Using Del.icio.us as a Student

I am smack in the middle of creating my e-portfolio for my MLIS degree, and I can see several uses of social bookmarking as a student and while working on an e-portfolio.

I use Del.icio.us to bookmark the the websites my professors recommend, and I add tags that correspond to the course name and number. Early on in a new career, when you don’t have a lot of experience yet, I think it is useful to be able to easily refer to some of the stuff you studied. My problem is that I started using Del.icio.us (does anyone know the reason for the punctuation?) midway through my degree program, so at this point, I have only half of the sites from my coursework bookmarked. I wish I had started using it during my first semester because then I wouldn’t lose the sites pertaining to the subjects I studied at the beginning of the program. Also, as I create my e-portfolio, I find that I am searching for materials to refresh my memory on things like ethics, information-seeking behaviors, and teaching theories. Again, I wish I had bookmarked everything all along rather than starting when I was halfway through.

I just read an interesting blog post called “Using Del.icio.us to Create an Easy, Always Updated Online Portfolio” by Michele Martin. She suggests using Del.icio.us to create an online portfolio that is easy to update. A couple of days ago, I read an announcement that SJSU will be changing its learning management system (LMS). Again. It was changed right before I started the SLIS program, again when I was partway through the program, and now it will be changed again right after I finish the program. At this point, I’m just going to assume that it will be changed again and again and again. That begs the question: what happens to my e-portfolio every time SJSU changes the LMS? It looks like it might be a good idea to look for a new home for my e-portfolio (rather than keeping it on an LMS). I’m not sure at this point how often I would want to update my e-portfolio, but I will be looking into the possibility of using Del.icio.us.

It’s all about the wall!

I have been wondering if the academic library I work at should have a Facebook page. We currently have zero input on our website, but with LibGuides we have been able to create some content. Patrons view the guides, but no one has commented on them, so we still don’t have an interactive web presence. The students in our computer lab are always on Facebook, and it seems like a good idea to go where our patrons are.

Davis Library at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has a Facebook page. The page is used to advertise sales and trainings, ask patrons for their preferences, make announcements that the online resources are temporarily unavailable, etc. While these posts are not drawing a lot of comments, I get the idea that the library wants to have a popular Facebook page. It even states on the information page: “We’re experimenting with this Facebook page. What would you use it for? What resources would be useful to have here?” It is a good idea to get student input on the potential uses for the Facebook page; however, the question asking students for input is not posted on the wall, therefore making it unlikely that the students will post answers. There are 1,259 people who like this page, 22 are talking about it, and 1,085 “were here.” Students are looking at the page, but there is very little activity on the wall.

The Wellesley College Library also has a Facebook page, and it is even less alive than the Davis Library page. Only 629 people like it, 7 are talking about it, and 54 “were here.” The wall is used to advertise library activities, but there is no evidence of interaction on the wall.

Hennepin County Library has a Facebook page with 6,305 people who like it and 112 people talking about it. The posts on the wall are a combination of library announcements and patron comments. For example, a patron asks a question about the garden on the roof, and a library employee gave a detailed answer about sustainability. Also, a patron wrote a very positive comment thanking the library for Freegal. This library has a much more active and therefore effective page than both Davis Library and the Wellesley College Library.

It’s not clear why one library Facebook page is more successful than another. Of these three libraries, it is the public library that is most successful, and that surprises me. College students love Facebook, so why aren’t the academic library Facebook pages more successful? I wonder if college students have so many Facebook friends to keep up with that they don’t have much time or desire to keep up with a library Facebook page. Or could it be that the Hennepin County Library has promoted their Facebook page more effectively?

Ultimately, the wall is the essence of a successful page because that’s where interaction takes place. Regardless of how many people like your page, if the wall is dead, then the entire Facebook page is dead.

Lovin’ me some LibGuides!

