personal anacdotes on misc

(Edit: I totally spaced that LibUX interviewed me for their podcast and it went live this week! If you have 30 minutes, go take a listen!)

Dear Internet,

Wednesday is job hunt day and right now I’m up to slightly over 20 positions I need to apply for in the next week or so. I’m now breaking them down by deadline rather than when they were posted so I don’t miss the cut off. There have been a few cases where I’ve applied for positions past their prime and got interviews, but I like to be on top of things. On being thorough: once a librarian, always a librarian, and all of that rot.


This past Monday I had interview with an institution and I’m feeling pretty sure the interview did not go well, which sucks because this may be the interview that breaks my streak on going from phone to in person interviews. (This I realised was very true. There has not been a phone interview that did not end up in an in person interview. Getting the job, obviously, was a whole different matter.)

What went wrong? Several things, I believe, did not bode well. I also worried I wasn’t clear on my points, which TheExHusband (who works from home and thus heard my side of the conversation) thinks I’m being too hard on myself and that I sounded fine. Despite this, the one thing that I wasn’t keen on was the scripted questions. Three of which were so close to the other, I inadvertently answered them all in one go and had to reformulate my answer for questions two and three. I was also not thrilled to see they didn’t have back-up questions when it became evident several of the questions were repetitive.

Recommendation for search committees: I get you’re have constricted time for phone interviews but please, from a candidate’s point of view, consider having back up questions in case a main question does not apply or has already been answered in another form. Also the candidate is interviewing you as well, so please allot time for that to happen.

(I’m also super glad I did research on the school and prepped typical and often potential questions with answers before the interview so I wasn’t fumbling. I was also a girl scout.)

(I made the decision during this cycle of job applications my final question for the search committee is going to be, “Do you have any questions about my resume, web sites, or the case?” What’s happening is I feel I’m getting jerked around going into the in-person interview when I know they’ve been hammering and combing through my sites before the second interview and they’ve already made the decision I’m not the incumbent before the second interview even takes place. You’ll be hard pressed to dissuade me from that thought since I’ve had two job offers rescinded due to their probing of the sites AFTER extending the position. So let’s just get the elephant out in the open shall we?)

This position was one of my top choices due to the school’s reputation, the location, it’s alumni (yep!), and what the job would entail. If I don’t get called back for the second interview, I’ll be super bummed but life goes on and all that jazz.

(Thank you to everyone who is being super supportive of me during these job hunt cycles and telling me a place will be lucky to have me. Your support really keeps me pushing forward!)


If you have been to lisa.rabey.net  before, you may notice I’ve changed the design of the site. As I’m spending more time in keeping the content current, I choose this particular theme because I wanted something clean and easy to use but with a touch of pizazz. I adore the Commodore 64 and TI-99 4/a old computer and gaming images because they juxtapose what it stands for (computers) and what is perceived of my profession (books)  so rightly gives where my interests and skills lay and it seemed apropos. Get it? (Sometimes when I think I’m being clever it could be construed I take it a bit too far.) In addition to the theme, I also liked that it had my beloved right sidebar and the font was easy on the eyes. All in all, I’m really digging the new look.


I’m constantly tweaking my resume as I need to clean up or add new things. In recent interviews I’ve been talking a lot about the courses I’ve been taking at Team Treehouse like Front End Web Development / Full Stack JavaScript and I also recently started a class at Library Juice Academy on Introduction to GIS and GeoWeb technologies, so instead of just talking about them I wanted to illustrate them on ye olde resume.

(The LJA course is a month long while the TeamTreehouse classes are collectively 50-70 hours to be completed (not required but as a challenge) before the cohort starts in May. THEN it’ll be 50-70 hours of work over 12 weeks. Phew.)

(Recently I talked about GIS as a futures of libraries subject so when the opportunity came to take a course, I jumped on it. Hack Library School predicted it as an upcoming trend / requirement in 2012 for those wanting to get into Digital Humanities or continue the tech track so it’s not necessarily a super new thing. While HLS saw this coming, I didn’t see any positions requiring and preferring GIS skills until the last year. I know when I hunted in 2010 and partially in 2014, it was pretty rare where now it’s not. It’s also becoming a standard class in library schools.)

Where were we? The resume!  I updated the digital version and carried on to the site (I’ve also got one with redacted contact information available if you are in desire of downloading such things). As I’ve been talking about the classes I’m taking, new interests, and shifting and emphasizing on previous job duties, it seemed wise to make everything across the web and digital spheres cohesive. MY CV is now five pages long. (TheExHusband commented wasn’t that too long and I quipped making it two pages was nay impossible even if I cut it down to the bare bones. Oh. Youths.)


In addition to all of this, I recently took on a job of building a site for a friend with about 100 hours of projected work, give or take about 25 hours. The client and I thought it would be a simple knock up with a few pages here and there but as I interviewed her more on what she and her partner wanted, the more complex the site became. I’m close to the website owner’s husband, and they as a family have been wonderful to me, so I easily said yes about the job. The payment is going to be in chocolate (you’ve read that correctly) with half due now and half due on delivery.

I know a lot of you are grumbling that I’m possibly screwing myself by doing it for exposure BUT this will allow me to use current skills and learn new ones and while I have experience in knocking websites up it’s not something I do for a job but would like to (hence the Team Treehouse classes). If it were anyone else, I’d require minimal per hour free (by designer standards). I’m pretty comfortable with this arrangement. (To be fair, they have asked me to track hours so hopefully some cash may be coming down the pipeline in the future, even if it is a token amount.)


