Joining the social (media) club

Beach.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve only quite recently come back to using social media. I now realise that it is essential for my job. I’m currently doing my Graduate Trainee project, which is about how we communicate with our students, and it would be impossible for me to advise on this if I am not using these communication methods myself.

I love the collaborative aspect of social media, and the fact that library users can comment on announcements made and really feel involved in the communication process (despite the problems this can cause, I do think it is a very positive way of getting feedback and opinions). People simply do not have time in their busy lives to answer lengthy questionnaires or have a conversation with strangers in the street – social media is a way to guage people’s reaction to any given subject in a non-intrusive way.

Sadly, I am not so confident in my ability to communicate using my personal social media accounts. Tweeting often leaves me feeling like I’m just shouting meaningless rubbish at people, and I shy away from involving myself in conversations in case my opinion is not relevant or wanted. Facebook is, in my opinion, just a way for people to covertly spy on others, and despite my inquisitive nature, I am now extremely bored of it.

I do enjoy following other people’s conversations on Twitter, and I realise that I need to make more effort to join in (that is what social media is about, after all). At the moment, I am most enjoying writing this blog. I like to go on a lot (as you’ve probably noticed), so 140 characters is not really adequate for me. Overall, I give myself a ‘must try harder’.

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Exploring the library landscape

wilderness

Lost in the Library wilderness…

Weaving a web-based network

Despite my apprehensions about social networking and promoting myself online on a personal level (the gory details of which can be read here), I am a member of many online ‘professional’ groups, mailing lists and forums. Since starting my traineeship, I’ve made a concerted effort to join and contribute to groups that are of particular interest – including LISNPN, Lis-International, Lis CILIP reg and numerous groups for specific events such as National Libraries Day.

This has had a beneficial impact on my ‘real life’ connections in a number of ways. I’ve met people who I first spoke to on LISNPN, I’ve been to a number of meet-ups and events first arranged or advertised on these networks, I’ve attended library visits organised by groups, and have had national feedback on work I was involved in via the mailing lists.

For some reason (unknown even to myself) I seem to shy away from networks with a more ‘social’ basis, where I am required to add personal details. I joined Twitter fairly recently, but have quickly become an avid user (where else would I catch such intriguing escapades as #tropicallibrarian?!). Twitter is extremely useful for keeping up to date – but so far I seem to use it more as a news feed than a social tool, which suits me just fine.

However, for me, Facebook is an entirely different beast. I do have a Facebook account, but I use it very rarely. The only function I still find useful on Facebook is the ability to publicise and invite people to events.  Having said that, I can definitely see how Facebook is a useful promotional tool for organisations and companies – The audience is already there and already engaged, so the scope for creative advertising is huge.

I haven’t yet set up a LinkedIn account, as I feel that I’m still too early on in my career to make proper use of it. There is also the danger that I would forget to update my profile when I changed jobs or gain qualifications.

venturing into the real library world…

Personally, I still get far more out of actually meeting people and speaking to them in person than I do from online communities. As previously mentioned, I mainly use the groups and lists that I am a member of to get involved with and initiate ‘real life’ meetings.

Recently I’ve been along to Library Camp Leeds, The Oxford trainee library visit and CDG’s Tackling social inclusion & disability issues event – all of which I found out about via my online connections.

However, I also try to arrange trips and events myself – such as the Leeds Library visit (which you can read about here).  Talking to people about their library experience and how they got there is always fascinating and encouraging, but I don’t feel like I could do that so easily online. It is much harder to approach someone you’ve never met before and start asking them personal questions about their job!

Like most people, I do feel apprehensive before meeting someone new,  particularly in a group situation – but I just sign up for everything I can and hope that I’ll have found the courage to do it by the time it comes round (and I always have so far!)

So basically, I use online networking to find out what’s going on, and then go out and do it!