I love LibGuides! I have created several for the academic  library I work in, and while I am still learning all the possibilities, it is quite easy to jump right in and get started. This is probably the key to their success: you don’t need any sophisticated programming or design skills to create a good solid guide. The hardest part about LibGuides is figuring out how to pronounce LibGuides (to resolve this dilemma, I propose the name be changed to ‘BraryGuides).

At the college where I work, the library currently has no control or influence over our own website. We are lucky to at least have a link on the site to our LibGuides. Despite our lack of control over our own website, we have been able to create online content for and about our library using LibGuides. For example, I created a guide called Zollinger Library, and on this guide, we can put information about the library and our services, and this can be updated in a flash. We have been able to gain some control over the online presence of our library.

Not all libraries have the kind of road blocks we have when it comes to their websites, but the ease of creating LibGuides opens up the possibility of creating online content to everyone on the staff, regardless of their technical knowledge. Library employees can create guides about any area of expertise, interest, or passion. It is possible to respond quite quickly to patrons’ needs and interests. I recently learned that an American Studies class had an upcoming assignment to give an oral presentation about the Civil War in the southwest. I immediately began working on a LibGuide and accompanying book display to suggest and promote the resources that could be used for the assignment.

LibGuides has hit on a winning combination of ease and usefulness, and it’s no wonder they are so popular.

Successful Library Blogs

Using Google Reader as my aggregator, I have been keeping up with the following blogs:

  • In the Library with the Lead Pipe
  • The Librarian’s Commute
  • The Distant Librarian
  • Librarian by Day
  • David Lee King
  • Librarian.net
  • Tame the Web
  • Librarian in Black

When comparing blogs, a main difference I see is posting length. Some of the bloggers create quite lengthy posts, namely In the Library with the Lead Pipe. This blog contains essay-length posts that are well-written and well-researched with proper citations. In the case of such lengthy posts, I can recognize the value of thoroughly exploring a subject. I found, however, that I never made it to the end of a post, no matter how interesting the subject was, because I was constantly interrupted. If I were to continue to follow this blog, I would have to make sure that I dedicated a interruption-free time slot to read it.

Other bloggers have shorter posts, such as Librarian’s Commute, The Distant Librarian, and David Lee King. Too short was occasionally a problem when the brevity was a result of not giving any examples to demonstrate the points being made. Also, the extremely short postings were so short that they didn’t catch my interest. The blog I am most likely to continue to read is David Lee King. His posts left me wanting a little more, but in a good way: long enough to catch my interest but short enough not to bore me. Lesson to be learned here: find that sweet spot when it comes to length.

I enjoy the various titles given to the blogs, and I found it ironic that the cleverest, catchiest title (In the Library with the Lead Pipe) belongs to the blog with the serious and well-researched essay-length posts. Not what I would have expected from the title. Instead, I had imagined a humorous blog with comic strips. Whether or not this is a problem depends on the pickiness of the reader.

I was interested in librarian.net by Jessamyn West. Her bio says that she works in a rural Vermont library which promised to be very interesting to me since I work in a remote region. Her latest post advertises an online conference called Big Talk for Small Libraries, which could be very interesting for me to attend. I may continue to follow librarian.net due the similarity in our work situations.

I attended a conference back in my first semester of library school, and Sarah Houghton was a speaker. For this reason, I was interested in following Librarian in Black. I love her blurb “Amazingly informed & therefore properly opinionated,” and I found that she has a casual tone. I’m not sure that this blog matches my interests, however, since I currently work at an academic library. If I decide to switch to public libraries, this may be a good blog to follow.

Tame the Web is written by Michael Stephens, and new professor in the SJSU SLIS program. I want to like this blog. I can appreciate that a lot of effort has gone into its layout and appearance. The layout and appearance, however, are very distracting for me. I have no sense of what this blog focuses on because I am still trying to figure out what all the various widgets are. The features distract me from the message. In this case, I can read this blog through a reader rather than going to the blog itself, but then I miss out on things like photos, blurbs, graphics, colors, etc. that are visually appealing. Again, I like just enough but not too much. Call me Goldilocks.