I know I’ve talked about professional development in the past and when I sat down to organize my education, I knew I was pushing myself too thin to do full stack (front and back end development) and GIS with taking on other areas of interest. I’m currently in the weeding process to not overextend myself but it’s hard when I genuinely have a lot of interests. What needs to happen is figure out a better cohesiveness of my career and those concentrations while using the secondary interests for pleasure. It has to be the right combination of in the now skills with enough cutting edge interests to make you seem forward thinking.


In the realm of forward thinking, the draft post I have on the future of libraries part ii will more than likely be broken out to individual posts for each topic. The first piece in the series with the summary of a few futurisms clocked in at nearly 2000 words and this piece, just an update on my life, is closing in on 1500 words. I’m verbose and if you read my personal blog, you know I do not take umbrage on being succinct.

I obviously have a lot to say.

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part V

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part V: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part ii: The Big Why

A couple of weeks ago I ended the post on advocacy with the following:

You might be asking yourself “Why should I do this?” Good question and also the point of this post: At the heart of library/archive advocacy is the active pursuit to continue to influence the community at large to the worth and purpose of the local library or archives.

In last week’s (fairly lengthy) post, I summarized the entire post with one sentence that gets to the heart of the matter:

Engage with your community.

In April of this year, ALA released their annual report, The State of American Libraries [pdf], with the beginning tag line, “Recession drives more Americans to libraries.” Statistically, ALA noted that library use has increased, nationally, on average of 20% since the last report. In addition, the ALA also found that 94% of American’s find presence of libraries in their communities as enriching their lives and that 71% of libraries report they are the only sources of free access to computers and interwebs in their community. Those statistics, to me, are pretty staggering and it would also suggest that if public libraries are so beloved, we’d do anything to keep them open and running, yes?

Well, not quite. Here is the reality of this year’s election results:
Tacoma, WA look to close branches
Buffalo, NY looks at $4M cut from their library system
Indy libraries cut 37 employees
And the cherry on top:
Troy, MI libraries set to close June 30, 2011

Let’s take a look at some other stats, this time from Pew Internet:
American adults (ages 18 and over):

  • 83% have cell phones or smartphones.
    • 35% access the web from their phones.
    • 17% own a smartphone
  • 74% use the Internet.
  • 60% have broadband at home.
  • 46% have a laptop.

The Pew Internet statistics validate that an ever growing number of Americans are not only getting online, but they are also accessing the web in a variety of ways, outside of a plain old home computer. Your patrons are not only going mobile, but your virtual front door is another portal for them to access. So why are you keeping that door closed?

Since I love statistics, here are more stats from ALA’s The State of American Libraries [pdf] 2010 report:

  • 71% of public libraries provide their community’s only free public access to computers and the Internet.
  • 60% [of Americans] renew their materials online
  • 57% access their library’s website on a regular basis
  • Number of social networking users has doubled in the last 2 years.

The research project that I’m currently working on with Kristin LaLonde, and presenting this week at Michigan Library Association Annual Conference, looks at how Michigan public libraries utilize and represent themselves online. Taking the information from the statistics listed above and applying them to our sampling data, we found that nearly 10% of Michigan public libraries did not have ANY kind of web presence (including a library website) and almost 50% of those that did have a website, were not updating most of the information, including even listing contact information or news bits. What makes this even more shocking is that the Library of Michigan has a FREE program in which they will build, deploy and train staff on using Plinkit to maintain their library website. FREE!

David Lee King is paraphrased in the The State of American Libraries [pdf] report that librarians who state they have no time for Lib2.0 projects or initiatives have bad time management. At first I thought this was very provocative but then I realized, he’s not softening the blow on the reality of the situation AND he also has an incredibly valid point.

There is no reason why any library, regardless of class size, cannot find or make the time to create and maintain their web presence online when 99.9% of the tools available are free, include tutorials, and can be operational in under 15 minutes. There is no longer a relative, logical or reasonable argument that money or time is the factor on why librarians/archivists and libraries/archives cannot do these things.

If libraries/archives need to engage with their community, and their community is going virtual, shouldn’t these institutions be engaging with their community where they are most likely to be found? Why continue to use promotions and services that are slowly becoming irrelevant or no longer useful?

How are YOU representing your institution online?

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part IV

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part IV: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part i

Last week, I talked about the difference between advocacy and public relations as well as presented a good base on how to create and use social media as advocacy outlets. Since the steps to create a social media outreach/PR campaign are similar to creating an advocacy campaign, I’ll discuss more on how to use social media effectively to create, maintain and engage with your community.

Because there is so much to cover with this topic, it is divided into two parts, the first of which covers creating a brand, connecting your social networks, engaging your users, and lastly, creating meaningful content. While I give examples to illustrate my points in this week’s post, next week I’ll spend more time on the WHY you should be doing this rather than just creating the approach to doing it.

