Sunday, October 7, 2012

Evaluative report part 2: Reflective statement

I approached INF506 with a mixture of trepidation and anticipation.  If I am truly honest, I felt a little bit like a child about take some nasty tasting medicine – I knew I needed it, I knew it would be good for me, but I was sure I would hate every minute of it!  The reality, I am pleased to say, was much more palatable.  Four months ago I had fairly limited exposure to social networking tools, a strong bias against personal participation in social networking, and a fledgling professional (i.e. as the voice of my library) presence in two social media channels.  I thought that I had a reasonable understanding of the range of social networking tools available, but knew that my skill level was limited.  Further, I did not perceive that there could be much personal value in these tools, and I had only a cloudy vision of how they could present professional value to my library. 

I feel that I have had a truly valuable learning experience over the course of this subject.  I have explored, evaluated and committed to using a number of social media tools, and find myself “checking in” at least once a day.  My confidence has increased markedly, and whilst I am still only a novice, I am now in a much better position to evaluate and use tools, and to assist patrons.  As an information professional, and library manager, I have a much better understanding of how social media tools can be used in my organisation, but, more importantly, the ability to assess what tools I should use, and why.  Underpinning my attitude towards social media is the recognition that these tools must be used if and when they can enhance customer experience, not just for the sake of using them.

Throughout the various discussions and readings that I have been exposed to in the subject, I have distilled the following key “take home” messages;
·         Using social media is a tool to meet goals, not a goal in itself
·         Determine your goals, then find the tools to meet them (not the other way round!)
·         One or two social media channels, done well, is much better than lots of channels done poorly
·         Think about the “big picture” of social networking, and establish a policy framework that supports your place in that big picture
·         Don’t be afraid to “boldly go . . .”

This subject has certainly positively impacted my development as an information professional, as I now have;
·         Better skills in social media use
·         A clearer understanding of the role of social media in society
·         A better ability to contribute towards my organisations’ information policies
·         A willingness to drive exploration and learning about social media in my workplace

In terms of my development as a social networker, my “personal” use remains fairly limited, but I have engaged with several tools (notably Instagram and Goodreads) that I will continue to utilise.  My willingness to “play” has increased, and I am currently trying out Zite and Google Currents as sources of news and information (not strictly social media, but never-the-less reflective of my changed attitude towards Web 2.0 style services).  I have also experienced a “softening” of my attitude against personal participation in social media: I can see how it can meet individual needs, and in some instances provide valuable social and personal connections amongst people with common needs.  As a student, I have found the group facility of Facebook to be very useful, and the ability to share information quickly on Twitter also a boon.  I believe that these are great tools to help distance education students feel more connected, and would be very willing to use them again in future subjects.

To summarize my INF506 learning experience I would quote Louisa May Alcott in Little WomenI’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship”.  I’m no longer afraid of social media, and I feel like I am learning to use it to me my needs, and my patrons’ needs.  That has made this subject a valuable part of my professional growth.

Evaluative report part 1: Evidence of meeting learning objectives for INF506

For this assessment of how I have met the learning objectives of this subject, I have distilled those objectives down to a few key points for consideration;
·         Understanding the range  of available SN tools
·        Determine what SN’s suit professional and organisational needs
·         How do SN’s contribute to  Library 2.0
·         What issues must be to considered and managed around the use of SN’s in the library

During this unit of study I have expanded both my awareness and familiarity of social media and networking tools. I have utilised Twitter and Facebook on an almost daily basis for personal and study use, and much more frequently than formerly in my professional capacity.  (Documented in my blog posts “(mis) adventureswith Twitter”, “Evaluating my Twitter experience”, “A-Z of social networking inmy library”) Additionally, I have re-acquainted myself with delicious, attempted SecondLife (connectivity issues due to the quality of my Internet service made for a difficult and discouraging experience), and become aware of Pinterest.  I have dabbled in Goodreads, and added a number of new sources to Google Reader.  I completed my major project for this subject with HistoryPin, and believe it to be a very valuable tool for creating a sense of community through sharing historical photographs.  I will continue to use it in my workplace, and advocate for its use in my community.  I have also created an Instagram account, and, out of all the new SN tools I have been using, found it to be the most enjoyable and satisfying on a personal level.  I believe that I have certainly met the objective of increasing my understanding about the range of social media and networking tools available (and also my understanding of how much more is out there to explore).

