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Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

10 top tips to take your organisation’s Twitter account up a level

28 Aug

My current column for Library Journal is all about taking a Twitter account to the next level. It’s hard to keep organisational accounts progressing – a lot of them plateau after a while – so there’s 10 golden rules to get you past that point.

 

Image of the LJ column online

Click the image to read the full article on libraryjournal.com

 

The 10 golden rules in brief, are:

  1. Only tweet about your library one time in four
  2. Analyse your tweets
  3. Tweet multimedia
  4. Tweet more pictures
  5. If something is important, tweet it four times
  6. Use hashtags (but don’t go mad)
  7. Ask questions
  8. Get retweeted and your network will grow
  9. Put your Twitter handle EVERYWHERE
  10. Finally, avoid these pitfalls
    .

Read the full article with expanded information about each rule, here.

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Ridiculously excited to be interviewed in SLA Information Outlook

19 Aug

I love being a member of the SLA – although the word ‘Special’ in the title implies that it will be solely aimed at legal or business librarians, it actually has a large percentage of its membership coming from academic institutions like mine. Part of membership includes getting the magazine, Information Outlook. This is a really good trade mag – there’s a lot of useful, intelligent, grown-up content there. My favourite part of it is the member interview section, 10 questions with… I’ve learned a lot from it (and loved reading Bethan Ruddock’s one when she did it) so I was ridiculously excited to be asked to participate in it.

I’ve done a few interviews now but, with the obvious exception of Circulating Ideas, they’ve all been via email. This one was a proper telephone conversation with Stuart Hales in Washington, which was taped and then transcribed. It was exciting doing it this way. I got a copy of the questions in advance, although we went off on different tangents in the conversation itself (Stuart told me a great wedding-crashing related tale which you should force me to tell you should we meet at a conference or in a pub…). I was a little bit apprehensive in the lead-up to it because the questions seemed slightly passive-agressive in a weird type of a way, but Stuart wasn’t remotely like that in the actual conversation, so I think I just got an incorrect impression from them on paper!

We talk about marketing, the SLA itself (more on that below the interview), the Buy India a Library project, professional development, new technology, and taking a step back. (Whimsical tales of my ability to lead a walking tour of York are greatly exaggerated. :) ) Anyhow, here it is – it specifically says at the bottom of this page that it’s for personal use only and not for reproduction, but I’ve got proper permission to use it, I promise…

 

Ned Potter Information Outlook Interview by thewikiman

 

If you’re an SLA member you can read the whole July-August 2013 issue from which this came by logging-in here.

On the subject of the SLA, at the weekend I read this absolutely brilliant post about the organisation and the annual conference, by Penny Andrews. It articulated things I value about being a member which I didn’t know I knew… It certainly seemed to chime with a lot of people judging by the Twitter response, so particularly if you’re not an SLA member but have wondered about it, have a read.

I’m a member of both CILIP and SLA, and will continue to be so. I get different things from them – in some ways I feel that CILIP helped me more as I was growing up (which is partly why I’ll keep paying my membership fees; I owe them) and SLA helps me more now I’m grown up. The SLA is / are a confident bunch, and very positive – perhaps this is partly because they are under less obligation to ‘save libraries’ than CILIP or the ALA, so there’s a lot less hand-wringing. (Incidentally, I LOVE Penny’s comments about MOOCs and gamification in that article!) There’s a lot of money in the organisation (they work hard to build and maintain relationships with corporate sponsors) and quite honestly it’s nice to be part of an organisation that can afford to do things with style and without an ever-present sense of worry about finances. The downside of this is that it is if you don’t like wearing suits for work-related things, and aren’t going to do so just to fit in (*raises hand*) you can feel under-dressed at the London SLA-Europe events! Penny talks about being treated as an equal at the conference in the US, regardless of the status of the person you’re talking to – I’d agree with that, but if you start mixing with the sponsors in London, expect at least a couple of them to be baffled that dressing in a suit and schmoozing isn’t your number one priority…

What the SLA does (in my view) is focus on making us into better, more effective information professionals. They can afford to focus on improving us, and let others worry about the Latest Big Library Crisis besetting the profession. Part of the way we can endure in libraries is to be really brilliant at our jobs – it feels like the SLA addresses making a practical impact in a very hands-on way, all of the time, rather than being side-tracked. The conference itself remains the greatest experience of my professional career – I’m over the moon to be going back, to Vancouver in 2014, to give a few talks and see everyone again, and generally drink up the atmosphere of niceness and happiness.