  • Create a (consistent) brand
    This is one thing I did not cover last week, but is an incredibly important part of your social media strategy/policy. When creating accounts on social media or blog networks, make sure the username you create is consistent AND searchable across the network. For example, Detroit Public Library (DPL) is known as DetroitLibrary on Twitter. At first glance, this username doesn’t seem unrealistic given the public library’s name, but actually it is problematic. Since Twitter (and most social networks in general) has a character limit for username creation, the word “Public” was dropped. Since there was also a character limit in the “Name” field, the word “Public” was again dropped. Why is this a problem? Because if you decided to search and friend DPL on Twitter using the keywords “Detroit Public Library,” you would not be able to find them.1
    Here is another example: Traverse District Library. A search for them on Twitter by name reveals nothing. So I searched Google instead. Aha! Found them. Their username is not indicative of who the account is for and while their institution name is in their bio, Twitter does not search the bio via keyword searches, and their account was only found via Google search. Secondly, consistent name across social networks. If I find a library and I’m curious to see their presence across the social web, I’ll search for the same username across those networks. 90% of the time, these institutions are not using a consistent name across the social web. I end up finding these institutions by searching for their full name, adding or removing words as necessary until I can either find them or give up and mark it as a loss. With character limitations, names already used by other entities and such can be an issue, the idea is to create a single username or similar enough name that your patrons can find you. For example, Alpena (MI) County Library has direct links to their Facebook and Twitter accounts of their main page of their website – great! Not great – Their Twitter username isAlpenaCoLibrary, their Facebook username is Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library and a non-linked Flickr account is AlpenaCountyLibrary. With very little consistency, if they had not linked their Twitter and Facebook pages from their website, as a patron and unable to find them otherwise, I would have never have known they had online presences since searching for them via those social network websites initially turned up no results.The question to ask yourself is, “If my patrons are using Facebook/Twitter/Flickr/YouTube, can they find my institution via search?” Then search for your institution. If you cannot find your institution via the social network’s search function or using Google, then neither can your patrons.
  • Connect your networks
    Have a blog? Facebook page? Multiple Facebook pages? Twitter or Flickr account? Do the patrons who visit your website know that you do? Make sure that you provide links or badges or widgets pointing your users/community to these other virtual front doors. Detroit Public Library has two large, easy to find badges hyperlinking to their accounts on other social networks. Links, badges, and widgets should be eye-catching, easy to find and correctly link to these social networks. They should also be available on all of the sites. For example, you should have links on Facebook to your main website, blog, and other social network accounts in your info tab or in the about me section. On your blog/website, add badges or widgets to link back to your other networks. On social networks that only have space for one website link (like Twitter), make sure that link goes to your main virtual front door.In my research on Michigan public libraries and the status of their online presence, 85% of those libraries that have a Facebook page (or a presence on any other social networks) do not advertise it anywhere else – even on their own website. How did I find out about the library having a Facebook page if it’s not on their website? I searched Facebook directly and found them. But I also know that not everyone is like me, so to assume that your patrons should or will automatically know to search the social networks for your presence is a dangerous assumption that may cost you big in the long run.Another interesting phenomenon is that most of libraries with a Facebook page were incredibly active by routinely engaging with their community while their other presences (website, blog, whatever) were nearly stagnant. Yes, you should go to where your online community is located but it should not be assumed that all of your online community is going to be in one centralized location. Having at least a public website will provide the basic information of hours, services, catalog search and other pertinent information to the public at large AND makes it searchable via search engines. Remember, for services like Facebook which require logins to participate, many people do not feel comfortable with creating accounts or providing information they feel is private AND the content is not searchable via search engines or viewable to the public without an account.
  • Engage with your users
    First sub-rule of this rule? Do NOT utilize your institution’s social media accounts for personal use. I mutter “They’re doin’ it wrong.” a lot when I look at social media accounts linked to public institutions and the person running the account is using it for personal use. Personal use means engaging in behavior that would not be associated with the public face of a public institution, such as discussing what you ate for lunch, how sick your pets are or how big your behind looks in that day’s outfit. Second sub-rule of this rule? Only follow people on public services (such as Twitter) that accurately reflect your institutions goals or services. I live in the Detroit-metro area. On my personal Twitter account, I get followed A LOT by public libraries across the globe. On one hand, it’s flattering. On the other, I’m perplexed as to why a local library in Colorado or Sweden who only tweets about what’s happening in their particular branches is following someone who is clearly not in their community. If you find someone you think is interesting then create you own personal Twitter account and engage with that person outside of the “professional” account. Last week I talked about creating a social media policy – this type of issues and behaviors would be covered quite nicely in that policy.Now that I’ve covered two sub-rules: Here is the main crux of this post: Engage with your community. There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to engage with your community virtually. How?

