When considering the global scope of academics in the 21st century, can the path opened by social media for professional collaboration among international academic libraries be ignored? This article discusses a unique collaboration between two academic librarians, the one in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA and the other in Shandong Province in the People’s Republic of China. The article relates how international collaborations may occur through the use of social media, the difficulties faced by such collaborations and the necessity and benefits of working with international colleagues. The presentation addresses the difficulties in forming international collaborations, taking into consideration distance, technologically variations, language, culture and the role that computer-mediated communication through social media tools can a play in overcoming these obstacles.
Nordbok (Nordic Literature and Library Committee) is a committee under the Nordic Council of Ministers. It was appointed on January 1 1989 with a view to encourage the propagation of Nordic literature and to strengthen public library cooperation in the Nordic countries.
Web 2.0 and related social media has allowed for collaborations on a micro or personal scale. The ability to create and share content on a small scale with individuals located globally is the essence of a new type of collaboration among librarians and the institutions that they serve.
Sunday, June 3, 2012 More places to get your librarianship questions answered Librarians today are a fortunate bunch, we trade ideas and advice from librarians thousands of miles away as easily as from someone in the same city using the internet and social media. As a result, new and good ideas flow very quickly these days. All it takes is one Librarian to tweet or post on a mailing list say a script he came up with that allows you to customize, summon and within days, libraries around the world would have copied this innovation. No longer do you need to attend library conferences in person to get infected by new ideas or to leave your question unanswered because your organization lacks people with the right expertise. Still is this scenario I painted really true? Does information, innovation in libraries and change occur faster today compared to say 20 years ago? Perhaps one day I will collect some data to try to support this hypothesis. In any case, I wrote Where do you get your library news? Evaluating library channels back in 2011 and it is time I updated it for 2012.
Collaborations were discussed among the mentors of Dr. Cho’s Information Sociology group and with members of Library Related People . Finding common ground was difficult at first. Diverse libraries, public, academic and special and other information services made up the represented members in mentoring group. While the participants were willing, finding the proper way to develop collaboration was difficult. However, two members of both Facebook groups, Mark Puterbaugh of Eastern University and Sun Hua of Shandong University of the Arts continued their discussions until a project was born. The two librarians began chatting about doing something together during Dr. Cho’s class so that working together seemed natural. The discussions continued on Library Related People’s wall and via e-mail and the MSN Chat until common ground was established.
Weekly Skype sessions were arranged. During this time the collaborators not only grew to know each other better, but came to know other staff members from their respective libraries. And because the time difference was so great, each was able to see a little of the other’s home life. Through persistence in communication using Skype, MSN Chat, Facebook and e-mail a plan for developed. Together it was decided to create an online informational service. Mark Puterbaugh first proposed a website dedicated Chinese art. Sun Hua was grateful for the suggestion to follow a topic so very familiar to her. However, she countered with the development of something with more breath. Looking through Eastern University’s online resources Ms. Sun suggested doing a LibGuide for Eastern University students on Chinese history and culture. Who better to help develop the topic than a librarian from China.. Additionally, Ms. Sun offered to act as a reference librarian for the LibGuide, providing her e-mail and other contact information for those needing assistance with the topic. With permission from the supervisors an both institutions the project came to life. The flexibility of both partners was essential. With the distances involved, missed meeting times and the subsequent misunderstandings can easily occur. It is important in this type of collaboration that the lines of communication be well established. Both participants were dedicated to their Skype meetings and consistently exchanged e-mail and chat reports.
A willingness to switch daytime and nighttime hours for communication is important, especially when there is the 13-hour time difference between the two schools. AM in China is PM in America. The time difference between was compounded further by time changes in the USA. The bi-annual change in the USA from Standard Time to Daylight Savings Time caused an hour of confusion to the Americans waiting to connect.
One best practice that was developed during the long distance communication was maintaining a separate chat tool open during Skype video chat sessions. On several occasions technical difficulties (like the dropping of a Skype session during a thunder storm in Philadelphia) cut video chat short. A phone call to the other person was not practical, however by maintaining an active MSN chat session with each other meant that the difficulties could be communicated and understood.
Language can be a major difficulty. Fortunately in this instance, Ms. Sun was fluent in English and a very able and open collaborator. Shandong University of Art and Eastern University are two very different institutions. While the institutions have a great deal of information about their schools on the campus websites, the inability to physical connect, visit, the other’s campus added a level of difficulty to the enterprise. The collaborators couldn’t walk the campus, interact with students and get the “feel” of the institution. The two libraries, both academic, have very diverse missions. Eastern University is a small liberal arts school associated with the American Baptist Convention with no fine arts and design program. Shandong University of Art is a school of the fine and performing arts. Despite the physical distance, the use of social media, particularly Skype a video conferencing tool, helped to mediate dialogue between the two collaborators. It was discovered that both universities have a global perspective. Eastern University School of International Leadership Development (SILD) has been a mainstay of the University’s curriculum for several decades, and the school’s ESL program reaches out to many Asian countries, including Mainland China. The school in Shandong was dedicated to the arts and by mission and purpose reflected a global perspective.
The first picture is the students from Eastern University while another picture shows the students of Shandong University of Arts.
Possibilities of Social Media to Promote International Collaboration
The Possibilities of Social Media toPromote International Collaboration Presented by Hua Sun Shandong University of Arts and Mark D. Puterbaugh Eastern University emtacl12 - emerging technologies in academic libraries 2 October 2012 Trondheim, Norway
Macro-Collaborations Large Institutional Projects Nordbok.org Tempus Programme, European Commission OCLC WorldCat University of Tennessee, USA – Makerere University, Ghana
Micro-Collaborations Individuals using Social Media Usenet, Listservs, etc. Facebook Librarians Library Related People Help a Librarian
Help A Librarian founded by Heather Negley Bring together librarians from different countries Help each other answer questions. Share resources. Knowledge and Enhance. Cultural Understanding. Free reference service helps librarians connect anonymously to another librarian a world away.
Library Related People founded by Aaron Tay A Facebook group that welcomes all library related people. Over 1,000 members from all over the globe.
Information Sociology founded by Dr. Myungdae Cho Introduced students to the power of social media. Provided an international group of mentors. Feed back 24/7.
Chinese History and Culture LibGuide A Micro Collaboration Hua Sun and Mark Puterbaugh First international collaboration for Warner Memorial Library. Share expertise. Open communication. A collaboration between 2 individuals founded on social media.
Physical Distance 7000 miles apart. 12 to 13 hours apart. Asynchronous communication.Best Practice:Time differences can be difficult to overcome. Share the burden.
Technological Variations Facebook Google Docs MSN Live Skype EmailBest Practice:Never rely on a single tool for communication.
Cultural Differences Look for common ground! Language Campus cultures Personal differences Shandong University of Arts Eastern UniversityBest Practice:Be flexible! Long distance collaboration requires both parties tounderstand that there are differences in worldview.
Promise and Benefits of International Collaboration Experience new technologies. Sharing information. Sharing cultural differences. Opening channels between libraries and the parent institution. Promoting the library and the professional staff.
Sustainability Connections within the Institutions. Is there more that can be done? Keep the dialogue going. Shandong University of Arts Taking it to the next level.Best Practice:Advertise! Let people know what you are doing. Eastern University
Conclusion ”Small is Beautiful --networking makes us stronger” Seminar la Biblioteca Oraşului Helsinki .