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(2013) - Library High Tech News - Hot off the Press (6) - The Librarian Geek (part 2)

in LHTN, Volume 30, Issue 1

Hot off the Press! is a column dedicated to new trends and tendencies in information technologies and social networking with a note of the items’ value to technologies in libraries. Also mentioned in the column are new books on topics such as mobile computing, social networking, and even novels with a focus on technology. Also highlighted are some technology blogs, web sites, archived webinars, movies with a technology theme, and more. The main topic of this winter’s column is: “Librarian Geek” – Part Two.

In the previous Hot off the Press! (September 2012), I chose examples taken in the literature – from the Geek novel to the Geek testimony – and in the library landscape in order to show how much we are more and more surrounded by technology. In my opinion, libraries and librarians are an essential part of this environment. The present issue of the column Hot off the Press! is more focused on the “Librarian Geek” and what he or she brings to peoples’ lives.

We are all connected: I have met “Miss Media”

Libraries are central places to be in close contact (on site or online) with the public, and librarians have a lot to bring to individual citizens. All types of populations are now concerned with Web 2.0. This involves all ages also, and some experiments are beginning that start with children’s classes and extend also to seniors who previously had no use of the web. To be in close contact with this public, “Digital Mediation” is becoming a strong concept in Europe within libraries, and several of them have their own digital mediator(s) – or digital librarian – in charge of the presence of the library on social media. This is the case in Lezingen, Holland with Wilma van den Brink, HvA Mediatheek (www.jebibliotheek.nl/). Always connected, she constantly promotes the library and its activities on their Twitter account or Facebook page. She replies directly to messages or recommendations given by users, and she has organized seminars and workshops on that topic for the public. Most of the time, a library’s internet presence is organized by the communication department (when the library is big enough), or by one dedicated librarian. In Metz Public Library, France, “Miss Media” (@missmedia57) is the avatar of a true librarian (Marie-Paule) who defines herself as “a cyber-librarian, library globe-trotter.” André Faber, cartoonist, journalist and graphic designer, created the character of Miss Media, a librarian of the third type. Our Miss Media, born without fanfare, designed to be displayed on the homepage of the library web site regularly has the attention of the press. Rather well balanced with his angular, subtle and determined design, the avatar represents the Metz Public Library. Full of humor, it has more than 6,000 “likes” on Facebook and expresses itself on its own blog: http://missmediablog.fr/. href="http://missmediablog.fr/">http://missmediablog.fr/. Marie-Paule, the true librarian behind our Miss Media – I met her several times at professional conferences in Paris, France – is very real: she is the person who replies to people, and she believes very much in the role of go-between as played by her avatar, our Miss Media. I can say now that I have met Miss Media […] and I was impressed!

Another type of communication for public outreach

What is really interesting with social media is the different type of communication made possible compared to the official web site of the library or traditional media such as press, television or radio. Less official or institutional, not so formal, more humoristic or caustic, this type of communication is pleasing to the public, young or old. Let us have a look at New York Public Library’s tweets (@nypl) and you will have an idea. Just a few of them as published last January:

Do you know Cat’s In the Cradle? What’s New Pussycat? How about Freebird? We just looove birds. Freebird! (11 January 2013);

Attention book addicts! We have just the poster for you (11 January 2013);

If you are looking for some fun, this Saturday is your last chance to see Katharine Hepburn’s iconic style […] (10 January 2013).

Of course, Twitter forces you to send short messages, so this form of communication has its own rules which are rather different in term of messages than a press release, for example, or a video presenting a service, or a web site explaining the loan policy. What is quite important in my eyes is that all means of communication are going in the same direction, even if the channels are different, in order to deliver the same message.

To be or not to be on social networks

Is it a question now for libraries or librarians? In a few years, the situation has changed dramatically. Individuals previously reluctant or unwilling to use a computer or the internet have changed their minds when simply using it on a daily basis with a mobile phone (or smartphone), a real small computer that is connected to the rest of the world, even while mobile technology is still developing. It is the same thing with social media. The younger generations use the social networks in close conjunction with their life, creating their own communities of interest apart from the adult world: some networks only exist for them such as Bebo (www.bebo.com), Friendster (www.friendster.com), Skyrock (www.skyrock.com/), and others. Facebook is more or less considered as a network for adults (parents, family). Besides libraries, school has an essential role to play in the appropriation of the digital identity of the young person, or even the future citizen. The school is also ideal for training on information networks and in learning new tools. Of course, the school librarian has a strong role to play in bringing techniques for exploring the web, as does the university librarian with students, or the public librarian with users. Some librarians and libraries were reluctant to use Facebook or Twitter, but now, to be or not to be on social networks is not question anymore. These networks have become an important part of our lives, private and professional.