A library blog will be successful (at attracting me anyway) if it is compelling but not boring, focused but not scattered, visually appealing but not busy, casual but well-edited, and relevant to my interests. I think these are characteristics that will appeal to many people.

Just Say No

 

With the constant stream of input from the various social media sources, information overload is definitely a possibility. It can be avoided by being selective and setting some limits. If you are experiencing overload, start by reviewing all the different accounts, sources, and streams you are signed up for. Ruthlessly cut all the feeds that aren’t worth your time. If you don’t truly enjoy it, cut! If it’s not truly useful, cut! Sign up for only high quality sources of information. Only check your reader once a day. Perhaps give yourself a limit of two sources of input in each category: current events, work, family, education, and leisure pursuits/entertainment. Prevent yourself from signing up for a new stream without taking your name off another stream first. Create time periods during which you will be unplugged, and observe them. Use the sleep settings feature in Twitter to reduce the number of hours per day that you will receive notifications. Tweet less yourself. Most of these suggestions are behavioral. Only pay attention to the stuff that is truly important to you. Know your limits and observe them.

Social Media Monitoring

My friend owns a wholesale and online children’s clothing company based in Albuquerque, NM. They are proud to be a socially conscious company; for example, they use organic materials and contract with manufacturers that demonstrate fair labor practices.

They maintain a Facebook page as their main form of social media and use it to promote their sales; people who are Facebook friends of the company get to shop the sales early. They had many postings in the month of December to advertise warehouse sales and booths at local holiday shopping events. Otherwise, they seem to post about three or four times per month. They “like” customer comments which demonstrates that they are monitoring them, but they only respond to some of the customer questions. For example, there is a customer comment that complains about the price of shipping that goes unanswered. They also post encouragement to their Facebook friends to patronize the retail stores that stock their products.

A search for the company on Social Mention reveals not only some of the comments that people are making about the company but also which form of social media they are using to make the comments. Some people use Twitter to Tweet photos of products and links to products on Amazon.com. There are several reviews on Amazon of the products, and while the ratings are high, there are a few comments that could possibly be addressed, such as comments about colors not being exactly the same as portrayed in the catalogs and snaps that might come off the garments. The company does not respond to these comments.

While the company does not maintain a blog, the search on Social Mention revealed that there are many people who are mentioning the company in their blogs. One interesting blog post (http://mysentimentexactlee.com/2012/01/kiwi-industries-bert-and-ernie-tee-review-giveaway/) begins by raving about the products and then about the company itself. Then, the blog post explains the rules of a contest in which participants can enter a drawing by visiting the company’s website and then posting on the My Sentiment Exactlee blog a clothing item that they like. Because the prize is clothing from the company, presumably only people who like the products enter the contest, ensuring that all the comments are positive. Contestants can earn extra entries in the drawing by commenting on a MySentimentExactLee blog post, liking both the company and MySentimentExactLee on their Facebook pages, follow MySentimentExactLee on Twitter and Tweeting about the contest, and/or following the blog either through RSS or email subscription. These contest rules are an amazing way to draw attention, gain exposure, and elicit lots of positive comments for both the blog and the company. At the end of the blog post, there is this comment: “I received media sample. All opinions are my own.” It seems that perhaps my friend’s company does not need to maintain their own blog because other people are doing the blogging for them.

My friend’s company is small with only five people. Other than the Facebook page, they are not active in social media, possibly because social media can be so time-consuming. My friend recognizes that they probably should monitor what is being said on social media about the company, but as expected, they do not have enough time. Their target market is hip, socially conscious young parents, and I imagine that market is extremely techno-savvy. However, young parents are likely to be busy and exhausted (young children being even more time-consuming than social media is). Given this fact, Twitter would probably be a better choice of marketing tool than Facebook or blogging due to the ease of receiving Tweets even when you are busy. At first, it seems that social media is an effective and cheap way for small business owners to advertise. However, despite the power of social media to reach their target market, if the company employees are too strapped for time to maintain an active social media presence, it really isn’t a viable option.

