Social networking has increasingly become integrated into people’s daily lives. The platforms and media may change, some becoming easier to use and more mainstream, some becoming easier to access, through personal ICT and mobile internet connections, and some becoming obsolete by the mainstream adoption of the next trend that out-performs its predecessor.
Institutions and information professionals have adopted some of these tools to better reach their clients and provide services and information that give clients the ability to become involved in their library’s communities and collections.
This blog evaluates some of these technologies and the way they are currently being implemented in libraries, and the possible expansion of use in the future.
In “A Foray into Second Life” a platform was experienced for the first time, without any knowledge of libraries that had been utilizing it. This experience allowed for a critical analysis of the technology with fresh eyes and generated speculation of the potential use for institutions and library professionals. It examined some of the pros and cons that such unique software presents, both for institutions and their clients. After limited use, it seems an excellent tool for recreational roleplaying and chat, an endlessly customisable platform for world and item building and avatar editing. For institutions is could be useful for exploring collections, conferencing, training, teaching, augmenting the library’s web presence, and sharing electronic information. It is a free platform that most modern computers are capable of running adequately. Unfortunately, creating anything substantial and polished in Second Life takes a great deal of time and expertise, and even for learning the basic functions, a four hour orientation is recommended. Also, much of the non-roleplaying, non-submersive functionality of Second Life can be done more easily with other web 2.0 technologies.
Information professionals are the driving force behind making the web 2.0 technologies useful to institutions and their clients. If they are not being promoted, populated with engaging and useful content, and used to generate conversations, collaboration and feedback, the clients will not engage with their library through the tools. Also, it is easier to engage clients with tools they are already using. These concepts are explored in “What Does it Mean to be Librarian 2.0?” along with some way information professionals can make their social networking more effective. Some ways these can be achieved are by experimenting with and assessing new tools to see if they can be adopted. Sometimes when a librarian is exploring new tools it will be to early for them to be useful and they will need to be reassessed at a later date when more of the client base have adopted them. It is important for information professionals to go to their clients, rather than waiting for the client to find them.
Social networking and information policies can help an institution maintain a focused and coherent social media presence, as well as guide issues such as bridging the digital divide in the community. Policy needs to develop alongside new and evolving online platforms and be regularly reviewed to reflect the needs and expectations of clients and the community. In Implications of Social Media two of these considerations are explored.
At the commencement of INF206 social networking was purely a recreational and social pursuit for me, with no inclination to use any of the available platforms or technologies for library work, client engagement, or professional development. I had only a vague sense of what libraries were doing with web 2.0 technologies, and largely regarded their efforts as just another way for them to market.
Throughout exploring the readings, slideshows, podcasts and videos of this course and discovering the many real-life examples of how libraries and information professionals are using social networking, a much more complex idea of the realities and possibilities of social networking has been formed.
It is now clear that using web 2.0 tools such as RSS and micro-blogging networks to filter and direct information and to keep abreast of the latest trends and ideas is fundamental to professional development. While self-discovery of information, and sharing those discoveries through social networks is also desirable, using the discoveries of others on “friend” or “follow” lists or delicious stacks is an efficient way finding the most relevant information.
I will continue to follow a number of useful blogs discovered throughout the study of this course through their RSS feeds gathered on My Yahoo. Also, the institutions and library professionals I’m following on twitter and the peers I have friended on Facebook regularly provide links to further interesting information.
To be more useful to the information professional communities and networks I’ve joined, more effort needs to be directed into commenting and contributing. At this early stage of learning and discovery, very little has been contributed. Participation will become more important when building networks after graduation from this course, during job searching, and into my professional career.
Participation, content creation and collaboration are also going to be what will make me an effective Librarian 2.0 in the future. Throughout this course I have discovered a few ways I can contribute in my current position at work. The social networking policies there discourage all staff from contributing directly, but the few staff whose job it is to do so are always looking for more content, and encourage other staff to contribute to the corporate feeds through them.
I’ve also become a follower of those corporate feeds and occasionally contribute to conversations there in the capacity of a client of the library.
A greater understanding of how libraries social network and, more importantly, why they network, and also the many implications and considerations has been reached through this course, in part through the readings, but even more so by exploring real examples of social networking in action, and gaining a better understanding of what is being implemented at work.