Hello, welcome to Finding Your Tribe in Libraryland: Professional Networking via Online Social Media. My name is Martha Hardy. I am a reference and instruction librarian at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. How many of you have been involved in online social networks? How many of you check them weekly? How many of you checked them today before this session? Well, I hope this session will provide the newcomers among you with a useful overview of online social networking. As a new librarian, I have some particular reasons for talking about professional networking via online social media. As an incipient librarian, I had two major things going for me. First, I got an amazing paraprofessional job working in reference and instruction at the Bio-Medical Library at the University of Minnesota, where I worked with fabulous, supportive libraryfolk who taught me most of what I know about being a librarian. Second, via online social networking, I was able to develop a strong professional network that supported, guided and mentored me during library school, my paraprofessional jobs, a major job search and now, my first librarian position. In my experience, online social networking can be an excellent, effective and fun means for libraryfolk to develop a professional network. Today, I hope I can encourage some of you to give it a try as an alternative to more traditional means of professional networking. I’ll start with some background information about social networks and online social networking. Then, I’ll talk about some specific social tools you can use. Finally, I will provide a case study of the Library Society of the World as an example of a robust, thriving online social network for libraryfolk.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how online social networks function and why they work. So, being a good librarian, I’ve done a little research. So, the first thing I am going to do today is share with you some of what I have learned as background information, with the understanding that I’m not really a sociologist Sociologists, of course, have been talking about social networks for a long time. According to the Oxford University Press Dictionary of Sociology, in a social network, people are linked together in a complex fashion via a variety of social ties, stemming from kinship, profession, authority, friendship, etc. Online social networks are facilitated by what Tim O’Reilly calls “an architecture of participation.” That is, software platforms that are designed to facilitate participation , communication and user created content. Such online applications are referred to variously as social media, participatory media, social tools or simply as social networking sites.
This is a picture of danah boyd, who is a major scholar regarding online social networks. According to danah boyd and Nicole Ellison in 2007, a social network site involves: “web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.” Also, “What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks.” Often, people make connections via latent ties; that is, people with whom they share a “real world” connection of some kind. Also according to boyd and Ellison, basic features of social networking sites include: profiles, comments, private messaging and Friends.
Friending – with a capital F – is different than being friends – with a small f, according to danah boyd in a 2006 article in First Monday. She defines regular friendship as, “a relationship that involves some degree of mutual love or admiration.” There is no absolute, objective standard for friendship, of course. Someone is my friend because I say they are, and they, hopefully, agree. Most of us would probably say that being friends with someone involves sharing a meaningful, close, even intimate bond. In contrast, on online social networking sites, declaring someone a Friend does not necessarily indicate a close or strong bond. Social network analysts would call this a weak tie. Weak ties can be strengthened via online social interaction and can be leveraged in the form of social capital to accomplish certain things.
So, as I said, relationships with Friends in social networks are the source of social capital. Nan Lin defines social capital as, “resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed &/or mobilized for purposive actions.” In other words, if I invest in my social network by participating and interacting with others, I build up social capital that I can draw upon. Pippa Norris talks about two different kinds of social capital: Bonding and Bridging. I’ve seen both kinds at work in librarian social networks. Bonding, in that we are all librarians, so we share that identity. Bridging, in that we are different kinds of librarians from all over the world. We are public, academic, law, medical, government and special librarians. We are new and experienced librarians, library students and paraprofessionals. We work in reference, instruction, Web design, systems, and tech services. Getting out of my own little silo has been one of the greatest benefits of participating in online social networks.
Clay Shirky has written a wonderful book called Here Comes Everybody. His premise is that with the new, online social tools, much of the costs of organizing people in groups to do something are vastly reduced. He uses the term cost to refer to everything from money, to time and effort. With online social tools, we have the ability to reach out and connect people around the world, to build relationships, to quickly disseminate information and to recruit participants without managers, formal institutions or any financial backing. All that is required is that people care enough to invest the time and energy in the activity. Put another way, he says, “quote” these things might be as modest as assembling a collection of thousands of photos of an event in Flickr. All that is required is that people post their pictures and assign an intuitive tag to the records. No one has to recruit volunteers or manage the project – it just happens. This falls into Shirky’s information sharing category, which bears the lowest “cost”. Higher cost activities involve collaboration and the highest cost activities – that is, the ones requiring the most effort and coordination – are collective actions. We’ll see examples of all of these later on.
We’ve probably all seen or participated in more traditional professional networks, via email lists and listservs or via official sites sponsored by professional organizations, such as ALA Connect or WebJunction. There is also LinkedIn, which is specifically set up for professional networking. I’m not suggesting that networks formed via social tools necessarily replaces any of these formal networks or organizations. Rather, I think that there can be benefits to participating in the online, open, more serendipitous networks that form using social tools.