Help! I’m New to Twitter

I learned a little bit about Twitter in SJSU LIBR 282 Marketing Your LIS Skills in a Networked and Changing World, and now I will be trying it out for SJSU LIBR 246 Web 2.0. Much of my knowledge at this point comes from these two classes.

Scott Brown, my professor for LIBR 282 taught me that Twitter is a microblogging tool similar to text messaging. Well, I love text messaging, so I should love Twitter, right? He lists the advantages of Twitter, including price (free!); quick set-up; two-way communication; and ability to find and follow peers, thought leaders, potential customers, and locals. The course I took with Scott was about self-marketing, and he pointed out that Twitter can be used to Tweet your blog posts (reminder to self: Tweet this blog post…), list your specialties, etc.

Scott Brown’s steps to getting started: (1) sign up at http://www.twitter.com, (2) create some Tweets, and (3) start following people. OK, let’s get this party started: @AnnMcGinley1

Lindy Brown (no clue if she’s related to Scott) does a great job at giving an introduction and history of Twitter at Twittering Libraries. She also explains the pros and cons of libraries using Twitter. Ms. Brown writes: “Twitter is easy, fun, free to use, is a great marketing and public relations tool, allows for collaboration amongst staff and community, provides opportunities for professional developing and networking, has strength in its brevity, and allows libraries to meet many of their patrons ‘where they’re at.’” I especially like the fact that Twitter sends the message that a library is hip, proactive, and technologically savvy. It’s not just a place filled with dusty book shelves!

Ms. Brown also states: “While most libraries say there are few negatives to using Twitter, they do share some problems with the service: its brevity, the fact it hasn’t caught on with patrons quite yet, it’s another thing to update, fellow staff members are hesitant to use it, and the fact that it can be a time-waster. A few librarians mentioned technological problems as well.” In my previous blog post about library staff social media policy, I recognized that social media can be time-consuming, and staff work load will need to be redistributed to make time if a library is serious about using Twitter effectively. Knowing your patrons is also important to determine whether or not Twitter will appeal to them. Twitter will definitely be a time-waster if no patrons follow your Tweets. Ms. Brown does mention that the technological problems that were common when Twitter was new are less common now. It seems to me that as long as you have a patron base that embraces Twitter, the other negatives can be managed.

At this point, I don’t have much of my own opinion of Twitter because I only just created an account. Perhaps some people with more experience can enlighten me and extend this conversation by leaving some comments. Why do you love or hate Twitter? How do you use it, personally or professionally?

Library Social Media Guidelines

Libraries are using social media more and more in order to connect with patrons. It is a very good idea if done well. In order to avoid sloppy or haphazard use of social media, I propose the following guidelines.

Mission: All social media activity should support the library’s mission and strategic plan. Social media should not be used simply because it is cool. It should be used for a specific purpose, a means to meet a goal. For example, if the strategic plan includes the goal of meeting patron needs, social media can be used as a method of identifying patron needs and determining whether they are being met.

Empathy: If patrons use social media to post complaints about the library, do not discount, delete, or distract from their messages. They deserve to be listened to because they are relating their experiences from their points of view. Their comments should be acknowledged as valid, heard, and understood (do this by paraphrasing the comments), and only then should the library perspective be given. If possible, a solution or compromise can be offered, but patrons should never, never be told that they are wrong.

Professionalism and Accessibility: The target audience for social media is library patrons of all ages and all backgrounds. For this reason, library jargon should be avoided whenever possible. If unavoidable, explanations should be included. Also, accessibility should be balanced with professionalism. Slang should not be over-used, and profanity should be avoided no matter what.

Inclusiveness: Not everyone uses social media. All library announcements delivered through social media should also be delivered through less technological means such as posters, fliers, radio spots, or newspaper ads. Also, a feedback method such as a physical suggestion box should also be made available to patrons and monitored frequently.