Evaluating the usefulness and usability of social networking tools has been an important part of my learning process this semester.  The tools I have evaluated in depth are Twitter (as documented in my blog post “Evaluating my Twitter experience”) and HistoryPin (as documented in assessment item 3 for this subject).  However, as I have explored the various tools and networks I have been exposed to this semester, I have consciously been considering several factors:
·               How easy is this tool/network to use – can I (as a person with moderate computer skills) figure out how to join / explore / contribute to this medium? Could a person with lesser skills do so? Could I assist a library patron to access the medium?
·                Does this tool/network meet a need – does it help me / my patron gain information, build connections, create a sense of belonging / community, provide some sort of satisfaction/value/reward for my/our participation?
·                Is the effort/time I spend using this tool worth the rewards/outcomes I receive from doing so?

As a result of this experience, I feel that I am better placed to effectively evaluate a tool that I am considering using (either professionally or privately), and that I will be able to determine firstly my goals for using a social media tools, and then, if the tool has the potential to help reach those goals.
For me, Library 2.0 is about using the tools to create connections, enable participation, and share content.  I have touched upon how my library is exploring web 2.0 concepts in my blog post “A-Z of social networking in mylibrary”.  I think the main thing I have learned is that for libraries, social media has to be about how it works for the patrons, and how it builds connections, not about “technology for the sake of technology” or “ticking a box” saying that we are following the trends.

Finally, I have explored some of the management issues and concerns around social media in my blog posts “Five trends impacting digitalcitizenship and library information policies” and “Online identity and privacy”.  The speed and ease of information transfer in our technologically advanced society can be a huge advantage, and also a real danger.  As information professionals, we must balance so many competing demands, and act to protect and educate our customers.  Sound policies, sensible attitudes towards exploring the new, and a focus on the basic tenets of our profession (equitable access to information for all, and the protection of customers’ privacy) can help to guide us in our explorations.  Whist not explicitly explored in my posts, an issue that also needs consideration is the very real digital divide.  Libraries have always helped ensure that people have access to the information they need, regardless of their economic or social circumstance.  This is becoming more and more important in the online world, as so many service providers and agencies require online interactions.  Library patrons who lack the digital literacy or the connectivity to engage in this environment are at real risk of exclusion and disadvantage.  They must not be forgotten as we embrace social media.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Online identity and privacy

My reading of the Raynes-Goldie study of privacy and Facebook inspired me to look for something more current on the topic. In the process I came across this interesting article by LOTHAR DETERMANN  “Social media privacy: a dozen myths and facts”  Determann argues that the biggest risk to online privacy is not the social media companies, the advertisers, the government or the technology, it is the users themselves.  As a librarian engaging in social media use on behalf of my institution, I need to be aware of my users privacy concerns, just as I need to be aware of my institutions right to keep sensitive material private.  These privacy issues are not new – as a librarian, I would not share my customers reading habits or information needs with others, and so I need to ensure that social media use does not similarly breach privacy.

 Two areas spring to mind – the posting of photographs of library events on our Facebook page (something we currently do) and the use of peer recommendations and reviews in library catalogues (something we don’t currently do).  I am very cautious about the use of photographs depicting people, and we currently have a procedure in place to obtain photo permission from the parents of children who participate in Library activities.  Even with that procedure in place, I am still very reluctant to use photos depicting children, unless I seek and gain additional permission to post that photo to our Facebook page.  Do I need to extend that same caution to adults as well, or do I simply avoid using photos with people in them? Does this need to be defined in a social media policy?

I have been toying with the notion of incorporating some sort of user reviews / recommendations into our library catalogue, or encouraging patron participation in a social book review site such as Goodreads.  Do I need to think about the possibility of participation potentially revealing my patrons reading habits and tastes, or does the fact that people contribute to these services of their own volition negate my concerns.  Can the underlying service provide aggregate information and use it for commercial purposes, and if they can, is that my worry? Do the benefits to the patron outweigh these potential concerns?

