Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Rumors of our death have been greatly exaggerated -or- Librarian shushes self

Just back from my lovely three day weekend, and I have to see this in my feeds? Really people? Here I am, sitting at my desk, just trying to do my job, and the internet is already on my back. Well, maybe not my back per se, but our backs, we humble librarians (or information scientists, or information professionals, or... whatever.) Outside of lawyers, whose salaries I consider balm for the irritation their mockery might cause them, are there any professions so abused as librarians? Ok, that's whiny, and probably not true, but still, I am very, very, very tired of justifying the existence of my profession. We still exist, so, society, there's your proof. And as long as my job is here for me, in the "real world" or the digital one (you have to read the article to get that one) I'm done justifying it. Seriously. Because we can't win. People say books are obsolete, so we learn all about new technology, and try make ourselves useful in that way. Then they say we should focus on books. But libraries are getting rid of books, oh no! Then we rally against librarian stereotypes, and there's backlash for that too (check out the comments if you want to know how people really see us, it will warm the cockles of your "plump, white [and] humorless" heart.)

So you know what? I give up. I'm just trying to do my job here people. I look for ways I can be useful to my community, and then try to go in that direction. I have tattoos, not to buck a stereotype, but because I want them. In fact, I got one in college, before I even thought of becoming a librarian, so there! I'm not so sure about this whole 'any press is good press' idea anymore, and I'm wondering if we should all just shut the frak up. Seriously. Stop giving interviews, stop writing fluff articles for the general press. Because no matter what we say, they're gonna pick on us. We can't win this one with words. You know how we can win? By just continuing to be useful. By assessing our communities and being what they need us to be, not what the press wants us to be. I know there are times when we need the press, like to rally support for libraries in need, but otherwise let's just lay low and be helpful. After all, we're not the only industry struggling with obsolescence, right? Maybe they're just trying to create a diversion...

(Oh, and as the assertion in the original article that all the content in paid databases will be available for free in a few years, I snickered at that. Better not tell Elsevier!)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Libraries kick ass

Do you love your library? No? What are you, a communist?! Oh wait, libraries are kinda socialistic in nature, so don't answer that question. Still, whether or not you're a communist (I'm not judging), libraries are very cool. They have books, and computers, and helpful people, and those are all nice things, no?

And exactly where is this going, you ask? Well, way back in the beginning of August, Louisville, Kentucky got a lot of rain, (like a ridiculous amount of rain) and their main library was flooded. And when I say flooded, I don't mean a few inches, I mean this:

(Picture from www.louisvilleky.gov, click to enlarge.)

So that sucks, right? And just to ensure the maximum amount of suckage, they were storing $50,000 worth of brand new computers there for a branch that hadn't opened yet.

So, because this whole thing sucks a lot, and because libraries are awesome, you must make a decision. Are you on the side of suckiness, or the side of awesome? Because if you are on the side of awesome, you should make a small (or large, that would be ultra-awesome) donation to the Library Society of the World's Louisville Free Public Library fundraiser, which at the very least will bring a smile to the faces of the poor people who work there and are dealing with this big ol' suck-fest on a daily basis. This is only a small contribution, but when you're in a bad situation, kindness (and especially the kindness of strangers) can make a huge difference in giving you the strength to push on and persevere.

For more information about the drive, and the person who started it (librarian Steve Lawson): check out this blog post, although it refers to the blogathon that this post is part of, so I hope I'm not getting you caught in some sort of recursive loop. My sincerest apologies if that occurs.

If you'd rather just send money directly to the LFPL Foundation (www.lfplfoundation.org/), here's the info:

The Library Foundation
Attn: Flood
301 York St.
Louisville, KY 40203
(502) 574-1709

PS- Thanks to Steve Lawson and Andy Woodworth for organizing this effort, you both are obviously on the side of awesome. For more info on the LFPL blogathon: http://lfplblogathon.pbworks.com.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Twitter for Libraries preso follow-up

Ok, I haven't listened to the recording yet (and am dreading it), but I have to say that presenting strictly in an online format at yesterday's Handheld Librarian conference definitely threw me off a little, so I'm sorry if I sounded super nervous (it always makes me uncomfortable when a presenter sounds nervous.) Anyway, I underestimated how much I rely on reading people's expressions to direct my talks (bored, confused, nodding in agreement...), and the radio silence (and relative chat silence) kind of left me flailing a bit. Because of that, I feel like there were some questions/issues I didn't fully address, so I just wanted to do a follow-up post to clarify and expand on some of those issues.