Staff involvement: Social media can be time-consuming, especially if used well. Recognize that fact, and assign the responsibility to someone who is truly enthusiastic, who likes to write, and who has the time to do it. If necessary, tasks should be reassigned to create time for the added responsibility of social media. Job title might even be reworded; for example, the staff member responsible for the social media might be given the job title of Library Marketer.

Frequency and Timing: New content should be posted on a predictable schedule. For example, a weekly blog will always feature new content on Mondays. This makes the blog reliable and predictable. If patrons expect new content on a consistent and predictable basis, they will count on it and look forward to it. It then becomes more like a conversation with predictable turn-taking: library blogger posts on Mondays; patrons read and comment; library blogger posts on Wednesdays; patrons read and comment. A sporadic blog will come across as random blasts, more like lecture than conversation, and it will not hold anyone’s interest.

Grammar and Spelling: Content such as a blog post should be proofread by someone other than the employee who composed it. The proofreader should look not just for grammar and spelling but also clarity. The purpose of proofreading is to ensure that the library staff is seen as intelligent. Many people will not notice grammar mistakes, but many will. The goal should be to satisfy the standard of those people who do notice grammar mistakes.

Group Work: Butterflies and Vampires

My experience with group projects in SLIS has mostly been positive. I especially enjoyed my LIBR 202 group. I had heard that 202 was hard, but my group was so wonderful that 202 went very smoothly for me. I was so grateful to my group! Everyone in the group was dedicated, diligent, and wanted to do well. I remember that the professor gave each group a name, and we were the Butterflies.

I have had one negative group experience in SLIS. We were writing a group paper, and we also had to write anonymous comments about our group members’ contributions. A couple of the group members were night owls who thrive on last minute pressure. Our group name should have been the Vampires. They wrote their emails, edited the Google document, and added to the discussion board in the middle of the night. In the feedback I received, one of my group members said that I didn’t respond quickly enough to emails. I was furious! I thought it was totally unreasonable to expect responses in the middle of the night. Call me crazy, but I sleep at night (I have the pale skin of a vampire, but not the sleep schedule). We earned an A on the assignment, so the story does have a happy ending. But I was so angry that I wrote an email to the professor about it. She responded, and then she reorganized the groups. And my new group was awesome!

So from this experience, I would give the following advice. If you are allowed to choose your groups members, look carefully at the discussion boards. See who always posts early, see who always posts late, and consider the timing of your own postings. If you are always one of the first three or four people in the class to post, ask the other early posters if they would like to work with you in a group. And the opposite: if you are always one of the last students to post, ask the other late posters if they would like to work with you. I am not trying to criticize either group, but I am saying that it will be stressful for people with wildly varying approaches to time management to work together. You might also consider time of day people are posting and what time zone they live in.

Working with people who have the same tendencies you have timewise does not guarantee a successful group, but it is something to base a decision on when you are trying to create groups with people you don’t know well.

ALA 2011: Networking

In my information literacy class (LIBR 287), one of my classmates posted this on a discussion board: “I was able to attend the ALA annual conference over the weekend and met a classmate from last semester. That was pretty exciting, but a rare experience.” After I read this, I looked through the pile of business cards that I collected at the conference, and hers was in my pile! It turns out that she has my business card too. My picture on our class D2L site did not jog her memory, but when she looked at my card and saw that I am in New Mexico, she remembered me and our conversation. I have zero recollection of meeting her, but if I had to guess, I would say it was either at the SLIS booth in the exhibit hall or at the SLIS reception.

She and I met, exchanged cards, and didn’t even realize at the time that we are current classmates. As far as specifically practicing professional socialization and networking, I think I still need to work on the final E: engage. It is not enough to just exchange business cards; I need to engage in more conversation to make connections with the people I am meeting. How frustrating that I failed in the area of making enough conversation with this classmate to even realize that we are classmates.