    • Host contests (and offer prizes) for your patrons only via Twitter or Facebook or your blog or whatever social network(s) you use.
    • Feed your blog into Facebook2, so that you can streamline your posting process across multiple social networks so that you are spending less time updating all of your social networks and more time responding and engaging with your community. Use a free online tool, such as HootSuite, which allows you to monitor your social networks, cross-post, post-date and autopost your posts and much more, all in one tool.
    • Dedicate a short (15 minute) chucks of time several times a day to check your accounts, respond to messages and provide status updates. Lots of libraries use Twitter and Facebook for Reader’s Advisory and quick reference questions, incorporate checking into your social networks and responding to your patrons inquiries part of your daily duties.
  • Create meaningful content
    This is the second emphasis of this post: Create meaningful content. Meaningful content is anything that is related or of interest to your institution and the community you serve. Use social networking to promote upcoming programs, events, author signings or any other happenings at your library and don’t be shy on promoting as often as you need. Several libraries will post about a big event on Twitter several times a day for a week or two leading up to the event, which is then pushed forward by their followers retweeting it for them. Or create multiple reminders in Facebook for their fans and have those reminders forwarded on to other Facebook fans. Other types of content to provide is historical or fun facts about the library, archives or community. Create auto-posts to post couple times a week reminding the community of the services you provide and vary the posts.Does your library offer services that are underused such as ILL, typewriters or special services for the physically impaired? Self-checkout down? Printers jammed? Wireless gone the way of the dodo? Did an author come in and do an impromptu signing? Is a popular book that is constantly checked out now have multiple copies available? Offering a one day only dismissal of fines for some reason? You can use social networking to broadcast the great to the mundane and it is communicated to your patrons quickly and efficiently.The Orkney Library in Scotland Twitter account does all the above beautifully as they combine humour, promotion and fun facts while also engaging with their community. Some examples of their tweets,

    Enjoying the Autumnwatch seals? Find out more about the folklore and mythology of selkies in Orkney with a book from 398 Y

    and

    Stromness Library Reading Group is canceled this evening due to a swarm of killer eagles circling the town

    Which was followed up by:

    RE: Stromness Library Reading Group. That should have read canceled due to illness.

Next week: Part V: Using Social Media for Outreach and PR, part ii


1. The person who runs DPL’s Twitter is aware of the naming issue. While the word “Public” is in the Twitter bio, the Twitter search algorithm does not search bios when doing keyword searches. However, if you search Google for “Detroit Public Library Twitter”, DPL’s Twitter account does come up. Since the account has been active for a year or two, renaming it would be more of a pain than it is worth. So be careful when selecting usernames on social networks.
2. I wrote about “Feeding Your Blog Into Facebook” a year ago and of course, the whole process has changed AGAIN as Facebook has changed its API setup. If you’re using WordPress, using the Notes import tool in Facebook is haphazard at best. A plugin I’ve started using recently on my personal blog is WPBook. There is few extra steps than what I describe in the post above, but it is consistent AND reliable, which is pretty significant.

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part III

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part III: Using Social Media for Advocacy

When I began to outline this series, my goal was to make sure that each weekly topic flowed into the next so that the current week built upon the previous weeks discussions. As I spent time moving topics around so that each week would (hopefully) flow seamlessly to the next, I kept getting a nagging feeling that something was just not right. Two of my topics, advocacy and public relations/outreach, were the culprits and I finally realized why. The nagging comes in because at first blush, I tend to personally use the words advocacy and public relations pretty interchangeably and I wondered if I did that, it wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to believe that others might do so as well. So what is the difference between the two and why are each of them important?

In very broad terms, the definition of advocacy is the active support for a cause by influencing those in public, political or societal groups who allocate monetary and other resources that can help the cause out. Public relations/outreach, on the other hand and which I will cover next week, is the art of promoting and maintaining goodwill of a product/service/person to the public. The difference between the two is slight, but enough to necessitate that libraries/archives need to utilize both approaches.

It is also easy to see why I used these words interchangeably with the other, but the distinction between them is important to note. In the library/archives world, the public doesn’t necessarily see how much the services provided by these institutions are vital to their community until it is almost too late. Thanks to social media, the face of library advocacy is quickly changing but it is still not enough as we need to start and continue to do more. Advocacy, regardless of how it is done, should not be something that is done when the library/archives are in dire need but rather it should be kept up even in good times. This is where the public relations aspect comes in but since advocacy is more about, and I hate to use this word, pleading for monetary and other resources, advocacy should not be discontinued once the financial or resource goals are met.

Here are some steps, using social media, an institution can use to begin and maintain their advocacy:

  • Create a social media plan or policy
    If your institution does not have a social media plan or policy, it should probably draft one as it will not only protect you but also your patrons. This will be your cornerstone for any type of social media you use or engage in, regardless for what purpose. Tame the Web and Mashable have excellent tips on creating social media policies for your institution.
  • Define what services to use and why
    When constructing your social media policy, do not worry about the intricacies as this will always be a living document, but one thing you do want to concentrate on is what services you should use and why. Other than your website and blogging, the major services are Facebook and Twitter, withMySpace/LinkedIn/YouTube/Flickr and other smaller or lesser used services making up the backlist.
  • Create a portal 
    I’m currently doing research on the online presence of public libraries in Michigan and nearly 20% of public libraries Michigan do not have a web presence in ANY form (website, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, whatever). For those that have web presence, the presences are not connected. For example, it was not unusual for a library to have a website AND a Facebook page, but the Facebook page was almost never linked off their website or vice versa via Facebook info page. Whatever you decide to do, whether it is a single presence (website OR Facebook) or many presences, make sure you choose one as the main portal (aka jumping off point) to the rest of your web presences. This will also make it easier to scale and add web presences as they are needed.
  • Create a blog 
    If you have little time (or money or hours or employees or whatever) to update your website but you want to keep your patrons and community current on what is happening via online, you can always create a blog on one of the many free sites such as WordPress or Blogger. With the learning curve low, support and additional free features high, these sites are attractive option for libraries on limited budget or time. To make your time even more efficient, you can automatically feed your blog into your Facebook page or just update your Facebook page when you update your blog via cut/paste.
  • Email lists 
    I’m a big proponent of email lists and I know that many other people are as well. Why? Email lists are great for those of us who are not diligent in visiting a website, logging into Facebook or reading RSS feeds on a regular basis. Creating and maintaining a mailing list is an excellent way to keep in touch with your patrons without depending them to come to you for that information. When creating social presences, we often think that if we are on X social networking site, so too will the people we wish to engage with will be as well. This is not necessarily true. I have friends who refuse to use Facebook, refuse to use Twitter and only read my blog via RSS feed. Mailing lists, with the option to opt out of course, allows you to push information to the community without requiring the community to participate with you. The other nice thing is that you don’t necessarily have to format your mailing lists differently than your blog posts. You could, for intents and purposes, just cut/paste your blog post into your email and viola! Instant newsletter.
  • “Friends of”
    Another thing I have noticed in my research is that the “Friends of” support of whatever library’s website I’m looking at is almost always missing. This does not mean that that particular library does not have a “Friends of” affiliation, almost every public library has a “Friends of” board/group, but their information is almost always missing from the website/Facebook/blog itself. “Friends of” groups are hugely paramount in gaining and maintaining financial support of their particular library and because of the work that “Friends of” groups do, they too need their own space. Why? Since “Friends of” groups operate separately from the library, they should be treated as separate entities. Many “Friends of” pages were used to successfully campaign for money, resources, supplies while keeping the community up to date on donations, programming, speakers, and other activities happening in the community and the library. For many libraries, “Friends of” groups are directly responsible for maintaining support for the library.

Now that I’ve listed steps on how to get your advocacy group up and running from the ground up, I’ve also included web links below for additional sources on library/archives and advocacy. You might be asking yourself “Why should I do this?” Good question and also the point of this post: At the heart of library/archive advocacy is the active pursuit to continue to influence the community at large to the worth and purpose of the local library or archives. This pursuit should not be only when the institution is in danger, but constant to remind the community just how important and needed the institution is. Local libraries/archives will always be “in need” whether it is for resources, volunteers, money, supplies or something else and it is always good to keep the presence of the library favorable in the community’s opinion.

To paraphrase a presentation from #ALA10, “We are at war. Your portal/blog/website is your castle. Your community is your army to fight for you. Your social media policy is your battle plan. Use your battle plan to mobilize and deploy your army to help keep your library.”


Resources:

  • ALA 2010: REFORMA Advocacy & Social Media: Library Services for All in the Community – Breakdown of the presentation at ALA annual, presented by Andy Woodworth.
  • ALA’s Clearinghouse for Advocacy & Legislation
  • Everyday Advocacy: Making a case for libraries is easy with web tools.
  • i love libraries – ALA’s website dedicated to grassroots advocacy and organization, geared for the general public.
  • Save Libraries! – Nationwide grassroots listing hub of library advocacy campaigns.
  • Wikipedia: Public Library Advocacy

 

Next week: Part IV: Using Social Media for Outreach/PR

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part II

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part II: Social Media Simply Explained

When we presented on social media at AMIA last year, we opined that social media could be easily explained by two statements:

  • Social networking is about connecting people with similar interests on a much larger scale.

AND

  • It is about conversations.

A year later, I still firmly believe that it really is that simple. As I said last week, the problem, however, is that in the last year there seems to be plethora of presentations, sites, workshops, and classes (to name a few) that will push the need for social media in libraries and archives but rarely will define what social media is. One hand, this is great as it gets the word out for the need of using social media as part of a librarians or archivists daily job routine. On the other hand, the pushing of the tool without defining the tool is still causing huge resistance in using that particular tool.

Why?

One answer is that the approach seems to be, “Everyone is doing it, so should you.” This approach is hugely problematic. If one cannot understand the foundation of using a particular tool, one is less likely to even use the tool. It is with this understanding that I believe is one of the reasons why social media has yet to be adopted more widely across libraries and archives.

I would like to add one more statement to the above list:

  • Social media is your institution’s virtual front door.

Just as one would not barricade the entrance to an institution’s physical location, why would one barricade or remove the front door to your virtual institution?

It is easier for an institution to visualize that, “No, we won’t barricade the front door of our library!” because by doing so would be incredibly silly. By applying the same logic to their virtual presences, it provides a better rationale (perhaps even logical) way to approach the why on using social media.

Many institutions still firmly believe that their virtual presence is not as important as their physical one, while the Pew Internet & American Life project illustrates the complete opposite. Information seeking behavior, according to Pew, is constantly changing and as such, content providers (i.e. the Internet) need to make sure they are keeping up with those changes. For example, within a year (2009 to 2010), the amount of seniors (defined as those aged over 50) using social media has doubled from 22% to 42%. While Pew documented that were also huge jumps across other age groups, the largest was with seniors.

What does this mean? It reshapes the perspective that the only ones getting online and using online tools are the younger generations and also illustrates the growth in the older market, as it were, is only going to increase as the population ages.

Let’s take a step back for a moment: The reason for this series is to explain social media and networking, what it is, why you should use it as well as giving tips and tricks to making the most out of it. So, let us answer the questions posed at the beginning of this post:

What is social media?

