Posts Tagged ‘australia’

quashing participation

Information professionals should be using social media if they care about the rest of the world. I mean, I’m a fan of cataloguing in a cave, but engaging with your community is important. Even if you’re the most locally focused librarian ever in a community where none of your users give a shit about Twitter it’s important to be using it to pull in information and to show off the knowledge being created in your community.

One thing we learned in our Community-Led libraries course with Beth Davies and Annette de Faveri was the importance of not coming into a space with an agenda. Not showing up and saying “Here are some awesome things the library can do for you!” but hanging out and asking what is happening with them, letting the community lead the library. That takes a long time. I think participating online requires a bit more push than that, because if you’re just hanging out as a library, not talking on Twitter, you’re invisible (in a way you aren’t when you’re sitting in a halfway house with a box of donuts).

I also think the idea of a limit to our participation in social media is stupid. I mean, sure, posting pictures of patrons on Facebook without their permission is a bit sketchy. But stopping information professionals from being part of the world just because of who their employers are is bullshit.

A story from work: A library in Northern Australia was making use of some of Koha’s features to integrate a blog onto the front page of the OPAC. The library staff were creating this information to participate in the wider world and were really proud of it. And then their Communications Department found out and shut it down. Not because of something bad that happened but because of stupid bureaucratic power disputes that said librarians aren’t authorized to create publications. That story makes me incredibly angry. To have participation curtailed by the communications department who wanted more control over messaging is kind of terrible.

Part of my visceral reaction to that story has to do with my personal history working at a public library that had a regressive attitude towards people talking about things online. I was disciplined for blogging about work on my personal time. The disciplinary hearing involved the director of our library telling me I was not fit to be a librarian and shouldn’t go to library school because of my disrespectful attitude. This experience led to my disclaimer/explanation page you can see linked to on my library blog’s of Opinions & Assholes page, and you can read some of my other ruminations about privacy and the like when that former library actually created a social media policy because of me. That link includes a response to a danah boyd article.

the use of social media for inforgs

One of the biggest uses for blogging or tweeting is to show that there is a person there as part of the institution to interact with. When a user is faced with solely a catalogue they’re dealing with a collection of items, be they journal articles databases exhibits or books (which I hear do still exist). When you include some sort of dynamic content that’s been made by a person, you’re reminding the user that there are people behind these services.

Example: The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney (Australia – it’s where I’m on my co-op so you’re going to get antipodean examples) is using Koha as their ILS. Integrating their library blog onto the main page of the OPAC makes the catalogue a destination for users. And then when the librarian is blogging about something in their collection (and they’ve got some cool stuff) and deep-links to it, that’s giving the user examples of how people can interact with the catalogue.

Having a personality that reminds people The Library isn’t some building but a collection of librarians is important, and not only when budgets are being threatened. Users are more likely to engage with you if they know there’s someone to engage with.

best practices: libraryhack and engaging the community

I’m a big fan of how the National, State and Territory libraries of Australia and New Zealand ran Libraryhack2011. This is a consortium of governmental libraries promoting the use of (a small selection of) their collections in mashups. They’ve got a blog explaining things, a pretty vibrant Twitter feed (that isn’t solely reposting the blog’s content), and dude, they’re doing the mashup thing. How much more social media can you get? (One of my favourite entries in the contest was this sound recording made from a photograph.)

Interestingly, maybe instructively, this is an event, not something ongoing, and it isn’t very prominent on the NSW State Library website, which I think is a bit odd. Maybe this isn’t a best-practice after all.

But it does work well for that idea of “stepped” approaches for organizations. Focusing a social media outbreak on something that’s happening with the organization would give a good focus, to quickly move beyond the “What would we tweet about?” questions.

Event-type experiments can also be sold as short-term projects especially to more traditional (read: hidebound) organizations, who’re scared of what people might say about them online. If you’re having an event you want people to talk about it so it’s a good demand generator for social media engagement. Starting up accounts related to some big event would be a way to get the kinks worked out, to see what works for your users and your staff.

Now this is all stuff that looks appealing to me as a person. I have no idea how the organizations involved are evaluating the success of the libraryhack project. Would that be based on pageviews or submissions or what? It seems that you can find out how many people love the hell out of hacking library stuff, but that metric might not translate to some mythical general user.

introduction for libr559m

From the Vista Blackboard discussion forum thingy, a piece of software I am not too big a fan of, for LIBR559m.

I’m Justin and I’m in Sydney Australia doing a SLAIS co-op term – two terms in a row, I guess – as a systems librarian doing tech support for piles of special libraries. I started at SLAIS last September.

I’ve had a blog since 2002 (Wil Wheaton made me do it). When I was in journalism school in 2004 we had a New Media class and talked about how the world was changing ad nauseum. And then I participated in the change (doing interviews about crowdsourcing from the citizen-journalism fringes). So when I talk about this stuff here I’ve totally got my journalist hat on. Fair warning. I see journalism and librarianship being pretty intimately connected and like getting paparazzi flashes in their faces during their private times.

