the Opera from the rooftops' and 'I used to secretly like Aramis from Dogtanien' (it was the poetry and red wine that did it - methinks!).

So far, so unprofessional...

Then reader, it all changed. I volunteered to become the Liaison Officer for the CILIP Special Interest Group Colleges of Further and Higher Education London and South East Committee (CoFHE LASEC) now Academic and Research Libraries Group London and South East Committee (ARLG LASEC). They used Twitter to promote and engage with their members. I joined Twitter so I could retweet and post about events. And then I was hooked. Initially,  I was a lurker. I read all sorts of things about Higher Education, Higher Education in Further Education, libraries in general and saw lots of pictures of cute cats. Through Twitter I discovered CPD23 which I found very beneficial and would recommend to any librarian, especially those who find it difficult to attend training. Through CPD23 I was encouraged to create a blog and discovered the library blogosphere - it's huge! I generally use my blog for reflection and for writing up events. I really appreciate it when others do this and hope that I can help in the same way.

I found out about Library Camp through Twitter - this was an extraordinary event. I then decided to broaden my horizons and sort out my LinkedIn account. Through connecting with an old UCL classmate I found out about the London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE) and have gained such a wider knowledge of the information profession by attending their events. They are putting on an inaugural conference on 29th June and I've been privileged enough to help out. I've helped to organise smaller events in the past but I've never been involved in anything on a scale like this and it's going to be amazing.

However, so far this was enhancing my professional status and not necessarily my working life so I pestered for what seemed like forever to be able to set up a Twitter account and policy in my workplace (Facebook wasn't allowed due to filtering and occasionally Twitter was filtered too which sometimes made updating a tad tricky). It wasn't particularly ground breaking and only had a few followers but it was a start and I hope to do improve on this in my current post. So far I am going to be involved in training and implementing the social media policies.

I have learned so much through using social media and it has undoubtedly helped my professional life. One of the nicest things about it is the sense of community and the feeling of being part of the 'conversation'. I am looking forward to the rest of my journey.

More information on the LIKE Conference.
More blogs about using social media.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

LIKE 35 - Books: why bother? with Anne Welsh

On Thursday 26th April, I attended LIKE 35. After a mad dash from work to get there in the nick of time I was thrilled to be met by Tina Reynolds holding a glass of wine towards me as I entered, bedraggled and flustered, through the door. After composing myself and finding my table, I then sat down to listen to Anne Welsh, a lecture in cataloguing and historical bibliography at University College London. She started by asking us who amongst us wrote blogs, articles and then books - even though the numbers decreased each time I still found myself slighly in awe of the amount of people surrounding me who had written books. Anne then went on to ask why bother try to get published at all when there are so many options for people to find information available.
Some of the reasons were:
  • it structures your thoughts - (I think any type of writing does this)
  • a book defines your reputation in your chosen field - (I agree with this - one of the reasons I chose UCL to complete my Masters was because the lecturers had written the books we would be studying - it made me think they would really know what they were talking about)
  • books are finalised thoughts not just the embryonic musings one has in a blog (I've heard a few people say this now - that seeds of books have been borne through blogs)

I had previously thought that academics were encouraged to write books as part of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) but Anne explained how even though books are needed as they help to consolidate all the information available on a topic, because they are no longer accepted by the REF  more practioners are writing instead of academics. Apparently, this has always been the case in America - they have workbooks where Britain has theory books. While it would be a shame if the number of theory based books were to reduce sometimes when you're a practioner yourself and you haven't got a lot of time to digest the theory and come up with amazing ideas related to it it can really help to read a book which highlights exactly what others have done and how it has worked in practice.

Lastly, Anne spoke about digital versus print and how students, in particular, perceive it.  She claimed that research suggested students believe printed books are more authoritative but that they prefer the portability of digital. She did suggest too that students might only have said they preferred the digital version in the studies due to being given free kit and that this opinion many change if they were required to upload it onto their own devices.

Overall, the session wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was hoping for something a little more related to how to get started writing, although to be fair Anne did ask us to consider our audience, who our competitors are and whether print is the best format before submitting a proposal. However, it was an enjoyable and interesting session and encouraged me to to think about thought processes, the REF and book styles. There's one more LIKE evening to go and then there will be LIKE's inaugural conference - which I am very much looking forward to.