Saturday, December 6, 2014

End of the Line

It’s the end of the semester. You know what that means?
Three months ago I couldn’t picture ever being here, sitting in a coffee shop in the beginning of December, writing this post. There were too many assignments between me and this point. I had people to visits and valuable lessons to learn. I had to grow as a person and a budding professional.
I had to make some mistakes – mainly procrastinating, but that's in the past now .
But I’m here! Really! And I’m still learning.
I’m applying for internships and trying to stretch my new knowledge of the profession to cover for my lack of experience. I’m realizing how important experience actually is. I’ve learned that I need to be a girl of many talents, that the more skills I have the more employable I’ll be. I’ve taken a hard look at myself and found that I still have a lot to learn. I have a plan of work that will hopefully turn me into someone with more skill than dreams.
Even my perception of the field has changed, and I think that has more to do with my classmates than anything else. We’re all budding librarians in one way or another and very few of us fit any of the traditional stereotypes. We may love books, but we’re three dimensional people who care about a wide variety of things and want to work with everything from big data to small children to old moldy manuscripts.
After talking with working professionals I have far more respect for the field I’m entering and developed my own thoughts on what is important, and what sort of things need to be upheld at all costs. For me Privacy and access to information are key. I’m sure I’ll find more things I identify with as I continue to work my way through this degree, and work in the actual field but until then I’m going to watch Elf, bake cookies and take a well-deserved nap.

A Look Back

Change is big. It happens over time. Three months really isn’t enough time, in my opinion, to change all that much. Growth, however, happens gradually, and more importantly it happens with education.
At the beginning of this semester I had some vague thoughts (that I articulated here) on librarianship and LIS in general.  The first one I mentioned was an assumption that people in the library profession must have an appreciation of information, and maybe it’s just the quality of people in my classes, but I can’t say that this thought has changed.
However I also expected to see a lot more interest in preservation, and while I found like minded people these last few months have been a good reminded that librarianship is a large field with many different disciplines.
The last assumption I articulated in my original post was about library professionals being interested in sharing information. I think at the time it was the only way I could come up with to work what I have now learned is a major principle on the profession – access to information.
I’ve learned so much this semester. Possibly the most important is that this field is bigger than I could have ever imagined, and stretches itself in strange and beautiful ways to provide communities with knowledge, information, and a safe space.

A Kid in a Digital Toystore

Technology is ever changing. I feel like that could be on the SLIS homepage. For years I've been a tech junkie. I love the latest gadgets and jumping into the newest social media trends. I'm on tumblr, twitter, blogger, facebook, linkden, goodreads and many other platforms that escape me at the moment. I use youtube often and google maps for everything from timing out my morning commute (their traffic predictor is a godsend) to planning trips across the country.  Lately I've been using google drive to collaborate with group members and friends more efficiently and have fallen in love with the ease that doc's and slides function.

This is all a very long way of saying I am entrenched in the way these platforms change and how they're being used.

With all of that being said I do feel there are some platforms that libraries should be investing their time in more than others.

Twitter - Admittedly I'm a twitter junkie, but it really is a good platform for sharing information. The character limit forces users to shorten their tweets to their essences. This makes twitter ideal for promoting programs and new collections with eye catching tweets. The downfall is that a links to outside sites are often needed to convey all of the relevant details about events, promotions, or even stories of interest. However it is also easy with patrons on twitter.

Facebook - I can't talk about social media as without mentioning Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg flipped everyone’s lives upside down when launched his friendly little social network. Now it's difficult to be a person, company, or organization without a Facebook account. Just today I used Facebook to search out information on the opening on a new gym by my house because search engines weren't helping. The new gyms Facebook page did have the information, and what's more, it was in a comment on another confused want to be customers comment.

What I'm getting at is that Facebook is interactive. Information can be shared on it, and often it can be ignored, scrolled past, or left sight unseen. Promoting pages on Facebook can carry an actual financial cost. But the benefits of connecting directly to the community and having one place where all patrons can go to obtained information and have their questions answered is indispensable. The sheer number of people on Facebook means that even the smallest library should be able to find an audience.

Blogging (Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, etc.)  – Blogging can be tricky. I think it’s important for libraries to be innovative and the ones that I really love run blogs on their programing successes or local interest pieces. The Chicago Public Library runs a tumblr that I love even though I no longer live near any of their branches.  It’s important for libraries to reach out with think pieces and discussion based posts. Having content is huge. Showing the public that libraries are still relevant and can foster conversation in an increasingly digital world by using a blog is a great way to use an Internet presence.
These are of course my thoughts, and there are many different resources that could also be used to great effect. However I would think that twitter and facebook especially would be near the top of many peoples lists for libraries to use to reach a larger population.
This isn’t to discount other resources. For instances Youtube is great. Tutorial video’s have gotten me through many simple activities (Halloween make up, fancy ways to tie a scarf. How to use MS Access) and if you have a cat and haven’t uploaded a video of it yawning to Youtube I don’t think we can be friends. But it’s a very specific service. Videos cannot be watched at all times, and data limits make it increasingly hard for mobile users to access them at all times. This is nothing to say of a video as a means of communication information is only effective if it is short and to the point. In a society that increasingly loves instant gratification 8 minute video’s just don’t cut it. Youtube, soundcloud, what-have-you can be a great addition to an internet presence but it cannot be a library’s only way of communicating with the world.  
To sum up,

If I were put in charge of a library’s social media outreach I would quickly make a facebook and a twitter and work on building awareness of these pages. Friends and followers are important. As the follower base grows I would ensure that a blog with relevant content was available and linked to each social media account. Together these platforms would reach a wide variety of individuals and help to make the library stand out in the community.