It may be the end, but it’s really just the beginning – Evaluative Report

Part a) Provides evidence, through three OLJ postings, of the advancements I’ve made in becoming an effective information professional in a socially networked world, and the knowledge I have gained, through meeting the five learning objectives:

Whilst I had used some social networking (SN) technologies in my personal life prior to INF506, it’s only since studying the modules, reading selected recommended resources, immersing myself in various learning tasks, and entering into discussions via SN sites, that I have fully grasped the importance of social networking in the workplace, and become aware of how it is fast becoming an integral part of many aspects of our lives as we create, share, interact with, and re-use information online (Hay, 2010).

As I believe my OLJ entries demonstrate, I am also now familiar with a far wider range of SN technologies, and their applications in various settings, including public libraries. Why libraries should use social networking (OLJ1) provided the opportunity to examine how three public libraries are exploring new ways to interact, engage with, and support their user communities, and attract new users, by using a range of SN tools, including publication and micropublication tools (blogs and Twitter), sharing tools (the social media sites YouTube and Flickr), and SN sites (Facebook and MySpace) (Cavazza, 2008). In this way they are embracing the library 2.0 ethos of trying to meet users changing needs via Web 2.0 technology (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007).

The libraries are using SN in different ways to support their user communities and meet their needs. One library in particular, AADL, has created opportunities for its users to customize content (Casey, 2005) by enabling them to tag catalogue items and post reviews, in addition to its numerous blogs inviting comments. This concept of user-tagging is also examined in a separate posting, which looks at the benefits to an institution of harnessing the wisdom of the crowd, and in particular, its use by cultural heritage institutions to support their digitisation programs through the photo-sharing site Flickr Commons. The common theme being used by the three public libraries and the cultural heritage institutions is that instead of waiting for users to come to them either physically or via their website, they are using SN to go to where the users are (Miller, 2005), helping to promote and increase awareness of the institution. What works for one institution may not work for another, however, and libraries should ensure that any tools are installed because they relate to user needs, as also discussed in my A-Z of social networking posting, and not because they’re the latest innovation (Farkas, 2008).

I’ve had the opportunity to explore a number of SN tools new to me, and in entering a whole new world, part I (OLJ2) I examined the virtual world platform, Second Life. Via an avatar, I learnt how effective such a virtual world can be in enabling people from across the globe to meet, interact, share information, collaborate and learn from each other. It was particularly useful, as I documented, to examine how some of the features could support the information needs of employees and patrons in a learning environment in the real world, in this case an academic library, and to then actually experience how well the visual context element of a virtual world works for interacting and being part of a group (Zhang, 2007) when meeting conference attendees at the Joykaydia Unconference 2010 launch, although trying to control an avatar in a social situation is not without its problems. It has been immensely satisfying to explore a SN tool, of which I had no previous knowledge, and understand ways in which, as an information professional, I could apply it in future.

Whilst SN has enabled people to communicate and share information like never before, it has been important to realise that this hasn’t come without a cost. The whole issue of privacy, for example, can have huge repercussions as now anyone can post comments and opinions about virtually anyone and anything on the Internet (Fraser & Dutta, 2008). Being a member of the INF506 Facebook group, a socially networked community that has shared resources and opinions, has supplemented the course modules, and helped greatly in my understanding of a number these issues, which I have attempted to distill into my social media policy (OLJ3) entry. Ranging from the very topical Facebook privacy settings debate, to blogging etiquette, my new found knowledge in this area will benefit me greatly as an information professional.

I believe I have met the learning objectives of this course, as demonstrated above, not only by successfully working through the modules, but by being part of a group that has taken the principles of social networking to heart and enabled us to learn from each other.

Part b) How have I developed as a social networker as a result of studying INF506 and what are the implications for my development as an information professional?

When I left the workplace over five years ago, many of the social networking (SN) technologies and tools we know today were only available in niche markets, if at all, so when I rejoin some day soon as a newly created information professional, and meet the SN explosion head on (and 540 millions Facebook users certainly is an explosion), I’ll at least feel better-equipped to meet the challenges of this Web 2.0 world, with the insights I’ve gained into how SN can enhance all areas of the workplace, along with the numerous issues that surround it.

Like many SN users, I’d previously only used a limited range of SN in my personal life mainly because my friends were on it, and because I wanted to network and re-connect with people (De Rosa, Cantrell, Havens, Hawk & Jenkins, 2007). Through this course I’ve had the opportunity to explore and trial a number of useful new tools and technologies (including Second Life, blogging, photo-sharing, being a group member on a SN site, slide-sharing, Pageflakes, and user-tagging). In common with so many libraries who are having to change and adapt in this Web 2.0 world, I too, as a tail-end baby boomer, am adapting and embracing the opportunities (and challenges) that SN has to offer, and believe I have developed considerably as a social networker. I’m well aware, however, that this is very much on-going and that I must continue to invest time and effort into becoming more familiar with a wide range of SN applications.

The social experience of actively participating in Facebook discussions, sharing information via tweets and highlighting useful resources through social bookmarking on Delicious, has contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the course and again my development as a social networker. Being ‘social’ in social networking and participating and sharing (Cavazza, 2008) is key, and I agree with Amy Bax (2009) that SN ‘is only as valuable as the amount of effort you want to put into it’. I believe our postings successfully demonstrate the benefits and knowledge that can be gained by connecting a group of people with a shared interest to create an online community and providing them with various tools with which to share links or other information, have conversations, and to collaborate, i.e., the 4C’s of Web 2.0 (Mootee, 2008).