First of all, in case you missed it (it's ok if you were in Joe Murphy's SMS talk, he's teh awsum), here are the slides: http://www.slideshare.net/val_forrestal/twitter-for-libraries-handheld-librarian-709

One of the biggest concerns people had was: What should libraries be tweeting about? I tried to express that that really depends on your audience, and you have to cater to what you think they will find interesting/helpful/informative, but I understand that getting started can seem a little overwhelming, so here are some good posts that talk about how precisely libraries can use Twitter:
Those pretty much cover the spectrum of what tweet from our library account (@scwLibrary). After the conference I was kicking myself for not just going to our page so I could show everyone what we tweet about (and that page is less controversial than my own Twitter feed, which I felt really guilty about showing everyone because of privacy issues for the people I follow - because some of their feeds are private/protected, and so I had to just show it super fast and then leave the page, which was probably dizzying for everyone, kind of like this sentence.)

Another thing that came up was finding the "correct" hashtag for a topic or event. I still maintain that the best way to do this is to a.) try searching some possible hashtags by guessing and seeing which is the most popular; or b.) just ask the twittersphere (ex. "hey does anyone know the official hashtag for the Handheld Librarian conference today?"). Your followers or people searching for the same event/topic by name will usually let you know the answer. However, there are places where you can "register" a hashtag, and it's possible that people do use these as hashtag directories, even if they are not widely adopted right now, so I'll mention a few:
(For some really good info on the history and usefulness of hashtags, see here.)

Speaking of hashtags, another thing I completely forgot to mention: there's a fairly new hashtag going around for recommending librarians to follow. This is an off-shoot of a popular trend called "follow friday", where people recommend their favorite people to follow every Friday. Anyway, if you're looking for librarians to follow to get you started, do a Twitter search for #followalibrarian (or just click on the handy link I made for you there, heh...)

Someone also asked for examples of how people are using Twitter in educational/classroom settings. I think this post has some great advice/links for how instructors can use the medium: http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2009/07/21/100-serious-twitter-tips-for-academics/

You can also follow KSU professor Michael Wesch's blog, Digital Ethnography (he often experiments with using social media in his classes), or @itsanno on Twitter (she mentioned recently that she will be using Twitter with the students in one of her upcoming classes.)

Ok, so this is a long post, so I'll wrap it up now. I think at some point I will do a follow-up to this follow-up, with some tips for more advanced users. With 200 people in a presentation, it's really hard to know how much time to spend on the basics (as I'm sure there were some beginners there) and the advanced tips (for you "power users"). Some future topics I'd like to cover:
  • Twitter integration w/blogs, Facebook, websites, etc.
  • Mashups (using social media aggregation sites like FriendFeed or Netvibes)
  • Twitter mobile apps (which I really wish I had covered, seeing as this was a conference about mobile technology!)
  • Twitter for reference
Is there anything I missed? Any lingering questions/comments/doubts? Let me know here in the comments, or on Twitter (@val_forrestal).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I don't want to be a reference and research services librarian anymore!

Well, I think I've done it. Given ridiculous restrictions on what words I could use in my new job title (web and digital are out, because we already have a 'web services librarian' and plan on hiring a 'digital initiatives librarian'), I think I've finally come up with a title that works. The thing is, I feel this new title actually helps me out in terms of focusing on what I really do here, what I am good at, and what I can bring my workplace that is unique and necessary. Ok, so here goes:

Communications and New Media Strategies Librarian.

There you have it. Wordy, sure, but aren't most library-related titles? I'd actually love it to be 'Communications and Digital Strategies', but as I mentioned before, I can't use the word digital so that it can be used in a title for a job that doesn't actually exist yet. But don't get me started on that, this is a positive post, dammit!

Aaaaanyway... The reason I'm mentioning this here at all (especially since I haven't actually pitched this to my boss yet, though she knows I want a new title, and is open to it) is that it really helped me rethink exactly what it is I do here. I feel like I play with technology all day, trying out new tools (read: web 2.0 crap) and sometimes I feel like it's not important or appreciated at all. But that's not really what it's all about... Technology is just a medium, not a message. Sure, I'm good at researching and using new media, and that's necessary for what I do, but the most important part is the message.

The message is that the library is not dying; that it's a vibrant and useful place, full of helpful people and services. So that's my job, that's what I love doing, and what I am good at: evangelizing on behalf of the library. Getting the word out to everyone in our community, however possible, about all the great things we can do for them, and that they can do with us. The technology just helps me do that, because you need to get your message out wherever you can, to reach people wherever they may be.

The funny part of this whole thing is that I feel like I've come full circle career-wise. I was a mass communications/advertising major as an undergrad, and got my first masters in media production, and those are areas that are intimately linked to what I do now, which is, in some form, marketing. So I feel like this new title and (semi-)new role really make sense for me. I know this stuff, and I've been using that education all along, I just didn't realize it at the time.