Serendipitous & spontaneous Temporal & ad hoc Open Flexible Informal Often bridging
Twitter is a great example of this. People tweet certain events or conferences, using hashtags. News can be reported instantly. When the need goes away, often the loosely formed “group” does as well.
Let me tell you the story of the Library Society of the World, our autonomous collective. While I’m at it, I’ll tell you the ways we have employed various social tools. I am not going to cover every single type of tool, but I’ll hit some highlights, plus I’ll demonstrate a couple live and in action. What you see here is one description, from the FriendFeed site. LSW was originally formed as a response to ALA. People wanted a library organization flexible, dynamic, non-hierarchical, fun and social. It began on twitter, which did a great job of spreading the word very quickly. Then the wiki was created on what was then pbwiki, which helped tremendously with coordination, since it gave us a central place to store information. Anyone with the password could edit it and the password was distributed widely. A chat room was created in Meebo, which was central to the organizations development. There, conversations ranged from cataloging questions to dinner plans to reference questions. After this, LSW started turning up everywhere: Facebook, where we have several hundred members; LinkedIn, where we have close to a thousand; LastFM, Zotero, SparkPeople, and so forth. The main hub of LSW activity now is FriendFeed, which I will talk more about in a bit.
LSW was promoted publically via several different blogs. The screen capture you see is one of the first, from Joshua Neff. http://www.goblin-cartoons.com/2007/04/28/my-ala/ While we are the topic of blogs, blogs remain central to social networking. They give people places where they can write at length – as opposed to being constrained to a certain number of characters, as they are on twitter or FriendFeed. By the way, if you are ever looking for new blogs to read, you can check the blogrolls on blogs you like. Another good strategy is to search LibWorm or MedWorm, if you are a health sciences librarian.
Ways I’ve used my social networks: Information sharing and dissemination Brainstorming – otherwise known as crowd sourcing or consulting the hive mind Mentorship, guidance and advice LSW has been tremendously helpful to folks doing job searches. People share job postings. I had librarians from around the US offer to review my cover letters & CVs, which was invaluable. Other people have been able to use online peeps as job references. Awareness of trends. Think of how long it takes stuff to get published in the scholarly journals. Blogs are faster. Twitter and FF are fastest! Support for change. I get to talk to other people who are working to implement change and innovative projects in their libraries.
Collaborative presentations by LSW members at ALA, Internet Librarian and Computers in Libraries. Several articles have also been published by LSW members.
Steve Lawson and Joshua Neff set up a blog where those of use who weren’t chosen as Movers and Shakers could nominate themselves as Shovers and Makers. We ended up collecting dozens of fabulous stories of what librarians around the US and the world are doing in their libraries. http://www.shoversandmakers.net/
The name of the LSW Zine – Codslap – stems from a online conversation about whether the LSW should develop a code of ethics. One little typo and code became cod. The zine was named after the infamous Cod of Ethics. http://stevelawson.name/seealso/archives/2009/07/finally_codslap_for_non-ala_attendees.html
Laura Crosset, Steve Lawson and Joe Kraus organized Library Camp of the West, a successful unconference for libraryfolk in Colorado. http://librarycampwest.pbworks.com/
http://www.wfpl.org/2009/08/20/library-getting-outpouring-of-donations-after-flood/ When the Louisville Free Public Library’s central library was flooded, it caused millions of dollars of damage. Greg Schwartz kept us posted via FriendFeed and twitter. Steve Lawson was moved to organize a fundraiser. We rose $4200 in just a couple of weeks, just from blog posts, FF posts and personal connections. The story was also picked up by Cory Doctorow, who wrote about it on Boing Boing. This is a perfect example of the kind of collection action Shirky applauds in his book.
The very best things created via LSW and online social networking are the real friendships and community. Latent ties have become weak ties and some are now strong ties. We have connections with librarians across the country and around the world. And a robust social network with loads of social capital that helps us individually and collectively. I hope this presentation provided you with some useful background and theory about how and why online social networking works, plus some ideas about the kinds of professional networking that can be achieved using various social tools. Thank you.
Finding Your Tribe in Libraryland:
Professional Networking via Online
Martha E. Hardy
Minnesota Library Association Annual Conference
October 15, 2009
Finding Your Tribe in Libraryland: Professional
Networking via Online Social Media
Martha E. Hardy
Minnesota Library Association
2009 Annual Conference
October 15, 2009
What is a
• Define - Lin
“Our social tools are turning love into a
renewable building material. When
people care enough, they can come
together and accomplish things of a
scope and longevity that were previously
impossible; they can do big things for
love.” (p. 142)
Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody
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