Becoming a better social networker will help me become a better information professional. The benefits of using Twitter, for example, (Breeding, 2009) to quickly send and receive information, along with the ability to stay abreast of developments in certain fields by following those whose opinions you respect; and the use of a virtual world as an educational tool (The Horizon Report, 2007), and a means of networking, have been a revelation to me, and I hope that I can now capitalise on this new found knowledge in a professional capacity by using and promoting these tools on an ongoing basis. Continuing to explore and use the tools should give me confidence to join groups and network better, to join the conversation by commenting on posts and blogs, and in turn, to share my knowledge (Nielsen, 2008).

In hindsight I needed to manage my time better which would have allowed me to complete more immersive OLJ tasks thereby furthering my development even more. It was easy to be distracted by the copious number of links and resources recommended by the group. Remaining focused and being selective are qualities I must develop, and this will helped by the creation of an online personal learning network. This would include making better use of RSS feeds from trusted blogs and websites, and concentrating on developing social networks that will be useful both professionally and personally, to supplement my current social bookmarking activities (Smith, 2008; Utecht, 2008).

As an information professional I know that I need to continue to explore and experiment with SN, so I can be in a position to evaluate the suitability of various tools for particular user groups, as I am now well aware that not all will be appropriate for all situations (Harvey, 2009; Wee, 2010), and it’s what will satisfy the users that is important when offering an information service. Thanks to the course I’ve a better overall awareness of some of the implications of the widespread use of SN and the various issues surrounding certain tools, including the need, for example, for organisations to have a social media policy, but dependent on the field in which I eventually work, I’ll need to concentrate further on certain aspects if I’m to be fully effective in my role.

I’m impressed and excited by the opportunities offered by SN for individuals and organisations to inform and be informed, to teach, to network, to share, to connect and re-connect, and feel part of a community, however I’m also conscious of the need to still maintain relationships in the ‘real’ world with face-to face meetings and telephone conversations (Steckerl, 2007), and I hope that as an information professional I can find a good balance between the two in satisfying user needs.

References

Bax, A. (2009). Importance of social networking. Retrieved from http://www.gaebler.com/importance-of-social-networking.htm

Breeding, M. (2009). Social networking strategies for professionals. Computers in Libraries, (October). Retrieved from http://www.librarytechnology.org/ltg-displaytext.pl?RC=14260

Casey, M. (2005). Working towards a definition of Library 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.librarycrunch.com/2005/10/working_towards_a_definition_o.html

Casey, M., & Savastinuk, L. (2007). We know what Library 2.0 is and is not. Retrieved from http://www.librarycrunch.com/2007/10/we_know_what_library_20_is_and.html

Cavazza, F. (2008). Social media landscape. Retrieved from http://www.fredcavazza.net/2008/06/09/social-media-landscape/

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Havens, A., Hawk, J., & Jenkins, L. (2007). Sharing privacy and trust in our networked world: A report to the OCLC membership. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC. [ebook] Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/reports/pdfs/ sharing.pdf

Farkas, M. (2008). The essence of library 2.0? Retrieved from http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2008/01/24/the-essence-of-library-20/

Fraser, M., & Dutta, S. (2008). Throwing sheep in the boardroom: How online social networking will transform your life, work and world. Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Harvey, M. (2009). What does it mean to be a Science Librarian 2.0? Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, (Summer). Retrieved from http://www.istl.org/09-summer/article2.html

Hay, L. (2010). Social networking for information professionals [Session 1 1201030 Online Study Guide]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/portal/site/INF506_201030_W_D

Miller, P. (2005). Web 2.0: Building the new library. Ariadne, 45, 30 October. Retrieved from http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue45/miller

Mootee, I. (2008). Web 2.0 and the 4 C’s. Retrieved from http://www.futurelab.net/blogs/marketing-strategy-innovation/2007/10/web_20_and_the_4_cs.html

Nielsen, L. (2008). Five things you can do to begin developing your personal learning network. Retrieved from http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2008/04/5-things-you-can-do-to-begin-developing.html

Smith, B. (2008). Creating an online personal network. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/bethanyvsmith/creating-an-online-personal-learning-network-presentation

Steckerl, S. (2007). Survival guide: Online social networking. Retrieved from http://web.fumsi.com/go/article/use/2346

The New Media Consortium & the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. (2007). The Horizon Report, 2007 Edition. Retrieved from http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2007_Horizon_Report.pdf

Utecht, J. (2008). Stages of PLN adoption. Retrieved from http://www.thethinkingstick.com/stages-of-pln-adoption

Wee, W. (2010). INFOGRAPHIC: Guide to the social media marketing landscape. Retrieved from http://www.penn-olson.com/2010/03/15/infographic-guide-to-the-social-media-marketing-landscape/

Zhang, J. (2007). Second Life: Hype or reality? Higher education in the virtual world. Retrieved from http://deoracle.org/online-pedagogy/emerging-technologies/second-life.html

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About Sue

Sue Page is in the process of completing a Masters in Library & Information Management from Charles Sturt University in Australia.
This entry was posted in learning objectives, professional development, Social networking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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