For me, exposure to this topic has broadened my thinking about some of the underlying issues and concerns around social media, and how it is a rich source of data about people and their lives.  Balancing the competing desires of engaging with my patrons in their spaces and networks against ensuring that my actions do not breach the fundamental tenet of protecting user privacy is an interesting dilemma, and one that I am sure many other libraries are facing.  

(I found that in this activity, I went rather "off topic", but, in reading these articles, I found that these were the concerns that resonated with me)

Raynes-Goldie, K. (2010). Aliases, creeping, and wall cleaning: Understanding privacy in the age of Facebook, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Available 

Five trends impacting digital citizenship and library information policies

·         Increase in online readership of newspapers – when you add blogs, twitter, facebook and other online sources, there is a clear trend towards individuals seeking immediate access to information that suits their particular needs.  The amount of RSS and aggregator services now available means that individuals can have ready access to news and information that suits them, on topics that interest them, when they want it. What does that mean for information policy (and collection development policy)? Libraries needs to facilitate access to online news sources, through unimpeded in-house access, through education of users about how to access and personalise news and information streams, and through evaluating and recommending quality online news sources, just as they have traditionally evaluated and provided access to hardcopy news sources
  •  Music (and video) piracy - the large amount of pirated information available on-line presents a number of problems for libraries.  From an information policy standpoint, issues such as how to prevent patrons using library supplied equipment to breach copyright, how to reduce bandwidth drain from file-sharing, and how staff should respond to requests to assist patrons perform illegal activities.  This issue also often raises tension between library and IT staff, as library staff defend freedom of access to information, and IT staff wish to protect their network and bandwidth by blocking obvious sources of file-sharing and video content providers.
·         Growth of Twitter as a communication, advertising and search tool – huge numbers of users and tweets means that Twitter has the power to rapidly disseminate information and opinions – Library information policies need to consider if and how libraries should utilise this type of tool - is the potential to reach a wide audience, and disseminate information rapidly important to the library, and if so, how will the library establish itself in the channel?  It is important to consider what the goals of participation are, and how the customers will benefit from the Library engaging in Twitter.

·      Employee use of social networking -  this topic raised interesting notions of freedom of expression, balanced against an organisations need to protect its image, and prevent dissemination of potentially damaging or valuable information.  Information policy needs to include a code of ethics for employees, and employees need to be educated about the need to consider carefully what they publish as private citizens.  Recent examples of employees suffering consequences in the workplace for private online behaviour (the Charlotte Dawson Twitter troll incident) reinforce the need for library information policy to include ethical issues.

  •  Proliferation of mobile devices as internet access tools – as the growth of mobile devices continues, libraries will need to take action to ensure that their online presence is mobile friendly.  We are already seeing libraries provide mobile apps for their catalogue, and this trend is going to have huge impacts on the way we do business over coming years.  Information policies need to allow the flexibility to adapt to changing demands, and to embrace new technology, and also to move towards an acceptance of “less-than-perfect” solutions.  By the time we wait for “perfect”, we have missed the boat – patrons will have moved on, and found other sources.

This has been an interesting exercise in considering information policy, and how important it is in providing a foundation for libraries and other information agencies to build strong services that balance a number of competing demands.  There are a number of issues that I need to consider more carefully when I next review my own organisations policies.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The A-Z of Social Networking in my library

This post will review my library, in light of a few of the A-Z of ideas listed here.

Active - how active is our use of social media.  Our Facebook page has been up for quite a few months, and at first, I was updating very irregularly, as I was not sure what sort of information to post, and I was feeling some trepidation about doing so - it felt like a real chore.  I have found that as my comfort level has increased, so has the frequency of my posts - especially over the last few weeks.  I have obtained an ipad for work, and am using it to snap photos of things in the library, and post information about the photos.  The ease of use of the process with the ipad has made a big difference to my willingness to post regularly.  We have just started a Twitter account a few weeks ago, and I am still building my familiarity, and deciding what to post, and how to construct a good, succinct tweet.  I am following a few organisations that are in the library world, and think that my tweeting frequency will also increase over the coming weeks.  As our (slowly) growing number of followers increases, and the amount of customer response also increases, I think I will get better at identifying what people are interested in hearing about.

