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:

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:

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?