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 Women “I’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.