Meeting, Tweeting and Fb’ing – An SLA Europe event

On the 24th of April, I went along to the National Library of Scotland to attend the SLA Europe event “Meeting, Tweeting and Fb’ing”, which promised to cover topics such as “how useful is social media for libraries? Can Facebook really help me to promote what I do? What benefits can using LinkedIn bring me as an information professional? “
We began with Bryan Christie of the National Library of Scotland (NLS) giving us an overview of the aims and activities of the NLS on social media. The purpose of this approach is to increase the NLS’ digital presence, and raise awareness of the interesting, non-digital materials within its collections, especially to a younger audience. Bryan views a relevant social media presence as being like journalism – you have to find the interesting information. He’s found that posts on Twitter publicising material from the NLS collections is driving traffic to the NLS website, for more information on these materials. Examples of traffic-creating posts on Twitter included an online discussion of the new, e-legal deposit responsibility of the NLS, with the accompanying hashtag of #digitaluniverse allowing easy collation of the discussion. The NLS’ Facebook presence is also focused on promoting the collections through highlighting interesting holdings – a post showcasing Mary Queen of Scots last letter was particularly popular. By analysing the statistics on, it can be seen that the followers of the NLS Twitter account have trebled in the last 18 months, and comparing the NLS Twitter account to that of the National Library of Wales and the National Library of Ireland, all libraries are experiencing an increase in followers. Bryan did say that at this point, it’s hard to know whether this growth is due to the NLS being an active tweeter, or due to the general integration and uptake of Twitter in the general population. Using Twittercounter, it was also possible to pick out some of the basics of the Twitter approach of the other National Libraries, including whether they had a set target amount of tweets per day to create. Another example given of a successful NLS social media campaign was the “Scotland At The Movies” Facebook competition, which attracted around 1800 entries over the three month period of the event, hugely increased referrals from Facebook page to the website, and reached a younger demographic  (a majority of 18-34 year olds)than other methods of attracting interaction. There was also an effort made to monitor the entries for inappropriate language, as the competition was open to all, and therefore potentially able to be abused.  In general, Bryan said that the best way to build a social media presence is to be active, be interesting, be funny,  monitor,  listen and respond.
Nick Goldstein, Senior Account Executive was there as a representative of LinkedIn, which currently has a membership of between 80-90% of UK professionals. Nick began by describing one of the benefits of social networks – they allow tracking of the dissemination of information within them. They also allow power to be in the hands of the people producing the material hosted on them, and people are producing material at an astonishing rate – the activity statistics of users of social media are mindboggling, and the number of users continues to rise. The major players in social media are sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, with the different sites fulfilling different purposes for users, whether it be for personal or professional use. Personal use of social media is centred on activities that link to the desire to have fun, keep in touch, and the enjoyment of nostalgia, while business use mainly relates to learning, developing, and finding information. LinkedIn itself is a massive company, with 11 million members (if not 12 million by the time of writing of this article) in the UK, and over 200 million worldwide, as at December 2012. Its growth has been purely viral, as it doesn’t advertise, and it’s now so massive that it’s the only real professional platform, internationally, and is the 21st most visited site on the internet. Although it is already a massive network, it aims eventually to have all of the world’s estimated 640 million professionals as members. It makes acquisitions of key business that it thinks will enhance its offering, such as their purchase of Slideshare in 2012, designed to allow better representation of members work. LinkedIn also uses member activity to tailor their homepage to what it believes to be their interests, basing the news it presents to them in their LinkedIn Today section on each individual users previous activity history. This ability to see what individual users are doing also allows them to see how the way LinkedIn is being used changes throughout the day – in the morning, it’s mainly accessed via mobile devices, as members travel to work, in the daytime, it’s mainly desktop based access while users are in offices, and in the evening, access is mainly through tablet devices.  It also has an open API (Application Programming Interface), which makes the development of new elements to the site, and its integration into organisations far easier.
After each speaker had given their presentation, there was an opportunity for attendees to ask questions. The first question related to using Twitter in business, and how to improve your reach. The response boiled down to:
Have guidelines in place for appropriate account use/content (with the example used of the April Fools Top Gear joke tweet issued by the Danish police, as a time when more care should have been taken)
Be interesting
Be active
The next question was how best to use LinkedIn for career opportunities. This led to a long list of tips to enhance your account:
Get an 100% completeness score – adding a photo is a large part of this.
Get recommendations, by giving recommendations – 3 recommendations are required for a full profile.
Use the headline area – describe what you do and who you are. It’s better than the job description area.
Flesh out and give detail to your previous job information.
Join groups – you can be a member of up to 50.
If you make sure your profile is as complete as possible, it allows their algorithms a better chance to match members and their skills to opportunities. 
The issue of false staff having claimed on their profiles to have worked at organisations that they didn’t actually work at was raised next. It was explained that as LinkedIn is an open platform, sometimes things do get abused, but checking algorithms are running, and human moderators are also performing checks, so there’s a constant mixture of human and machine monitoring. Also, individuals can alert LinkedIn to any false users or claims.
Then… it was onwards, to the networking!
I have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the amount of user activity tracking that’s going on behind the scenes with LinkedIn. I don’t ever actually look at the LinkedInToday section, as it’s not a site I go to for news, nor are the suggestions every particularly relevant to me. I don’t know what they base their news suggestions on – perhaps it’s related to whose profile I clicked on? But I’m pretty sure I’m not deeply interested in learning about management from bees or golfers, which is today’s main story! Personally, I think I may be the wrong market for any site that wishes to tailor its content to my viewing preferences by using data on my browsing history: I have PrivacyFix installed on my browser, and try to minimise any information I give to sites that I know are using me as the product, like Facebook.  If I *want* a tailored service, I’ll give the information requested, I actually find the thought that this is being done in the background, based on how I use a site, kind of uncomfortable. But I think I must be in a minority – personalisation seems to be the way forward….