Here’s the link if you’re thinking of joining; I wish I’d done so earlier. I didn’t sign up to the SLA previous to winning the ECCA which gave me a year of free membership, because of the cost. To spend a big chunk of money on something work related, especially after already paying for CILIP membership, is daunting. But it’s based on a sliding-salary scale so you pay less if you earn less, and now as a proper fee-paying member from my point of view (and from that of all the members I’ve talked to), it’s worth it.

Librarianship can be tough these days, but the SLA makes you feel good and gives you confidence – that’s not a trivial thing.

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A letter to a younger me

09 Aug

I’ve not been blogging for a month or so due to the arrival of baby Grace! But I’m back at work on Monday so I’m gradually easing back in to the world of librarianship, starting with some stuff I meant to blog links to ages ago but never got around to…

I was delighted to be asked to write a post on the Letters to a Young Librarian blog run by Jessica Olin. It’s a really good blog and one that I read a lot anyway, so it was really nice to do something for it. Here’s my post.

Click to go to the article

I tried to really honestly (and at the risk of embarassing myself a bit) write a letter to the me that was about to start his first day in libraries, aged 25-and-a-half, back in 2006. I also tried to make it as relevant and useful as possible to a new professional today, so check it out and and tell me what you think. It includes a list of things I think we really should be doing in our profession:

  • Communicating our value PROPERLY at every opportunity.
  • Embracing informality.
  • Trying to inspire people rather than placate.
  • Understanding that work-life balance is important enough that it should not be considered with reference to what ANYONE ELSE IS DOING. 
  • Libraries have always been product orientated, but now they need to be market orientated.
    .

Each of these is expanded in the post; it was fun to think about this stuff. Thanks to Jessica for asking me and the reader of her blog who requested the post!

I’ve written quite a lot of stuff on platforms other than here (or the Toolkit blog) in recent months – there’s a complete list in the Guest Posts On… section down the right-hand side of the website (you’ll need to scroll down!) but here are the most recent:

Normal blog service will now be resumed!

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Gender and Digital Identity

10 Jul

Troll pic by John McGovern. (Click to view the original on Flickr Creative Commons)

 

In a way this is slightly off-topic in that it isn’t about libraries, but in more ways it’s on-topic because this blog is often about new technology, and social media, and higher education. In particular I think we as information professionals should be sharing our expertise in social media with the academic community – I do this via workshops, and one question I get asked in more than half the sessions I do, is, how do you deal with the unpleasant attention online which you (inevitably) get if you are both prominent and female?

When I was first asked this I really didn’t know how to answer it very well – the second and subsequent times I’d looked into it a bit and felt better prepared, but there still doesn’t really seem to be a good answer (outside of: Fix Society – which I’m not holding my breath for). With this in mind, I went along to a session called Female public intellectuals – the risk of exposure as part of the University of York’s Intellectual Integrity conference. The panel discussion was revealing, fascinating, and depressing – I was going to say in equal parts but that’s glib; it was basically mostly depressing. Here are some thoughts around this whole issue, for what they’re worth.

The problem

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the problem but let me set it out explicitly here: the problem is that as soon as you gain an amount of exposure, you open yourself to abuse. I think this is true across the board, because among every X number of people, a small percentage of them are bound to be fecking idiots: the higher the number X, the more idiots are in that number. However the problem of abuse is exacerbated by the internet in general (it allows disconnected contact in a fashion which allows cowards to flourish), social media in particular (it allows direct access and potentially even the feeling that you ‘know’ someone and so are entitled to comment on their appearance, etc) and is much much worse if you’re female, gay, or in an ethnic minority.

Increasingly vital to researchers and academics is the need to have impact, and to have impact you need to be seen. To be seen is to open yourself to abuse, so how do you do your job in such conditions?

One of the panel spoke about how she appeared on the BBC for around 2 minutes – TWO MINUTES – and within hours had several emails from people either saying how sexually UNattractive they found her, or how sexually attractive they found her and what they wanted to do about it. Males on the same programme got emails too – about their arguments. But she just basically got abuse – and keep in mind, this is a BBC1 audience who had to Google her and find out her email, and took the time to do so.