  • Social networking is about connecting people with similar interests on a much larger scale.
    It allows for libraries, archives, communities of any type or sort to create advocacy, marketing, public relations, transliteracy and communication device to its community both near and far while also acting as a discovery tool for that community.
  • It is about conversations. 
    Social media is dynamic. It allows the institution to engage with community and for the community to participate and be a part of the institution.
  • Social media is your institutions virtual front door. 
    Just as an institution is concerned with its physical appearance, it too should be concerned with not only having a presence online but also how the presence is being utilized. Having a website is good, having an active website is even better. Engaging with your patrons and community via your online presence is ideal.

Next week: Part III: Using Social Media for Advocacy

Your Virtual Front Door: Defining the Use of Social Media for Archives and Libraries: Part I

[This was first published at AMPed.]

Part I: Introduction

A conversation I seem to have a lot these days is discussing the use and instruction of social media, specifically for archival and library institutions. One particular topic that I keep coming back to over and over again in these conversations is that there is a huge push for institutions to use social media, with this push intensified by conferences and professional organizations (to name a few outlets). These outlets heavily advertise posters, panels and classes (to name a few methods) that teach professionals the hows of social media and networking with specific illustration of the more popular social media tools without really explaining the whys.

This in and of itself is not a bad thing. Last winter, Alexis Braun Marks, Kim Schroeder and I presented at AMIA‘s yearly conference on this very subject. Our topic, “When Are New Technologies For You?” was an attempt to give a general overview of what social media is and why it should be used while illustrating a few of the big players in the social networking world. Our audience poll at the beginning of our presentation only enforced what we knew from our research: Most institutions are desperate to get on the social media bandwagon and know that they should, but they have no idea WHY they should or how to go about doing it. Then what happens is that many institutions end up doing one of two things: they join every social network under the sun and then forget about it or they just ignore the siren call of social media in the first place, artificially secure that they don’t need it in the first place.

Therein, I believe, lies the problem: we have the knowledge of the hows but not necessarily the whys. In the the last year, since our presentation at AMIA, I’ve paid heavy attention to professional organizations and communities and noticed the rise in the offerings in classes on social media methodologies (good) but no real explanation as to they whys (bad). It is becoming widely accepted that these tools are to be and are being integrated into professional job descriptions and daily use, but no one seems to be clearly explaining why these seems to be so important.

This series is going to be a musing of and attempt to list and explain reasons of the WHY libraries and archives need to be using social media while hopefully doing away with marketing buzzwords and jargon. But before we start, let me offer up at least one simple reason as to why libraries and archives need to use social media:

It’s fun!

Next week: Part II: Social Media Simply Explained

The Power of the Retweet

[This was first published at AMPed.]

I’ve discussed Twitter in a variety of capacities on AMPed but mainly within the context of using mashable technologies that include Twitter, but I have not discussed a feature of Twitter that sometimes is overlooked – retweeting.

What exactly is retweeting? Retweeting is taking a tweet that was originally sent by one person that you follow and you in turn forward it on to your own followers, usually with an added comment so that the new tweet would look something like this:

Awww RT@stephenfry Plus *eyelidflutter* Steve Jobs said “Hi, Stephen” *swoon*.

In this case I’m commenting on a tweet originally sent by @stephenfry, whom I follow and in turn, I forwarded that tweet to my followers along with my comment. Because of the format of the tweet, it is generally understood that everything before the “RT” is by me and everything after the “RT” is by the originating author. And this is accepted as the norm in Twitter communication for since time immortal (or 2006).

It is exactly like email forwarding, with the exception that you cannot selective choose who your retweet goes out to, it has to go out to all of those that follow you or none at all.

When Twitter first came to being, it didn’t have an official re-tweet option, at least not on Twitter.com. A lot of the retweeting that went on was done by hand, meaning simple cut and paste with formatting to make it fit within 140 characters. As Twitter, and obviously by extension tweeting, became more popular, applications and websites like HootSuite, Seesmic and TweetDeck started building tools within their clients to make retweeting easier, thus no more cut and paste! One could simply select the option to retweet a tweet and the application would do the formatting for you.

But then, everything changed. In the fall of 2009, Twitter announced they were going to do something a little bit differently: change how people retweeted. This may not seem like earth shattering details but in the context of how people use Twitter and for people who use Twitter.com, it was a big deal.

Here is what they did:
For ages, applications were already incorporating ways for people to retweet content, allowing people to style how they disseminated the information as seen by my example above. Twitter.com, sometimes late to their own party, decided to shake things up by adding a retweet option natively into the website. What this option did is that if you were reading your Twitter timeline on Twitter.com and saw something you wanted to retweet, the retweet option would re-post the tweet for you but as it originated from the author, with no option to restyle it or adding commentary. So, if I retweeted my example from above to my followers, what they would see is the tweet as it was originally sent by Stephen Fry with “retweeted by” appended on. The interesting thing about this new option is that for those who ALREADY follow Stephen Fry on Twitter, they would not see my retweet since it already appeared originally in their timeline.

Applications and websites have started incorporating this option into their software, giving users a choice to do it natively or to add commentary.

Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, explains the rationale behind the the new format and the ideology of how retweeting emerged organically.

