How has a few months of tinkering with Twitter, dabbling with Delicious and fiddling with Facebook helped me to meet the learning objectives of the subject and helped my development as a social networker? In this final post I will discuss some of the activities and explorations made during this course of study and the new skills and ideas I have acquired throughout.
a) Evaluative statement
In an earlier post about Delicious I discussed my learning about the Web 2.0 activity, popular with some, of social book-marking. In many ways this reminded me of an abstracted form of blogging but where users share only links they have come across that they feel will be useful for others or themselves at a later stage. In my post I discussed how I felt that while this concept seemed good in theory it also appeared prone to many problems. As this was my first ‘new’ social networking tool, one that I hadn’t had any use of prior to the course, it was an inauspicious start to my exploration, but helped me to realise that just because something appears popular it may not be useful to each social networking program and inspired me to keep looking.
By the time I needed to develop a social networking program for the second assignment, it had become clear after talking with students that Delicious was not really something that they would use either and most had not even heard of it so Twitter won out as the most viable alternative. It is interesting to note however that since outlining that program, another reading ‘Detecting spam in a Twitter network’ (Yardi, et al., 2010) that I wrote about in my recent post ‘The Authentic Web’ has brought up some concerns about how abbreviated links that are common in Twitter posts might disguise malicious or inappropriate content, a vulnerability that may not be so easy to exploit in the visual interface of Delicious. Making the right choice therefore is no easy task and requires ongoing monitoring of its appropriateness and success for continued use.
Getting it right, in choosing which social networking tools will work best for each organisation, is vitally important and something that comes up again and again in the subject material and subsequently in my blog posts. When the course directed me to look at the importance of the 4Cs (Wallis, 2013) by exploring the social media program of Arizona State University Libraries (ASU Libraries, Arizona State University, n.d.), it was interesting to discover that even a well intentioned and apparently well developed program can fail to meet the needs of even a large and well resourced organisation if the tools aren’t well selected or well maintained. I mentioned another example of this in my post ‘Let us not forget why we’re here’ in which I talked about how Meredith Farkas had been disappointed that many libraries had missed the point of Library 2.0 by rushing social networking programs into development without first analysing the need for them (2008).
The requirement to constantly interact with clients via the online environment is critical to the development and ongoing survival of any social networking program and to help guide the direction of future services, but may take time to show their worth. The essence of Library 2.0 is a positive thing, designed to improve information services for both clients and information providers and this points out clearly that if it doesn’t enhance services that instead of abandoning it, organisations have to look at why it isn’t working and evolve it to meet client and organisational needs.
A highly adaptable and widely used start to many social networking programs is Facebook which has even played a part in expanding my ideas on what can be achieved. The large potential audience of Facebook is growing and as discussed in an earlier post, is an environment useful for much more than procrastination. The expectation most people have now is that they should be able to interact with organisations easily and at any time and Facebook certainly provides this opportunity.
Many libraries have already discovered what a useful tool it can be for connecting with users and it was great to see my local libraries have already begun to use it. These experiences have shown me that the path of an information professional is changing now much more rapidly than it ever was, but rather than be made obsolete by technology, libraries are more important than ever. However, our role in leading communities, providing assistance in navigating the digital realm, and guiding people to quality, factual information will only be possible within a socially networked environment.
a) Reflective statement
Embracing change is one of, if not the greatest challenge facing librarians and indeed humanity at large. This subject truly confronts its students with perhaps some of the most uncomfortable realisations they may ever experience in their career as information professionals, yet fortunately provides the tools and the guidance to survive and accept them. The tipping point for me occurred around the time I watched the ‘Did You Know’ videos (Shifthappens, 2013) for completing my post on ‘Shifting policy,’ when I found myself having to truly question whether or not I was ready to make the changes the course was challenging me to.
Watching these videos, it is terrifying to see the technological changes humankind has gone through in such a short space of time without fearing for one’s own relevance in a future that may well be dominated by automation and advanced technological skills in devices that don’t even exist yet. Acceptance that these changes are not just inevitable, but already occurring and that in this circumstance they are for the better was a liberating feeling. The realisation that by embracing the mindset of Library 2.0 I would be a better information professional and better placed to use these skills to my advantage makes the future look positive.
Experimenting with various Web 2.0 technologies and exploring the activities of libraries already conducting social networking programs has given me much to consider as I move forward in my role as a High School Library Technician. It was particularly interesting to look at how what works for some libraries does not work at others and will assist me in my own work. Following completion of this subject I plan to continue with the social networking proposal developed during Assignment 2.
I am particularly excited about starting a school history Flickr photo pool and have already been receiving donations for the collection from the public. The level of commitment to a social networking program was something that I had underestimated early on in my studies so it was good to learn about this before staring anything. Having also spoken with other school librarians in the diocese, they are now keen to work with me in further developing our social networking programs. Careful planning of my schedule and liaising with other staff members involved will be a much bigger part of the planning process now.
Blogging has been both fun and educational. I had done a bit of it before, but this experience has made it a more regular habit and I can see myself doing more of it. I also found it particularly useful to learn about how to recognise or at the very least be careful of inauthentic sources of information and to better understand the multitude of trust issues the web environment puts into doubt such as privacy and honesty. Facebook was particularly appropriate in this context to see that although it had been useful throughout the subject it did force me to think about what I was sharing, despite having been what I thought was careful in the past.
While I enjoyed trying out most of the tools suggested in the course material, one experience I did miss out on was Second Life. I would have liked to explore this environment during this course as other students had remarked on Facebook that they found it useful. My prior experiences had not been so encouraging and this combined with problems caused by hardware limitations that had me frozen as a white cloud on arrival forced me to give it a miss. It is definitely something I’d like to give another chance in the future.
At the beginning of this course of study I was struck by a comment in the readings that ‘The Internet is now familiar territory, and users are looking for “what’s next?” (De Rosa, et al., 2007), which was a question I then hoped I would begin to discover the answer to during this subject and in a way I think I have. The way humanity interacts with each other through technology is becoming more and more integrated with our lives but the virtual environment continues to grow in complexity and size. As we adapt to this new environment it will be the role of information professionals to help provide the link between the physical world and the expanding world of information. Staying ahead of technological developments and information access methods will ensure the continued relevance and use of library services and provide better services for users.
ASU Libraries, Arizona State University. (n.d.). The library channel. Retrieved from https://lib.asu.edu/librarychannel/
De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J. & Jenkins, L. (2007). Sharing privacy and trust in our networked world: A report to the OCLC membership. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/reports/pdfs/sharing.pdf
Farkas, M. (2008, January 24). The essence of library 2.0?. Message posted to http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2008/01/24/the-essence-of-library-20/
Shifthappens. (2013). Retrieved from http://shifthappens.wikispaces.com/history+of+the+presentation
Wallis, J. (2013). Social networking for information professionals [INF206 Module 3.1]. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/tool/be77c678-f8ea-4e1e-00d9-5115412b95c3/list_modules_student
Yardi, S., Romero, D., Schoenebeck, G. & Boyd, D. (2010). Detecting spam in a Twitter network. First Monday, 15(1). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2793/2431