So yeah, this makes me very happy, and I hope my boss goes for it, because I really feel like I can be an asset to my library if given the go-ahead to move full-force in this direction.

Anyone have any suggestions/advice regarding how I can convince my boss this is a good idea, and that marketing, especially with social media, is vital for libraries at this point? I have some pretty good points worked out so far for the pitch, but I could use all the ammunition I can get!

Update: I totally forgot to mention the "you can't say no to this idea" phrase I will use in my pitch: building and engaging a community around your brand. Um, doesn't every organization need someone to do that? Oh, and that community will advocate for us. I think that pretty much hits all the buzzwords directors love to hear, no?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Social Media Snobbery (or, Twitter is a tool, but you don't have to be.)

(This article was cross-posted over at LISNews.)

If someone corrects me one more time when I say that I “twittered” something (“um, you mean you tweeted?”) I am going to scream. Really. Right at them. And is the term “social media” passé already? I un-followed the person who tweeted that about thirty seconds after I read that tweet. See, the thing is, I really love Twitter. I follow smart people, who have interesting discussions all day. It’s wonderful. And for the people in my life who say that it’s sad that I have to find those kinds of relationships online, I say: “well why can’t you be more interesting then? Why do you make me go outside our friendship to find satisfying, intellectual conversation? YOU forced me into this!” Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, my point… Ah, yes: Twitter is just a medium. It’s just another method of communication, and in the same way it drives me bonkers when people say it breeds stupidity and hysteria (more so than any other medium? Really? Cable news anyone?...) it also drives me crazy when people act like it’s an exclusive club. So if I don’t get the terminology right, or I don't use the right hashtag, or if I say I just use the Twitter website instead of the Twitter app du jour (Tweetdeck, Tweetie, Seesmic, take your choice...) I’m persona non grata?

Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s got to be rules, right? Seriously, if you only send updates telling me about your new blog posts, or trying to sell your services, or to post pictures of your cat (ok that last one I would probably forgive, and actually secretly enjoy) I will most likely not follow you. As with any community, online or not, it is wise to spend some time getting to know the culture and attempting to fit in to a certain degree. But if no one ever goes out on a limb, there will be no innovation, no growth in the community. We wouldn’t have retweets, or #followfriday, or any other cool uses for the services that weren’t imagined within the first weeks of its debut.

Do you remember when “web 2.0” was all the rage? And do you also remember how anyone who actually worked in any way with web 2.0 was no longer allowed to call it that lest they incur the derision of all their web-savvy colleagues? If you tell me that I can’t use “social media” anymore either, I’m running out of names to call what I do. Seriously, I’m about 5 minutes away from calling myself the “kewl stuff on teh intarwebz” librarian, and nobody wants that. Ok I’m lying, I want that, I totally do. But I can tell you right now that my boss isn’t going to go for it, so can we all chill out with the social media snobbery already? Maybe all the Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed/whatever-haters will stop picking on us so much if we stop being so darn obnoxious to them… although probably not.

(For anyone not in the super-cool Twitter club already, here’s a cheat sheet to all the Twitter-related stuff mentioned here: http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/03/the-ultimate-guide-for-everything-twitter/. Oh, and I’m val_forrestal on Twitter, and I promise not to make you feel stupid, even if you still call it “web 2.0”.)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A snarky librarian by any other name is still a snarky librarian

So, yes, I've changed the name of the blog, how nice of you to notice! Honestly, I had grown tired of the whole "info babe" moniker (I think I thought it was cute at one point, but it just seems a bit silly now, and I don't really think of myself as a "babe"...) but I thought I was too entrenched in my little social networking world under that username, and I figured I would never get rid of it. But after a particularly good session on social network profile management at last week's Computers in Libraries conference (especially the talk by Greg Schwartz) I decided to make the move to use my real name for all my online identities (val_forrestal or vforrestal).

Another reason for this decision also stems from the conference. I was meeting in person people who I had only previously known through online connections, and I find it incredibly awkward to have to follow my introduction with "you might know me as the info babe?" Ick. And I'm really working on networking and presenting these days (how tacky of me to admit, I know. For shame!), so I'd like to be able to make a more professional impression. I guess I can also use that as a lead in to mention that I'll also now be blogging LISNews.org, so keep an eye out for me over there!

