The apparently unsociable librarian

I’m the first to admit, I love social media stuff. I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years, I (slightly grudgingly) eventually joined Facebook around the same time, and have played with all sorts of thing in between, from Formspring to Pinterest.

However – my use of all those sites is almost exclusively personal (apart from Twitter, which is actually heavily weighted towards work-relevant networks). There’s not actually much need that I can see to do anything involving social media in its current form for my own library service. I do enjoy reading about how academic and public libraries are furthering the use of their resources and exploring how to best use sites, using Facebook to inform users about events and service specifics, Twitter to respond to individuals, and Pinterest to collate interesting visual materials…but it just doesn’t work in my situation.

As a corporate librarian, I’m in a very different position from a public or academic librarians, in relation to sharing resources. Those types of services are set up to spread information, and allow as many people as possible to benefit from their resources, partially because the people using the resources are also helping to fund them (either through tuition fees or taxation). In a corporate library, the employing organisation has invested from their own funds to create their own library service, and properly staff it. A lot of time and effort is spent in a corporate library to create resources that are tailored to the needs and demands of internal service users, and which are therefore a valuable business asset, and definitely not a thing which could be shared. Corporate libraries cannot be sociable outside their own body – their work is for the benefit of their own, internal users only, the exact reverse of the situation for public and academic libraries.

And if it were possible to use social media in a manner suitable for sharing externally (eg for marketing purposes, which the library may have involvement in), most of the social media sites are based on the model of free sharing, e.g. Pinterest (although this has its own copyright-infringement issues, due to the sites enabling of such easy online sharing), or sites which are free because they carry advertising. This throws up all sorts of issues for a firm – what if the adverts on a free site were for an offensive service/company, or for a competitor of a client? By having firm-linked material on the same page, we could look like we were endorsing a client competitor. What if we accidentally infringed copyright on Pinterest by using an image that seemed freely and legally available, but in reality wasn’t? It could be a highly risky activity to be involved in.

Corporate library services basically have to be faceless, neutral, and non existent on social media.

So…don’t think I’m being unsociable if I’m not joining in with these discussions and experiments, but just remember: for every interesting public use of social media, there’s probably a corporate librarian watching it all, feeling frustrated that they can’t join in with the fun stuff…

Any other library service types out there unable to be sociable?

Thing 12 – social media and networks

Ok, Thing 12 is looking at “the role of social media in building up networks and a sense of community.” Now, I’ve got to say, I do love me a good social network. I’ve been a user of MySpace (back when it was actually cool), then moved on to Bebo, and finally, in the last two or three years, I’ve settled in to Facebook, and Twitter (with the obligatory LinkedIn presence, but I don’t count that as part of my part of my active social network), with a steady background of blogs.

The main benefit that I’ve gained from social media is using it to help me get to know so many professionals outside my own sphere. Scots law librarians are a small group, and our concerns are specific to the materials and data we have to work with. They can overlap when we work with UK issues, but otherwise, we’re focussed on what we need to do to deal with our own needs. Making contact with non-Scots law professionals, and regularly interacting with them has led to me making some great friendships with people who I’d never otherwise have met (and in some cases, I’ve still to actually get to meet in person). When I’ve sent out a cry for help for information on some specialist resource, or unusual materials, these contacts have been able to help me out. Without the funding to go to legal information professional events, I couldn’t have made those contacts in my sector. And I don’t see how, at any other point, I’d have been able to get to know academic or school librarians – our worlds just don’t overlap at all in any other way. It’s led to me regularly working virtually with Bethan Ruddock on our co-mentoring wiki, and I’ve only managed to meet her in real life once so far!

I’ve also benefited from online legal professional friends posting links to materials useful for my work – I often click on legal news links posted by others. They act as a sort of filter: picking up information, assessing it, and passing on the good stuff. In this way, I’ve found new news sources for my work, and kept myself abreast of the hot topics in various legal sectors – which is helpful, as I never know what I’m going to be asked to investigate next, and having a good general awareness of legal issues puts me one step ahead when I’m asked to research things.

I do try and be careful with my use of social media though – I have certain rules for certain sites. For example, on Facebook, I only allow ex-staff to add me – it’s my personal space, and that doesn’t overlap with work. I don’t share any real identifying data (birthplace, birth date, Uni, workplace, location etc) or any particularly personal things in status updates or comments – it’s for light entertainment only. On Twitter, I don’t allow workmates to follow me (nor do I follow them), I don’t use my real name or the name of the place I work, and if I share any information about what I’m doing (such as an interesting/unusual/frustrating research enquiry) I don’t name the person asking, or usually, even their gender. To the outside world, I may well appear to work in an odd place that’s staffed entirely by hermaphrodites. This may or may not be an accurate assumption.