Content - is it valuable to our patrons?  I find this a difficult factor to gauge, and at this stage, am tending to post similar sorts of information as I would publish through more traditional channels.  However, the more I read and discover in this subject, the clearer my vision about content becomes - I am starting to feel that SM should be more than just me promoting events, and should give customers a sense of connection to the library, by offering little glimpses into our world.  I have noticed over the last couple of weeks, that photos tend to get 'liked' more often than information posts.  I also want to start to share information from the broader world of books and reading, by linking and sharing others' content, instead of just sticking to my own four walls.

Direction - do we have one, and where do we want to go with SM.  My libraries use of social networking certainly did not start out with a particular direction or goal in mind, and in truth, was more a case of being told to get SM up and going, and figuring it out as I went along.  I am finding that as my familiarity and comfort increase, then so does my sense of purpose for using SM, and I can now articulate a clearer, if still somewhat ill-defined goal of "creating a sense of community and engagement" with my audience.  I'm not quite sure I will know how to tell when I'm there, or even if I am on track, but at least I have an idea where I want to end up!

Facebook - as noted, Facebook was our first foray into social media, and will undoubtedly remain a key component of our activity for some time.  As our audience builds, I believe our presence will evolve, and we will embrace more of the opportunities the service offers.

Q (not on the list but I am adding my own - QR codes) these are probably open to debate as to whether they should be considered social networking, but I am starting to think they can be a great way to get audiences to engage with you. I have just this week created QR code posters to link to our Facebook, Twitter and HistoryPin channels, and to the library homepage.  There are lost of ideas running around in my head about creating content such as how-to videos and "read-alike" lists, and I'm sure that as this subject progresses, more ideas will come to mind.  I have noticed QR codes appearing more and more often in various print media, and have been exploring some of the content offered up.  As I do so, I become more convinced of their ability to offer a way to extend the customer experience, and to invite people to actively pursue a connection with you.

I enjoyed considering my library in light of the A-Z listing, and have noticed the big change in my understanding of, and attitude towards social networking tools.  Had I looked at this list 12 months ago, my answers would have been different, and so would my attitude.  Whilst I don't think I will ever become one of those people who have trouble distinguishing between the "real world" and the "online world", I am becoming one of those people who understand the value and reach of social networking, and who are striving to use it productively. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Evaluating my Twitter experience

Whilst attending the PLNSW conference, I tweeted regularly, in order to both increase my familiarity with the medium, and to provide myself with a good amount of data to evaluate my experience against.  I have decided to evaluate my Twitter use against several criteria:

  • ease of use of the service - could I easily and effectively Tweet from my ipad
  • did tweeting enhance or detract from my conference experience and knowledge acquisition
  • did tweeting create an increased sense of community with other conference participants
  • did my tweets create value for non-attendees to the conference
  • were there any unintended consequences 
Ease of use
Whilst not a complete newcomer to Twitter, my previous use has been limited, and restricted to participation in a Twitter reading group online, and contributing a few tweets to the #Inf2506 stream.  Since the beginning of semester I have been following the #Inf2506 stream, and tweeting and re-tweeting content for it.  I had initially used my ipad with the official Twitter app, and found it easy to use, and felt I had mastered the basic concepts.  However, it soon became evident that I could not see all the tweets in the #Inf2506 stream on the official app, only those rated "top" which equated to only those of a few users.  I also found that if I re-tweeted, the tweets did not show in the stream.  I downloaded both Hootsuite and Tweetdeck apps to try to overcome the problem.  I found the Hootsuite app to be easy to use, and was able to set up different columns for the conference feed and the INF2506 feed, but still had trouble with re-tweeting - some appeared, some didn't.  In the end, I decided to limit re-tweeting, and just stick to what I created myself.  I tried the tweetdeck app, but didn't find the interface as appealing, as the various streams were not visible at the same time.