Oh, and if you're wondering where the new blog title came from, it's from the headline I gave my Shovers and Makers profile (which I think I mentioned in the last post, but if you feel so inclined and have not yet done so, you can find here.) I don't know where I came up with it, other than to say that for some reason I enjoy the word 'ubiquitous', and that the time I spend wandering around the vast realms of the internet is nothing short of ridiculous.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

About Me

Contact info:

email: vforrestal{a}gmail
work email: valerie.forrestal{a}csi.cuny.edu
twitter: @vforrestal

Official blurb:

Valerie Forrestal is the Web Services Librarian and an Assistant Professor at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York. Her education includes an MA in Media Production from Emerson College, an MLIS from Rutgers University, and an MS in Service-Oriented Computing from Stevens Institute of Technology.

Valerie specializes in web development, social media, technology planning, and innovation in libraries and higher ed. You can find her online at vforrestal.com, vforrestal.info, or on Twitter @vforrestal.


Forrestal, Valerie, and Tinamarie Vella. (2018). Using Twitter to Build Communities: A Primer for Libraries, Archives, and Museums. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

Forrestal, Valerie. (2015). Knowledge Management for Libraries. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Forrestal, Valerie. (2013). "Zen and the Art of the Conference Proposal", Letters to a Young Librarian (ISSN 2330-1171). November 21, 2013.

Forrestal, Valerie (2013). "The In Crowd, or Fear and Loathing in Library Land", The Journal of Creative Library Practice (ISSN 2330-4227). September 18, 2013.

Arnett, Barbara, and Valerie Forrestal (2012). "Bridging the Gap from Wikipedia to Scholarly Sources: a Simple Discovery Tool", College & Undergraduate Libraries, (ISSN 1069-1316). 19 (2-4), 176-188. (Full-text available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10760/18839)*

Forrestal, Valerie. (2012). "Hit the Ground Running: Some (Simple) Advice for Job-Hunters", Letters to a Young Librarian (ISSN 2330-1171). June 21, 2012.

Forrestal, Valerie. (2011). "Making Twitter Work: A Guide for the Uninitiated, the Skeptical, and the Pragmatic ", The Reference Librarian, (ISSN 0276-3877). 52 (1-2), 146-151. (Full-text available at: http://hdl.handle.net/10760/18839)*

*Peer-reviewed Article


May 2016: NJLA (New Jersey Library Association) Annual Conference - Presenter/Panelist, “Beyond the CE: Cultivating Your Personal Learning Network

May 2016: NJLA Annual Conference - Presenter, “The Cats Are Herding Us: Neko Atsume and Mobile Usability

September 2014: EDUCAUSE Annual Conference - Presenter, "Building Academic Websites (in the Real World)"

September 2014: SLA NY Conference and Expo - Presenter, "Google Drive for Libraries"

April 2014: Urban Librarians' Conference - Speaker/Facilitator, "Web Design for Librarians"

April 2014: New Directions in Information Fluency - Presenter, "Beyond the Citation: Introducing students to scholarly research and writing through strategic collaboration"

December 2013: CUNY IT Conference - Presenter, "Building a Better Website with Wordpress"

October 2013: ACRL NY Chapter Meeting - Invited Speaker, "(Realistic) Website Migration Planning"

October 2013: METRO Code4LibNYC SIG - Presenter, "The Anatomy of a Crash"

June 2013: NJLA Annual Conference - Presenter, “Should you friend your supervisor on Facebook?

May 2013: Books Expo America Preconference (New York Library Association) - Invited Panelist, “Make Something New. Now.

July 2012: Library Management Institute Annual Conference - Panelist, "Digital + Libraries | Connectivity, Convergence, Confluence"

October 2011: Metro Science Librarians SIG Research Forum – Invited Speaker, “Building a Simple Library Bookmarklet”

May 2011: NJLA Annual Conference - Presenter/Panelist, "Technology Innovation Forum" and "Web + Mobile Tools for Improving Library Services"

March 2011: Library Technology Conference (Macalester College, St. Paul, MN) - Presenter, "Bridging the gap from Wikipedia to scholarly sources: a simple discovery solution"

January 2011: VALE Annual Conference - Speaker, "Bridging the gap from Wikipedia to scholarly sources"

December 2010: METRO Webinar - Presenter, "Three Tech Tools, One Objective: Improving Library Services"

January 2010: VALE (Virtual Academic Library Environment) Annual Conference - Speaker, "Teaching the New Literacy"

December 2009: Yale Handheld Librarian (Lecture Series) - Speaker, "Twitter for Libraries"

October 2009: NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers) Zone Conference - Speaker, "Internet Literacy and Online Networking"

July 2009: Handheld Librarian (Online Conference) - Speaker, "Twittering in Libraries"

June 2009: METRO Library 2.0 SIG - Featured Speaker, "Twitter for Libraries"

June 2009: LibraryCampNYC 2009 (UnConference) - Co-facilitator, "Social Media Marketing for libraries"

More info:
Curriculum Vitae
Google Scholar Profile
MSN Academic Profile
Slideshare (my presentations)
Twitter (vforrestal)

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'd like to take a moment to whine about all your whining. Thank you.

