A network for new and aspiring library professionals
I attended MMIT‘s 2015 Conference in Sheffield, “With Power Comes Great Responsibility – How librarians can Harness the Power of Social Media for the Benefit of its Users”. It was an excellent conference, with thought-provoking and relevant keynote speeches, a great choice of parallel sessions and plenty of opportunities for networking. Below are my highlights from the two-day conference, arranged in chronological order because that seems as good an order as any.
The first keynote was from Marie Kinsey, a journalism professor at the University of Sheffield. Marie spoke about social media and journalism, specifically about the ways that social media has disrupted the traditional model of journalism. One example that she used was the story of the Guardian being the subject of a super-injunction, which prevented it from publishing parliamentary proceedings. The original article was very vague, telling readers that the Guardian could not report on any of the details of the case but they were allowed to identify the solicitors’ firm involved. However, this being 2009, the twittersphere quickly leapt into action and details were easily findable on the Internet. This led to the super-injunction being overturned and shows how social media can effect change.
Marie then went on to talk about social media and citizen journalism, which has led to journalists needing to ensure the verifiability of their sources. I don’t think Marie used the words ‘information literacy’ but everything she was saying was recognisable as requiring the same skills that we teach to our library users. I had never before made a parallel between the work of journalists and information professionals but Marie’s keynote speech made the links obvious: the need for trustworthy, quality information; the gap between students’ perceived and actual skills; the need to be where your users are (i.e. the traditional news outlets have had to move online); the importance of copyright.
Throughout the conference I could have gone to 2 or all 3 of the parallel sessions offered, it was really difficult to choose between them. Many of the sessions were practical and contained tips that I will take back to work.
The first parallel session I went to was delivered by Antony Groves, Learning & Teaching Librarian at the University of Sussex and was all about Vine. I have recently started using Vine at work, so wasn’t sure if I should go to this session but I’m glad I did. I learnt more about using Vine and will be able to improve my use of Vine at work. This was a hands-on session, which was great as we got to chat to people on our tables.
It sounds like a small detail but the breaks at #mmit2015 were long enough to get refreshments, use the loo and have a chat to people – it never felt rushed. This is partly due to the fact that it was a small conference, but also down to the committee’s planning. When we plan our next event, I’ll be sure to remember this and adjust the schedule accordingly.
Following the break, I chose Bailey Solution‘s parallel session on measuring impact. I am a member of my library’s Marketing and Communications Group and had submitted a report to that group reviewing our current social media activities (for a meeting I was missing due to being at #mmit2015!) so this was an issue I was keen to explore throughout the conference. Penny Bailey gave tips on using enquiry statistics to show how your service is contributing to the achievement of institutional goals e.g. school libraries can show how library usage contributes to literacy goals.
Following a lovely lunch and another chance to chat to other delegates we were onto the afternoon sessions. Brian Kelly started by talking about ‘Digital Life Beyond the Institution‘ i.e. what happens to your digital presence if it is all connected to your institutional identity. I am guilty of using my current work email address to sign up to various platforms as it is shorter than my personal email address (not really a good excuse, I realise!). I’ve never thought about the implications of this, or what will happen to my work inbox when I leave the University of Leicester. I am not convinced that it is the work of librarians to persuade people to consider the implications of their digital content. However, our work in developing users’ digital literacy skills should give them an understanding of the options available to them for transferring digital content from one place to another.
Following this keynote was a PhD forum – 4 researchers shared their research with us. This was an interesting interlude, to see what kind of LIS research is being carried out. I found Lara Dodd’s presentation the most relevant to my current role as she is assessing aspiring undergraduate’s information-seeking behaviour. As Lara was talking, I did a Twitter search for UCAS and was surprised by some of the tweets that appeared e.g. the tweeter who didn’t know he could unsubscribe from emails. A theme that emerged throughout the conference was the gap between students’ perceived skill level and actual skill level – Lara’s research will explore that gap.
Finally, I went to see Vashti Zarach, Academic Support Librarian at Bangor University, talk about how she uses social media in her research skills sessions. I have spoken to students about creating a LinkedIn account and often use blogs as an example in evaluation tasks but have not thought to teach the use of Twitter as a research tool. I am currently working on an information literacy session for 3rd year Geology students and am going to encourage them to use Twitter as a current awareness tool.
Day 2 began with an ‘appswap’ breakfast; Andy Tattersall shared looooaaaddds of apps including Adobe Voice, Harvard referencing from the University of Lincoln, Trello, PollEverywhere, Genius Scan, Explain Everything and a few others!
There was just one keynote on day 2 so we went straight into parallel sessions. I went to hear about how the University of Edinburgh have used the power of collaboration to improve their social media presence. The context at Edinburgh is quite different from my current role, but there were still useful tips: I am currently trying to arrange a meeting for social media managers at my institution so it is good to know that other institutions find this beneficial.
Another break, more cake and then onto another session on measuring the impact of social media. Claire Sewell presented on the work she did for her dissertation on a case study of the Judge Business School Library in Cambridge. Although Claire found a lack of engagement with the Library, her respondents were generally positive about the Library’s social media presence. I would say that this echoes my experience – the Twitter account I manage at work does not have a huge number of followers, but those that use it as to communicate with us seem happy with the customer service they receive. Measuring our social media reach is one of my concerns at work at the moment so it is good to share knowledge with other librarians.
Lauren Smith provided day 2’s keynote on Using Social Media to Address Professional Issues in LIS. It was interesting to hear about how Voices for the Library were able to gain momentum for their campaigns through social media. Lauren also talked about the radical librarians movement and encouraged the audience to seek out their local radical librarians’ group. This led on to talk of filtering in public libraries and our responsibility to our users to challenge filtering as it can often do more harm than good. Lauren moved on to talking about online professional networks, which is relevant to NLPN as we have hopefully helped new and early career professionals to find people with similar professional interests, and allowed the members of our network to engage with CPD. Lauren pointed out that social media makes all of those things more easily achievable than they would be without it. As you may have seen we have conducted a survey to explore the connection between social media and CPD. We are currently writing this up and hope to have this finished by the end of the year– we will keep you posted!
There were two afternoon sessions, the first I chose to attend was by Clare Brown on using social media to make our roles more interesting. I’d agree that using social media is one of the more fun parts of my day, particularly when filming new Vines. However, the main point of Clare’s talk was that we should use our librarian skills to make ourselves indispensable at work. Clare is an embedded librarian, so again her context is quite different from my own, however the points she was making about developing your skills to meet user needs are very relevant to all librarian roles.
Finally, Sierra Williams spoke about her role as Managing Editor of the LSE Impact blog. Sierra was specifically talking about how the blog has created a networked community, in a way that traditional scholarly publishing would not be able to achieve. Blogs are seen as more stable than some other social media tools, so they bridge the gap between traditional and new publishing methods. Blogposts can also reach a much wider audience than journal articles. This presentation came under the conference category of ‘interesting but not relevant to my role’; I really enjoyed hearing about Sierra’s work but I can’t see that creating a network of bloggers is something that would be possible in my current role.
I really enjoyed my MMIT2015 experience, thank you to all who organised such an enjoyable conference. I’ll be keeping an eye out for next year’s!