I also don’t like any particular company to have too much access to my personal data – this is why I won’t open a Google+ account (as it would force me to use my real name) and why I immediately deleted Google Wave/Buzz/WhateverItWas when it launched, as it made me use my real name too. I can’t forget that Google’s an advertising company, and whatever it’s giving me for free (an email account, a blog, access to its new toy), I pay for by forfeiting some of my data privacy.

But in general… yeah, social media: I loves it, I does!

Thing 6, online networks, and how I’m using them (or not)

Okaaaaaaaaaaay, Thing 6 is it then!

Of the various networks suggested, I’m a member of Facebook, LinkedIn, LISPN, and CILIP Communities…please note though, that there’s a big difference between me being a member, and me actually participating in all of these!

I have to confess up front, that I don’t ever actually go onto either LISPN or CILIP Communites.

LISPN I signed up to when it was first launched, as I wanted to help build the momentum to get it going, and be involved, but it moved way past me needing to be there as an encouraging body long ago! Also, it’s not really a network that I feel I need to be actively involved in at this point – I feel I’m at a stage in my career where I’m experienced, established in my role, and happily settled in my workplace. This means I’m not greatly in need of the resources available there, which are more suited to those moving to/from library school, first/second/third jobs/contracts, and trying to establish professional networks and contacts. The “new” part is perhaps something I’ve moved beyond.

Oh lordy: I’m old.

CILIP Communities is also not something that it ever occurs to me to visit – I know that there are interesting discussions going on over there at times, but I only find that out when links to them are posted on Twitter by other info professionals. I find it quite hard to navigate, and I don’t like having to be “me”, rather than the semi-anonymous me I can be here and elsewhere.

Facebook, I’m pretty much solely personal on there. I don’t allow current workmates to add me (apart from my boss, but that’s because we have more of a Friendship With Occasional Line Manager Aspects When Needed relationship than a Strict Boss Supervising Daft Minion At All Times While Using Stern Face thing going on), other than a few of the people in work I am closest to, and am happy to let them see me personal life. I don’t talk about my work on Facebook, or any of the people there. In fact on Facebook I don’t list: my full name; my date of birth/age; my place of birth/hometown; any of my educational history; my employer; what city I live in; my relationship status etc…basically, I give FB as little as I can get away with. I also never post anything serious about me or my life on Facebook: I post (hopefully) amusing status updates, and comment on other peoples stuff in a lighthearted way. This is my entirely personal and unprofessional world.

I do allow people to add me on FB that I have got to know through other means – friends who I met via this blog, or Twitter, mainly. They are the people I feel know me, and that I’m comfortable with having access to my photos, silly status updates etc. Many of the people I’ve added in this way are also professional contacts on other networks like Twitter, so there’s an element of “I first knew them elsewhere, but I like them enough to let them see how I really am” 😉

The other extreme of this is LinkedIn. This is the only place, anywhere where I am purely “grown up, work me”. My employer, job title, responsibilities, work and educational history and professional groups membership/activities are all listed there. I am connected to workmates throughout my firm, from all different departments, and I have connections in all sorts of professional fields.

My LinkedIn profile does link to this blog, which I quite often swither about – this is quite an informal blog, but my LinkedIn profile is quite formal. Do I want workmates following that link and seeing how daft some of my posts are? Do I want them knowing I have this blog at all? I don’t say anything terrible about my work or workmates, but will they assume any oblique references are about them? Currently, I’ve gone with “well, most other professional contacts can read this, so workmates should be fine”, but I’m frequently considering whether to de-link this blog from there – is it a good or a bad reflection on my “purely professional” LinkedIn profile to have this semi-professional blog associated? Is it better to give an idea of the real me from a link to this blog, or leave it as plain and professional?

Hmmmm.

But, despite having joined a couple of years ago, my profile LinkedIn still isn’t fully complete: I don’t have a photo. Photos – yuck! I don’t have many “proper, grown up” me photos, and it’s not like I can use the “official” work photo – that’s 6 years old, and I look a tad different now. I’m still debating with myself whether I ever want one on there, because, to be honest, I only have a LinkedIn page because I feel like I should have somewhere that the Professional Version Of Dumpling could be found. I’m not looking to move employer, I don’t need a professional recommendation, I don’t use it to advertise my expertise,  I don’t use the groups (other than joining them, and then forgetting they exist), or ever contact anyone through it for help in something they’re expert in. If I wanted my friends help (which is what most of my non-workplace contacts are), I’d just ask them directly. It’s not really much use for me, to be honest.

So – I’d say LinkedIn is definitely the place that I’m still most unsure about how to best “be” on there, but otherwise, I hope the division between entirely professional (LinkedIn), semi-professional/personal (Twitter) or entirely personal (Facebook) networks is clear enough for people to see.