Enhancing experience

I was certainly a little dubious about tweeting "live" from the conference, as I was concerned that I would  "miss" some of the content while I was busy composing and sending tweets, and reading others tweets.  I normally take pen and paper notes, and this time had also abandoned that in favour of my ipad, so I was really occupied with the technology this conference.  I certainly found that some sessions and some presenters lent themselves more to being tweeted about than others - but I really didn't take many notes from the sessions I didn't tweet about either.  At first I struggled to split my concentration, but found as I progressed, that it became easier.  I certainly found that I have remembered bits that I tweeted about, and others tweets stand out as well.  Reading other people tweets at the time also enabled me to see what others found noteworthy from the presentations.  To my surprise, upon reflection, I feel that my experience was enhanced by tweeting from the conference.  I feel that writing the tweets helped me focus on "key points" as I needed to distil the information into short chunks that would make sense to others (hopefully make sense anyway)

Building community

I have always found conference as important way of connecting with my fellow librarians, but it is always hectic and the ability to talk with others is limited, due to the amount of stuff happening at the same time.  I was already following a couple of librarians on twitter before the conference, but over the course of the event, ended up identifying and following several others, after reading their remarks.  It was interesting to try to match up the tweeter to the real person - some I could, some I couldn't, but that did not become an issue for me, as I thought it might - I previously had a bit of an aversion to the idea of following someone who I couldn't identify as a real person.  Over the course of the conference, several of my tweets were re-tweeted, and I experienced some satisfaction and excitement when that occurred - I felt that it was a validation of my contribution.  Since my return I found an article by Chen that explores the idea that the more time Twitter users spend with the service the greater their gratification of the need to feel connected with others.  The article suggests that those who become regular long term users of twitter are satisfying a need to be connected with others, but does not explore the characteristics of those users.

Adding value

Did my tweeting add value for others - a difficult question to answer - certainly some found my comments interesting enough to retweet and therefore share with others.  Undoubtedly some some of the students in the INF2560 subject groups would have been annoyed by my tweets, others may have found them interesting.  I found an article from Harvard Business Review that studies what make a good tweet.  The article suggests that most people find only about 36% of tweets worth reading (interesting given that people are choosing whom  they follow).  The most worthwhile categories of tweet are "random thoughts - either exciting or funny", "self-promotion", "questions to followers - crowdsourcing" and "information sharing".  The least useful were "complaints /whining", "what I'm doing /eating/etc", "personal conversations" and "presence maintenance".  When I think about the tweets I did from conference, most fell into the "information sharing" category.

Unintended consequences

One very unexpected outcome was the amount of spam tweets that occurred over the course of the conference and since then.  On day once of the conference, enough traffic was generated to cause the hashtag to trend.  As a result, overnight a large number of spam tweets appeared in the conference stream.  Then, random re-tweets started to appear, from people who appeared to have no connection to libraries or information work.  As I had used both the conference hashtag, and the Inf2506 tag, the INF2506 stream ended up with quite a few spam tweets appearing - I found this particularly annoying considering how much I and other students have struggles to get valid tweets to appear!!

Overall I found my tweeting at conference to be a satisfying and worthwhile experience, I have expanded my twitter network, and improved my skills.  I even found myself tweeting my response to a football commentator who described a player as "as quiet as a library today".  Expressing my opinion was rather satisfying, even if only a few people get to read it!

Chen, G. M. (2011). Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 755-762. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.10.023

What Makes a Great Tweet. (2012). Harvard Business Review90(5), 36-37.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(mis)Adventures with Twitter

As part of my subject this semester I promised myself that I would really push myself to use social media tools that I am not overly familiar with. Part of my challenge is to start using twitter, so I decided that I would tweet from the conference (ImaginePLNSW) that I am attending this week. I have been practicing over the last few days, and have found it to be a frustrating experience. I installed the twitter app on my iPad, but found that when I search for tweets with the subject hash tag #INF2506 I only get a few, not allow them. I couldn't find a fix for this, so decided to try hootsuite and tweetdeck as alternatives. Both seem fairly easy at first glance, but I am finding that if I retweet from hootsuite, I cannot get it to show in the #INF2506 stream. I feel like the last few days have been going around in circles, but have plans to catch up with a few more experienced people here at the conference to pick their brains!

I have spent some time thinking about what makes for a good tweet, especially from something like a conference, and will be try to aim to link to presentations and info presented when I can, to make the tweets more valuable.

Shoal Bay (the. Conf location) is lovely, and apparently, there are lots of dolphins in the harbor -I will keep my eyes peeled!