A network for new and aspiring library professionals
I hope my write-up of the session doesn’t put words into anyone’s mouth, please feel free to correct me in the comments, if I mis-represent your opinions.
The manifestation of self-obsession is social media. Blogging and tweeting about our work and our opinions can be seen as self-obsession. At times, the discussion veered between the value of social media and the importance of having a social media presence.
I feel that my use of Twitter has created a librarian echo chamber, and others felt that Twitter creates insularity within the ‘library community’. Social media and self-obsession go hand in hand, with tweeting and blogging creating an impression that the tweeter/blogger’s work and opinions are somehow valuable.
It seems that we are more prone to self-obsession at the start of our careers, possibly because that is when we have time to spend on social media. As we progress in our careers, work takes over and we cannot devote the same amount of time and attention to our social media presence.
We discussed the audience of blogposts: Sue wanted to know who the ‘day in the life’ blogposts appealed to and Janine feels that library users couldn’t care less if their librarians are blogging or not. I certainly agree with that – and I don’t know that blogging improves my service to users. Penny said that there are other professions that blog e.g. police officers and ambulance workers, so it is not just librarians that use this outlet.
One participant felt that librarians’ desire to blog may be fuelled by insecurity – both in terms of job cuts and in terms of misconceptions of what we do. Blogging is a way to educate people about the work of librarians, but who is interested? If no one outside of library circles is reading the blogs then what is the point?
A theme of library blogs and library events is the need to become better at marketing ourselves and our service. If blogs are not reaching a non-library audience, then why bother? If we can blog as a way of marketing our service then we need to break out of the library bubble.
Sue said that she uses social media to promote libraries, not to promote herself. I asked if she would describe herself as library-obsessed and she agreed that she is I would also describe myself as obsessed with libraries, as evidenced by this and by the fact that I bring libraries into conversations whenever I can. One of my friends is currently living in Australia and I took it upon myself to find out whether she could join her local library (she can, yay!) and then forced the information on her. Penny used the analogy of religious zealots who must get out of the church in order to convert people; I am a library evangelist. But my use of social media is unlikely to be converting anyone, so should I rethink my tweeting etc? I use Twitter and Facebook for different purposes – Twitter is my professional persona and Facebook is for keeping in touch with friends. I do occasionally post library-related statuses on Facebook but I am more likely to give my hilarious opinion on TV programmes (*expects deluge of friend requests*).
In order to reframe self-obsession as a positive Lise suggested that it could be called self-reflection: we blog in order to reflect on our current professional practices. This should improve our work as it makes us more self-aware. Caring about work enough to blog about it indicates that the person is dedicated to doing a good job. Reading others’ blogs can be a source of ideas for improving the library service.
Using social media can be a great way to network, it certainly makes me feel more confident when talking to people at events such as Library Camp. Being able to connect with people in a non-hierarchical setting such as Twitter can open up new opportunities (again, this may be more relevant to people at the start of their careers). Social media makes it easier to network, instead of having to wait for opportunities to meet people in person.
We discussed whether people who choose to become librarians are reflective people. If so, it makes sense that they are drawn to blogging etc.
My conclusions from this session were much the same as my opinions at the start – being on twitter doesn’t necessarily improve your work as a librarian, but it can be a great source of ideas, support and inspiration.