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.