So now that we’ve covered what retweeting is, how it’s used and how to use it, what exactly makes it powerful? There are a number of reasons (in no particular order):

  1. It introduces new users to your followers that they may not already know. For example, there are a number of Twitter users who have become massively popular due to the viralness of retweeting, such as @ArchivesOpen and @UkNatArchives. The viralness of a Twitter account is not limited to an account that is for pure entertainment, as news & culture magazins, think tanks, research groups and individuals that I do not follow have appeared in my timeline, retweeted by people who think that information is interesting or useful.
  2. It draws attention to a particular action, ideology or commentary that you believe in and want to share with your followers.
  3. It illustrates something you agree or disagree with, but sharing the orignal tweet with your own commentary, thus drawing attention to something that may not have been noticed before.
  4. Retweeting gives credit to sources, which again goes back to expanding your social network, either professionally or personally.
  5. It creates conversations with your followers by them retweeting or responding directly to you about your retweet or by retweeting a tweet that originated from yourself.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg and there could be a series on the power of retweeting, but for now we’ll just cover the basics to lay the foundation on becoming a better tweeter. By understanding why people use retweeting, how to use it, what it does and why it can be so powerful gives you a better foundation to be a better tweeter and at the end of the day, isn’t that what everyone wants?

Twitter hits its 10 billionth tweet: What this means for you

[This was first published at AMPed.]

If you are following any blogs on social media, the one that should be at the top of your list is Mashable. While at times the writing is a bit sensationalistic, Mashable is great for getting news and information as it happens making it one of the definitive sources on social media and networking on the web.

Anyone old enough to remember the days when McDonald’s used to change their signs when they sold X number of burgers? Fan fare and promotions were a blazed the numbers climbed and once McDonald’s hit 99 billion burgers, it stopped counting.

Today, Mashable reported that Twitter reached 10 billion tweets. Here is how the numbers work out: Twitter begins in early 2006 and it takes nearly 2.5 years to reach the first billion tweets (fall of 2008). One year later, it quintupled the number of tweets (from one billion to five billion) in 1/3rd of the time. And six months later, Twitter doubled that figure to ten billion tweets served.

Yowza.

And unlike McDonald’s, Twitter is not going to stop counting.

There are a couple of things that make this information interesting and to some degree, crucial:

  • Twitter is not dying or on death’s door. Despite various predictions from anyone with online access that Twitter had run its course, people still creating Twitter accounts every second. Sure, Twitter has had growing pains and due to the unbelievable increase of traffic it has occurred, it will still continue to have growing pains but this does not denote death or dying of the service. While there is no definitive word as to how Twitter (if ever) will monetize their services, this has not stopped the zillions of third parties from making money off the Twitter API. In short, Twitter should not be discounted because clearly, it is doing nothing but grow. The benefits of using the service are only going to get better.
  • Studies by Pew Internet and other social researchers keep observing and recording new trends within social media and primarily within Twitter. Sometimes conflicting reports will appear that suggest: teens love Twitter, teens hate Twitter or only old people are using Twitter. While in the beginning the conflicts were more wide spread, the older Twitter gets, the more about who/why/when is using Twitter information will stabilize.

For Twitter, and for its users, this information is great news, but for an archivist dealing with born digital preservation – this could be a nightmare. Due to storage constraints, Twitter does NOT archive the entire breadth of your Twitter account anymore. Thus if you’re someone like myself who has nearly 15,000 tweets on record (since 2007!), that to process and produce an archival system to keep it all intact, preferably off of the Twitter cloud would be huge. While personally I am an extreme example of a Twitter user, I’m not really all that unique with wanting to preserve my tweet history. Several months ago I installed a lifestream plugin for my personal blog for the simple reason to collate and preserve my online activity, so that I could personally archive everything myself. But even that was not enough because more than 75% of my Twitter life is in the ethers since I did not think to set up any kind of backup plan to preserve my Twitter history. For a long time, I (like most people) depended too much on Twitter to do this for me, but now that the growth spurts have put an end to Twitter keeping an active Twitter history for all of their users.

In late 2009, the APA style guide released an online update detailing how to cite Twitter. If APA can take Twitter seriously, then archivists need to start thinking of the Twitter model as the springboard to help come up with solutions to born digital preservation issues, primarily in social media and networking. If this scenario was presented about tangible, physical objects, 15 manuals would appear by the SAA within a month. As it stands, there is currently no definitive way on how to archive these born digital creations and as such, we will eventually lose access to them. And since Twitter is not archived via the Internet Archive or by Google, once those tweets are gone, they are gone.

For Businesses: Feeding Your Blog Into Facebook

[This was first published at AMPed.]

One of the great things about social networking is the ability to transparently publish information across various social networks simultaneously. When I update my personal blog, without additional interaction by me, updates are sent to my Facebook, Twitter and FriendFeed accounts. This is done via the magic of APIs and the widgets that utilize the existing sites API information

API is short for “Application Programming Interface,” and essentially allows third party developers to create new ways, or mashups, of the existing technology with other technologies – hence the transparency of publishing my content from my blog to other sites. One could argue that this ability is at the heart of Social Networking since personally I’d be less inclined to re-post my content repeatedly on other sites, which means more work for me and also takes out the “Gee-whiz!” factor when introduced to new mashups or widgets that will do it for me.

The interesting thing about all of this, however, is that when it comes to Facebook, how I am regarded as an individual is completely different to how Archive Media Partners (AMP) is regarded as a business. On most other networks, business and individuals are treated nearly identical when it comes to creating a presence on that network but Facebook, however, has a different model. Facebook has always maintained that there needs to be a separation between the two, which is especially crucial with how Facebook disseminates personal information as well as the concern over privacy controls.