Discussing the internet…offline

Spiegeltent inner roof canopy

Last week, I was part of the Scottish Law Librarians Group annual outing to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. This year, the chosen talk was The Guardian debate, “Rethinking the Internet: is the web changing society for the worse?”, with the following description:

We have embraced the online revolution with open arms and nearly 20% of all retail purchases are now made via the internet. More than that, the internet appears to be empowering citizens in ways that challenge the traditional relationship between individual and state. Is the net effect positive or negative? Writer Nick Harkaway, novelist Naomi Alderman and James Gleick, author of The Information, lead the discussion. Chaired by Ian Katz, Deputy Editor of the Guardian. *

So, you’d think with that sort of blurb that the debate would allow some involvement from those not in the room, via the internet itself e.g. that someone official (the Book Festival does have a Twitter account, and they’re using a hashtag for the event) would be there to live tweet it, maybe taking questions from the wider audience on the internet to pass to the panel. Perhaps a Twitterfall display, to show tweets and comments being made about the event by both those in the room and those following the event from outside, as they were being made. And of course, there’d be a hashtag to allow people on Twitter to take part virtually, using the hashtag to allow an easy collation of tweets about that particular session. You can’t really have a debate about the internet without a hashtag, right?


There wasn’t the slightest hint of any desire by the organisers to use the exact medium that was being discussed, in order to allow a wider pool of people to be involved in the debate. As there was no hashtag, my friend Laura Kidd decided to set one up, and as you can see from the link below, there was plenty of activity on it. Imagine how much more reach and publicity the organisers would have had if they’d actually set up the hashtag themselves, and informed their many followers? **

The chair was also entirely disinterested in engaging with anything to do with the internet (in between his summing up of audience questions, during which he entirely altered and changed the original question being asked in about 50% of them, as he didn’t seem to understand what the audience members were asking), made lots of statements about why it was a Bad Thing (including, bizarrely, why internet dating was a terrible development), and did not want to hear about, or use the questions being raised by any of the people who were eagerly following the debate via Twitter.

The speakers themselves were excellent, and their discussions were obviously firing up a lot of people in the audience, who were keen to ask them questions inspired by their debate, and hands shot up all over the room when the chance came. This same enthusiasm from those online was thwarted, as there was no way for them to interact with the speakers, and no official tweeter in the room to direct their comments to, to channel them towards the speakers.

Sometimes, people just don’t seem to grasp the potential and worldwide reach of social media! This could have been a two-part event: the physical one, with the panel discussing, and the audience listening, with a virtual event running alongside, with thousands of people both inside and outside the venue taking part in a debate using the actual technology being discussed.

Instead, we got a discussion that included only those in the room, having their questions changed and simplified by the chair, and the event ending when the lights went up, instead of cascading outwards online, and continuing and developing in all sorts of interesting directions, for everyone to take part in.


Maybe next year, the Book Festival will get the hang of making and publicising hashtags for, if not each event, at least those ones where social media is being discussed and is therefore highly likely to be being used!

The Guardian Book Festival logo in the Spiegeltent

*Naomi Alderman was unable to be there, and the debate was actually chaired by author Ewan Morrison.

** Does not include Retweets, as far as I can tell. Tweets using the designated hashtag #GuardianRethink are still available as of 20 August, but will be deleted within a few days by Twitter.

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!