Emporia State University Research and Creativity Day Poster Session, April 26, 2012
Librarians’ Professional Identities and Stereotypes through the Evolution of Social Networking: A Survey and Analysis Cynthia Akers Director of Instruction Emporia State University Libraries and Archives
What Prompted This Survey?We know that patrons of all types of libraries canhold certain stereotypes of librarians (andsometimes, for very valid reasons!)Stereotypes include:• The Old Maid (not necessarily limited by gender)• The Police (zealously guarding books)• The Parody (comical or satirical representation)• The Inept (socially awkward/uncomfortable) Can you think of other stereotypes? Attebury, “Perceptions of a Profession: Librarians and Stereotypes in Online Videos”. Library Philosophy and Practice, 2010. http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/~mbolin/attebury.htm
Enter…Social Networking!Assumptions: Social Networking Examples:• Generation X/Y/Millennium Facebook (and to a cultures may be more much lesser extent comfortable with technology anymore, MySpace) (digital natives) Twitter• As these cultures choose professions, they may be more apt to incorporate social Blogs networking into library presences and influence other generations into doing so Google+• Are, then, professional identities affected positively, LinkedIn negatively, or not at all by the prevalence of social networking tools? YouTube
What Does the Literature Say?Not much, at present! The assumptions aboutlibrarian identities and social networking abouthave only recently been tested:Ramirose Attebury (2010): Examined librarians andstereotypes in online videos.Most library literature covers either librarians’attitudes toward the Internet, or “how-to” articleson setting up a library’s Facebook or Twitterpresence for publicity, promotion, and outreach.
Survey: Summer and Early Fall 2011• Zoomerang survey created for two audiences: – Librarians and library personnel • Librarians – defined as holding a Master of Library Science degree or equivalent from an institution accredited by the American Library Association • Library personnel – working in a library but not holding above degree – Library and information science students • Enrolled full-time or part-time in MLS or equivalent program in an institution accredited by the American Library Association• Approval for survey granted by ESU Institutional Review Board• No limit on type of library; responses solicited from public, academic, school, special, and any other libraries
Survey Distribution and ResponsesLink to the survey and E-mail 800 responsesdistributed to the following • 703 – librarianslistservs: • 64 – library personnel• KANLIB-L (Kansas libraries) • 33 – library science student• PUBLIB-L (public libraries)• LIBREF-L (reference Further demographic breakdowns: librarians) • Librarians and library• ILI-L (library instruction) personnel:• DIGREF-L (digital reference) – 597-female; 100-male• GOVDOC-L (government • Library science students: documents) – 28-female; 2-male
Age Range of Respondents - Librarians and Library Personnel 44 8 15 20-25 91 26-30 114 31-35 101 36-40 41-45 86 46-50 78 51-55 84 56-60 80 61-65
Age Range of Respondents -- Library and Information Science Students 1 4 20-25 4 26-30 31-35 2 36-401 41-45 46-50 10 4 51-55 56-60 3 61-65 (No respondents 65 and over)
Librarians and Library Personnel: What social networking tools do you use in your professional/scholarly activities? Facebook 171 Twitter 100 468 YouTube or similar online video service Blog311 I do not use social networking tools in my professional/scholarly activities Other (please describe) 286 239 “Other” included LinkedIN, Google+, Google Sites, Google Docs, Meebo, FourSquare, listservs, Fli ckr, Goodreads.
Library and Information Science Students:What social networking tools do you use in your scholarly activities? 7 Facebook 19 Twitter 8 YouTube or similar online video service Blog I do not use social networking tools in my scholarly activities Other (please describe)15 11 “Other” included Plurk, LinkedIN, WebJunction, Ning, Moodle 12
Librarians and Library Personnel: How often do you use these tools in your professional/scholarly activities? 96 Daily Weekly 40 247 More than twice a month50 Monthly 71 Less than twice a month I do not use social networking tools in my professional/scholarly activities 211
Library and Information Science Students: How often do you use these tools in your scholarly activities? Daily 7 Weekly More than twice a month Monthly 15 Less than twice a month2 I do not use social networking tools in my scholarly activities 1 2 3
How Do You See Social Networking Tools as Changing One’s Professional Identity?Librarians and Library Personnel (424 comments)“I am old:+)- I will always consider myself a librarian, not a social media maven. Social media are just another set of tools in myprofessional toolkit.”“Because these are tools of communication, I dont see them as changing ones professional identity, but simply as what it is: atool. Social networking is pervasive beyond our profession. I dont see the tool itself as having any more difference in changingones professional identity as, say, print on paper.”“It is very much about presentation, PR, and marketing. Best face forward all the time! Having to understand that some media aremore effective than others by type of information being released. Having to have awareness that confidential data is not bestplaced or is inappropriate for some social media platforms.”“Very easy to blur the line between personal and professional. Can facilitate relationships, but can also cause problems. Useful forspreading ideas and information quickly, but must be alert to misinformation and to information taken out of context.”“It changes how you are seen by your colleagues, peers, and by the general public. You are now gauged by your conduct, by thethings you say, by the things others say about you, by what you write, by the way you write it, and through… face toface, papers, peer review, presentations…For me, Twitter has been the best networking tool in the profession. It has both allowedme to listen in on what others are doing and share my own experiences and resources through minimal effort and in a "drop-in-to-view-the-current-news-whenever" kind of way. It has allowed me to make many more connections that then helps face to facemeeting at conferences, etc. than I would have otherwise.”“I think that "social networking" is the latest hot trend in librarianship that, if youre not accepting of or mad about them, you willbe perceived as not "cool" and a "curmudgeon" - which conforms to stereotypes about librarians. Im not saying I believe thisperception is valid or fair, but it seems to be the "reality" that pervades the library profession.”“They might learn that we are up to speed and libraries are relevant to them in todays world. We can help them with informationshortcuts AND we can be fun (and funny) in our social networking!”