I feel like much ado has been made lately about Twitter. I shouldn't even tell you that Twitter is a micro-blogging service, and instead imply that if you don't know what it is, you live under a rock and should be ashamed of yourself. But the truth is, if you don't know or care what micro-blogging is, I would much rather you didn't know about it, because then you couldn't possibly complain about its existence.

I've been using Twitter for awhile now (not sure about how long, but long enough to have posted 328 updates...) When I first learned about it, I didn't get it either. It seemed silly to me that I would want to post/read status updates all day. So, for awhile, because I thought it was stupid, I just didn't use it. Imagine that. And then at some point I gave it a try, and believe it or not, I managed to find some value in it. I subscribed to the updates of other librarians, and they posted links to interesting things: articles, videos, websites, etc... and that was cool. Plus it created a network of people in my field who could be tapped for impromptu surveys (who's using what technology and how successful has it been?) Sure, there's some lots of "getting my morning coffee"/banal chatter too, but you learn to filter out the noise after awhile.

Recently I also started up a Twitter account for my library (http://twitter.com/scwLibrary), and on there I (we) can subscribe to all sorts of science, technology and engineering people and organizations, so I get fed all kinds of great sources in that area. I can also use that account to broadcast (retweet) those links as well as interesting ones I've found myself. I can also use it as a quick way to post brief communications about the library (see: stapler crisis '09) that don't warrant a blog post or website announcement.

Right. So all I'm saying is that I have found some value in the service. I'm not an evangelist for it though (as I matter of fact I don't even recommend it to people unless I think it would serve a specific purpose for them) because I realize that to a lot of people it just doesn't make any sense. And that's fine. But I feel like the haters reeeeeeally enjoy hating on this one (check out this video, which, I have to admit is kind of funny, but also pretty insulting.)

Still, web 2.0, or whatever you crazy kids are calling it these days, is all about trying new things, and if you don't like them, or see a purpose for them, you don't have to use them. I just don't quite understand the culture of tearing down things we don't understand, or don't think we need. It's so damn hipster if you ask me... Anything mainstream is evil and stupid.

Still, I find Twitter to pretty much be what you make of it. If you and your friends use it as a way to just keep track of what you're all up to, then those "mundane" updates can actually be a way to get more insight into each other's lives, and to effortlessly "keep up" with each other (and also make the whole thing look kind of stupid if you're basing your opinion on the updates of people you don't know or care about.) If you use it in a more professional context, it's actually a wonderful way of communicating amongst colleagues and peers, and a great way to tap into a potentially extremely useful collective mind. (I also thought this was another interesting take on what's so cool about Twitter, found, fittingly, via a tweet from Connie Crosby.)

(UPDATE: I just wanted to add this link to a recent ReadWriteWeb post on Twitter, that elaborates on the potential of Twitter way better than I did here...)

(UPDATE 2: Ok, and here's another good link: The Ultimate Guide for Everything Twitter)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

as a form of protest, i refuse to come up with a witty title for this post

ok, i feel like i should maybe weigh in on this whole Rutgers dropping 'library' from SCILS situation. i posted a comment on my friend mike's blog, and i guess if i'm gonna speak my mind there, i might as well post it here as well. since i am lazy and don't really feel like spending much time or effort stressing over the whole thing, i'm just going to copy and paste my comment. (and what an easy way to drop a post in, since i haven't written in awhile. heh.)

this whole debacle annoys me for two reasons:

1) isn't this whole name change thing taking up time and money (meetings, new letterhead, signage, etc) that could be better spent on just improving the school in general, including the library curriculum? i mean, really, all this effort just to remove the word "library" from your name? …and

2) how did they think that going to all that trouble to remove library from the name was not going to insult all of us libeerians? it's like they're distancing themselves from one of their largest constituencies (largest if you're talking about the grad school.) no matter what their reasoning is, that's going to be hurtful, and going to alienate us.

what i really wish is that instead of trying to distance ourselves from the word "librarian", we would redefine it as the tech-savvy, tech-centered, information-aggregating career it should and could be. we don't need to turn ourselves into "information professionals", we need to bring the field of librarianship into the future (and the now…) i know that's a bit off-topic, but i feel like we don't need to scrap the title, it's not completely a lost cause, we can still redeem ourselves! (maybe all we need is a good PR campaign?)