But, if we consider libraries and social media, both seem to be on opposite sides. On one hand, libraries are working on a long term basis, in continuity and in time, based on material collections, and they represent a certain cultural tradition. On the other hand, social media are synonymous with speed and fugacity, living continuously on the exchanged and shared flow of information. Continuity and immediacy would therefore not be good? Libraries have a great interest in being visible on the web, in order to develop a digital presence. Social media for the library should not be seen as superfluous or inappropriate. As a large part of the population is using them, libraries have a strong interest in being there too. Otherwise, there is a risk that libraries might miss an opportunity for dialoguing with users. Be there where people are; that is the idea that must continue.

The choice of the tool 2.0 (a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Netvibes or Flickr […]) must fit into a comprehensive strategy for communication by the whole library. This choice implies that the library may have its own digital identity on the web, and social media are a part of it. Being part of it, the library thus fits more closely into an already existing social network. It contributes as another member of the network but its position is now different. It is no longer the single prescriber, and this represents a certain change from its usual role. But this changing role can be quite beneficial and meet success. The user participates in the life of the library in this way, by giving opinions, writing a comment or a critique, or by consulting offers and news.

A tendency for libraries is to create their own blogs; a blog being probably one the most interesting tools of Web 2.0. They choose to have a blog, finding this solution more flexible. Have a look at the Library Blog Directory by Salem Press, and you will see how impressive the blogs list is (www2.salempress.com/blogs/blog-search). You can search by blog focus (32 foci are proposed), blog audience or blog type, and each blog found is then described in a form with different detailed fields:

  • blog’s owner(s);
  • tagline;
  • blog type;
  • blog audience;
  • primary focus;
  • other foci; and
  • background.

Each year, Salem Press distinguishes several professional blogs with five different awards: the best public library blog; the best quirky library blog; the best academic library blog; the best school library blog. Let us have a look to the 2012 winner of the best general library blog which is “In the Library with the Lead Pipe” (www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/) which has existed since 2008. This blog introduces itself as “a team of librarians working in various types of libraries across the USA. In addition to essays by its editors, In the Library with the Lead Pipe features articles by guests representing other perspectives including educators, administrators, library support staff, and community members […] Our goal is to explore new ideas and start conversations; to document our concerns and argue for solutions. Each article is peer-reviewed by at least one external and one internal reviewer.” A recent article published on this blog at the end of 2012 explores what libraries will be in 100 years and I let you discover it […] (www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2012/libraries-the-next-hundred-years/).

Quirky Library Blog Winner was “Screwy Decimal” (www.screwydecimal.com/). Both the public and the judges showed enthusiasm for Screwy Decimal for its great name, its good sense of humor, the patron quotes, and relevancy of the topics. “Rita Meade is hilarious. Full stop. Well worth reading just to remind yourself of the lighter side of what we do,” said one judge. And while Screwy Decimal re-affirms what “quirky” is all about through humor and wit, This Is What a Librarian Looks Like added a new dimension to “quirky” that did not go unnoticed. Judges praised that blog for its great user-generated look at librarianship, saying it has “A kaleidoscope of faces that shows just how diverse our profession really is.”

Librarian geeks

One good another example of a true librarian geek is “Librarian day by day” (http://librarianbyday.net/. href="http://librarianbyday.net/">http://librarianbyday.net/). This blog is the 2012 winner of the public library award by Salem Press. The owner is Bobbi Newman who defines herself on the front page: “I’m not that kind of librarian” […] Bobbi is dedicated to helping libraries find their place in the digital age. She is passionate about twenty first century literacies and the role of all libraries in equal access and opportunity for all. Her professional interests include digital and technology based services, the digital divide, and improving existing services through expanding traditional methods, while creating innovative new practices. On the personal side, “she is on a never-ending quest for the perfect pair of shoes […]” If you have a look at “Librarian day by day” you will not be disappointed.

Edublog awards (http://edublogawards. com/) are also given out each year. The purpose of the Edublog awards has been to promote and demonstrate the educational values of social media since 2004. For the 9th edition in 2012, the best individual blog award was given to Seomra Ranga (www.seomraranga.com/), an Irish blog of resources for primary teachers. “Seomra ranga” means “classroom” in the Irish language. The owner is a practicing primary school teacher in Sligo, Ireland with many years of teaching experience.

All of these are examples of very dynamic blogs that show that information professionals and librarians are not silent or invisible on the web. On the contrary, some have acquired a reputation on Web 2.0 and have themselves become prescribers with a lot of followers. We now see appearing new voices on those lands traditionally occupied by professional associations or some influential authors. This is also a very strong sign of vitality.

cop. Jean-Philippe Accart



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