How Do You See Social Networking Tools as Changing One’s Professional Identity?Library and Information Science Students(22 responses)“The most effective librarians today are the ones who are savvy in networking and usethem to their advantage.”“I think we all have to be careful of our professional vs. personal online presence andhow (if) to distinguish between the two.”“Kills the stereotype”“I think it shows people other sides of yourself and helps you branch out to have"conversations" and feel closer to others in your profession. Sometimes this can bebad, as people can see negative as well as positive personality traits online. Somethingyou see online may change your view of the person. Usually its good, but can also bebad.”“I think ones identity will be dependent on a persons ability to projectprofessionalism through these tools. Some people will be better at this than others.”
How do you see social networking tools as affecting the future of our profession?Librarians and Library Personnel (437 comments)“the more we are forced to dumb down our message the less value we will have.”“From an academic librarian perspective, I would note that social networks take time away from reading or writing "scholarlymaterial," such as published articles in peer-reviewed journals. This is, in my opinion, a good thing--studies on scholarly peerreview make me doubt the validity of that system for weeding the good from the bad. And, anyway, the best peer review comesfrom people deciding to share--or not share--something with their networks. I get better content from Twitter, most days, than Ido from journals.”“I think that they will be another tool for our arsenal, but not something that is revolutionary. Ultimately, our job is to assistpeople to find the information they seek; whether we do it by phone, text message, instant message, email, or face-to-face makeslittle difference. Its similar to how we provide services in teaching, straight reference, collection development, and cataloguing.All are different facets of connecting information to the user, and social networking tools are simply an addition.”“Social networking tools will continue to evolve and become more useful to our profession. Right now the social networkingphenomenon is still just beginning to extend from individuals to organizations. Facebook really revolutionized the Web; making ita more individually-focused tool capable of filtering contacts and content tailored to the user rather than the ‘crowd.’”“Ideally? Keeping people energized and connected. The issue is supervisors who see it as a "waste of time" and dont allowit, which leads to stagnation and isolation.”“The line between librarians and journalists may blur. Clever use of social networking can also make it easier for libraries andlibrarians to connect with potential patrons who never, or rarely, cross the physical threshold of the library.”
How do you see social networking tools as affecting the future of our profession?Library and Information Science Students(23 responses)“Social networking tools and our ability to use them and let them work for us willdetermine which libraries will remain stuck in the past and which will soar into thefuture.”“Dont know. The profession is very much the same in many ways as it has been fordecades. Ethics and customer service have always been important. How we do thesethings is different but getting the right materials into the hands (or computers orsmart phones) of our customers is still very important.”“Right now these function as an awkward add-on to our services. They probablyfunction better in a public library setting. Most of these tools have been out 5+ yearsand to my mind have become stale -- Im ready for a new generation of socialnetworking tools. All technological change affects our world and our profession tosome degree, but I dont think the current crop of social networking tools has or willaffect our profession much.”“As long as we dont forget to keep that personal touch - I can see it opening up awhole new area of library services.”
Is there anything else you would like to comment about social networking tools and librarian identity/profession?Librarians/library personnel Library and information science(219 responses) students• It seems like people who dont use social networking tools are being left behind. I worry for our (8 responses) profession, when people show such unwillingness to • Im not worried about the generation gaps. I know change their workflows. individuals (my parents generation at least) who are using social networks better than people my• Frankly, I think we spend too much time worrying about age. our identity. Whats wrong with being what the public believes us to be? If thats what they want from us, why • Im a Millennial whos had a webpage half my life not deliver? Isnt that our job? Who cares if they will and used generations of social networking tools. I always think of us as stereotypical shushers? If we are like them, and I think theyre changing things for connecting them with the information they need, were the good in many ways, but I think that in the rush doing our job. If were making them aware of to understand and use these tools, we should information they didnt know they would be interested remember that in-person connections (between in, were doing our job. If were reaching out with colleagues, between user and librarian) are still education and opportunities, were doing our job. The valuable and cannot be replaced in many cases. public is being served, regardless of how they perceive Finding a balance is key! us or how we perceive ourselves. Our focus should • People are human, and they are more than entitled always be our patrons, not ourselves. to expressing themselves, however, with a position• I am sensitive to the eventual disconnect that often comes responsibility, and in this position they occurs within SN connectivity. I think I might have said should be professional on and off the clock, for more did more sometimes and oftentimes feel that I their own reputation, and for the reputation of the might have dropped the ball and am keeping another establishment they work for. person waiting who might be hoping or more connection from me.
Conclusions and Next Steps?• Analysis of data ongoing, but • Identify and survey a greater preliminary findings are that population of library and librarians/library personnel are information science students; overall using social networking while sampling is too small at present at the same time noting the blurring to extrapolate many comparisons of professional/personal identities with other groups and potential loss of privacy • Identify methods to survey library• At present, no significant difference patrons – what are their in generations regarding use of perceptions of social networking and professional librarians, identity, and effects of identity; perhaps some differences social networking? in concerns (privacy; jumping upon the latest technological “toy”; loss of personal service) What are YOUR thoughts about your discipline, stereotypes, social networking, and professional identity? Let me know! firstname.lastname@example.org