The two things that really hit home for me attending this talk (and keep in mind I’m a social-media-workshop-teaching, feminist-lefty-leaning Guardian-reading, already-interested and somewhat-read-up-on-this librarian…) were A: how little exposure women need to get abuse (I naively thought it didn’t happen until you’d been on TV, but people with 2,000 Twitter followers are finding that enough to warrant emails detailing sexual fantasies) and B: how there’s no real preparation for dealing with it. It’s not really discussed much. There’s a tendency to laugh it off or, worse, to feel misplaced guilt about it – maybe I inadvertently led them on? So it doesn’t get shared, and you don’t get the relief and understanding that comes from realising other people are getting this abuse too, and it’s not your fault.

We’re not talking about a tiny number of ‘sick’ people abusing women online anymore. It’s really, really common.

It’s no longer about anonymity

For ages I thought the problem with the internet was anonymity. If you want to see how people act when they’re unaccountable, go look at the comments section of ANYTHING – YouTube, the Guardian, heaven forbid the Mail – and check your faith in humanity at the door.  People say awful things, all the time, because they don’t have to take responsibility for them – they can hide behind a random username.

But I don’t think that’s even the main issue anymore. Take a moment to look at this tumblr post from Feminist Frequency – she had the audacity to tweet a mild comment about lack of female lead characters in computer games, and got back an unfathomable stream of abuse. The abuse is not from people hiding behind the anonymity of the net. It is from people with their name and photo on their twitter account.

Another attendee at the session today mentioned the ‘coarsening of society’ – we are generally getting more unpleasant, more mysognistic all the time. I agree with that, but I think social media can make this a lot worse because of its unique ability to connect like-minded people.

Social media, tribes, and ‘finding your (similarly repulsive) people’

I love social media. I love most how it can help you find your people – you can reach all the other Twitter users who happen to have your exact outlook on life, or taste in music, or professional interests, or whatever it might be. It gives us all the chance to deepen and enrich our experiences through sharing them with the like-minded. The old saying about how you can’t choose your family, but at least you can choose your friends – that needs updating. Because even your friends are chosen partly based on logistics such as geography, place of work etc. Online you can find people just like you!

However… There’s a darker side to this, which is that all the really repulsive people can find all the other really repulsive people. And what they do (this is my pet theory; others may have explored this with proper intellectual rigour) is form their own ersatz society, which comes with different standards of behaviour. It seems to me that a depressingly high percentage of humans really have no private morality at all – the only reason they aren’t unpleasant to women (for example) all the time is because society’s norms dictate that they can’t. Hence, the original problem of anonymity and the net – if you’re not accountable to society’s norms you can finally act however you like (which for lots of people seems to be: Really Unpleasant!). But now that all these people can find their tribes online, they effectively create a new society where the norms ARE to be unpleasant and misogynistic – so they think nothing of abusing prominent women under their own name and their own image.

God it’s depressing.

A project to tackle this

I’d like to see Higher Education Institutions tackling this by preparing academics and researchers (both male and female) for what will happen if they become prominent. I’d like to see students being taught about the scale of the problem as soon as they engage with the online world. Clearly this is a far bigger problem than just an academic one, but we can’t all leave it for someone else to fix society. But even tackling this problem head-on is fraught with difficulty – as someone on the panel pointed out, this has the feeling of acceptance: getting abuse is part of being a successful female, so here’s some coping strategies, off you go.

Anyhow there is work being done in this area, and I particularly wanted to highlight what Sara Perry, one of the panelists, is doing at the moment. She’s collecting data about people’s online experiences, and there’s been around 200 responses to her survey so far (which is great as it’s brand new) – including people saying how they deal with this and offering SOLUTIONS or at least ways of getting through the problem for individuals. That’s a great thing, and I can’t wait to see what Sara and her team publish at the end of it. (From a purely selfish point of view, I’d like to be able to better advise people who ask me about this in social media workshops about how to deal with it.) So please consider taking the survey – the details and the link are on Sara’s blog. Sara is speaking up about really problematic issues here in the hope that it can help others who have endured similar incidents to those she’s experienced, which is vital.

If anyone has anything they’d like to add to this in the comments, whether it’s general discussion or advice on how to deal with online abuse, please leave a comment below. And if you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!

 

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