I’ve got my blog for this class set up here, but my more general library/bookish site is, my personal blog is The Dubious Monk and I’m @jjackunrau on Twitter. Those’d let you know me a bit better and from some different angles (though I cuss in all of them – again, fair warning).

Looking forward to meeting you.

If you came over here from that you’ll notice there are several months worth of other stuff on this blog already. I imported some Librarianaut posts about library school and SLAIS over because, having blogged for nine years it felt really really naked to not have an archive.

jobs using productivity software

Today at work I spent a lot of time doing some final error-checking of a website. It was a nitpicky un-fun job that culminated in watching my boss debug javascript errors for the better part of a morning. So it was exactly the wrong kind of lunch break to read this commencement address for the graduates of a college of art and design:

It is an honor and a privilege to be speaking to you today. Because at most commencements, you can talk about following your dream and keep your passion alive. But most of the people you’re talking to are going to build careers sending and receiving e-mail, composing Powerpoint slides, and generating Excel spreadsheets. “Click strong! Thank you very much.”

But you? You have gone to school to pursue a creative vision, and have now acquired the skills to do so. This puts you miles ahead of most recent college graduates, who have yet to realize that skills exist, and that skills matter. Expertise matters. The important work that you build your reputation on – you can’t just Google it. You don’t cut and paste it from Wikipedia. You roll up your sleeves, and bring all your creativity and meaningful skills to bear on the problem of building something.

I haven’t graduated from library school yet, and I’ve never gone to the graduation ceremonies from my previous degrees, so maybe I’m not one to talk about inspiring speeches. But the implication that people who work with spreadsheets and email (and debugging websites) are less deserving of inspiration than design graduates irks me. It irks me even though I’m guilty of it too.

One of the things that gets to me about library work is the lack of creation in it. I mean, yes we work on databases and finding aids and displays and information literacy lessons, which all require being creative, and sure, I can talk the talk about librarians facilitating knowledge creation in a community, but usually that kind of stuff feels hollow to me. It’s just so much rhetoric to make librarians feel better about ourselves, like the debates about professionalism we have at school. I mean, I’m all over being passionate about librarianship; being awesome is great in whatever field you’re in. I don’t want to get kicked out of the cool librarians club I haven’t even joined yet, but I can’t be the only one who finds it kind of natural that creating something that gets collected by a library is better than being the collector.

But. I learned today that I might be heading out to rural Australia next month to train the staff from a health services library system in using Koha. Which I’m kind of excited about. There is expertise involved there too, stuff I’ve gone to school for and have a bit of talent in. It’s an opportunity to go somewhere and see some more stuff. Take me away from nitpicking a website and I can remember I’ve got some passion for this kind of work. I may not be a “creative professional” deserving of an inspirational speech, but as far as day jobs go, this can be a pretty good one.

It’s also kind of great to work at a place that values my abilities and trusts me to go out as their representative into the world. I’ve been here less than two months and I’m still a student, but I’ll get to go on a business trip (inshallah) like I’m a person with a real job. I don’t know how much I want to be a person with a real job, but it’s kind of fun to pretend. Pretending’s part of creation, isn’t it?

down under

I’ve arrived in Australia for my library school co-op term. I should be here till December. Blogging may be light until I start work even though I have a backlog of reviews to write and post. Soon.

twitterbrary project

Librarianaut has been taken over by a school project (check the About page for details on the course). Each of the posts with twitterbrary in the title are trying to address issues of how different libraries use Twitter as part of their overall webpresences.

Here’s what I’m trying to address in each twitterbrary post:

A review of how easy/hard it is for patrons to locate the tool/service from the library’s homepage.

The overall usability of the chosen tools or services. How easy would it be for someone to use it if they had never used that tool/service before?

A review of how well the tool/service seems to fit in with the other tools/services offered by the library.

An evaluation of whether or not you would want to use this tool/service if you were a patron of the particular library.

Suggestions for how the tool/service could be improved for the particular library.

Other points as relevant.

I’ve looked at a mixture of public and academic libraries, but tried to stay with smaller schools or cities. My rationale is that these smaller places probably don’t have dedicated staff just for their social media, so they’ll have more modest presences. I figure that gives us a bit more scope for interesting comparisons. I’ve been finding most of my libraries through Lindy Brown‘s list of international Twittering libraries. Seven of the libraries are in Canada, one is from Australia and one is from Jamaica. Three of the libraries are academic libraries and the other six are public. It’s not a terribly scientific analysis or anything like that but there was an interesting range of Twitter integration into these websites.

Anyway, that’s the project. Enjoy.

(LEGO Twitter Failwhale image by Bjarne P Tveskov)

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