While that topic can be a blog post (or even a series!) in its own right, we want to look how to get a business’ information into Facebook with the same ease as an individual. The first example of this is having your blog automatically update to Facebook when new content is published.

With an individual account, there is a variety of ways to do this via applications native to Facebook as well as widgets that can be installed. For a business, it is a little bit trickier. Here is how to do it:

  • Login into Facebook and click on Pages at the top. This will take you to the a listing of all the pages created for the business. Click on the page you wish to modify.
  • Once you click on the page you wish to modify, you’ll be presented with a variety of settings. In this section, you can modify which applications are visible on the published page. Scroll down and under Applications, look for Notes. Make sure that the link to Notes has been activated.
  • Click on Edit underneath Notes. Once in Notes, the note settings are located to the right. Click on import a blog link.
  • On this page, Facebook will gives the song and dance about importing a blog, mainly that the blog you are importing is your own. Well enough, in the box below the warning, where it saysWeb URL, paste the RSS feed of your blog into the box and below it, check the box for authorization.
  • Facebook will then refresh the page, showing the latest blog entry and will ask you to confirm the import. Thus, click onConfirm Import button.

And you’re done!

You can go to your page and test that the blog entries are showing up, but this is probably one of the more elegant ways of getting your blog feed into your Facebook wall. You can also remove the feed if you decide not to use it or update/change the feed as needed.

For more ideas on how to use Facebook as a business, look atMashable’s Killer Facebook Fan Pages: 5 Inspiring Case Studies that illustrates how other companies use Best Practices when using Facebook, including feeding a blog into a Facebook wall.

Disqus Commenting System

[This was first published at AMPed.]

One of the things that makes social networking is the ability to comment and share whatever it is you’re reading or interacting with to others in your group, whether by email, Facebook, Twitter or social bookmarking sites. On the flip side, one of the downsides is that for nearly every site you interact with, you almost always have to create a login to participate. This is not necessarily a bad thing in that it allows you to control what information about yourself that is available to the site admins, it allows the site admins to also gauge who is using their service and it is helpful if you consistently frequent the same sites on a regular basis.

Personally though, I’m fairly lazy. If I want to comment on a blog or a site, and that blog or site requires me to create a new login, I’m more apt to just not say anything at all rather than go through all the fuss of creating said account. In that respect, OpenID was created with this in mind by creating a universal login that if a blog or site allowed you to login with your OpenID, that’s one less account you have to set up. This is good in theory but in practice, as far as I could tell, it has not been used that extensively. Even major sites such as CNN and The New York Times still require you to create an account on their system to comment or to view special materials, which then defeats the purpose of using OpenID.

This is where Disqus comes in to fill the gap. Disqus is a commenting system that enables your users to comment on your blog or site by logging in via a network they are already affiliated with, such as Facebook, Yahoo! or Twitter (and even OpenID!). Users are not required to create another account on all-in-one service such as OpenID because it is assumed that your readers will have an account on another, existing system. With the rise of such services now making public their APIs, it is becoming fairly common to use your Facebook or Twitter account to login to another service instead of having to create an account on that particular service. For example, the geo-location social network BrightKite, uses Facebook’s API to allow users to login instead of creating a new account.

When we started AMPed, there was some discussion as to what to do about enabling commenting on the site, including but not limiting to time frame the comments would be open, how to handle spam and whether or not a person would be required to register. When I quizzed people as to whether or not they would use the commenting feature, many stated that they would but like me, refrained from doing so due to the having to create yet another account problem. Commenting is not just about espousing one’s opinion on a topic they were interested in but it is also about opening up a conversation. Blogs tend to get thought of as a one-way communique instead of as a community and that was something we wanted to change.

Disqus, in short, is awesome. Not only is it another widget that works directly out of the box but the transparency within the WordPress blog is fantastic. I didn’t have to go through and configure each post individual or hack PHP to get it work, it just did it on its own. As Disqus allows people to login and comment with Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo and more, users are not relegated to creating an account on the system.

With Disqus, you then then control what systems people can login with, such as allowing only Facebook or Twitter, turning off anonymous counting. You can also, like the default commenting system within WordPress, decide when to shut comments off from older sites and how to handle spam. Disqus also allows trackbacks, like default WordPress, which they call reactions. This also allows you to see who is linking to your blog and why.

While Disqus fulfills our needs on AMPed, there are some glitches with how the system is set up. Here is what you need to know:

  • You have to create a Disqus account in order to use the plugin on your blog. This is, again, not necessarily a bad thing as you can control advanced options and settings on Disqus’ website. This also allows people who have existing Disqus accounts to also comment on your site.
  • In order to use Facebook and Twitter integration for commenting, you have to have an existing Facebook and Twitter accounts in order for this to work. The reasoning behind this that since Disqus is using Twitter’s API to allow the commenting, it must authorize to an account to get the API to work. While I understand the technical details behind this, this still seems a bit clunky to me. For AMPed, I had to create a Facebook page to get the Facebook API to work and we were fine as we have an existing Twitter account.
  • The settings in WordPress are located in Dashboard->Settings->Disqus which is actually nothing more than a front to the Disqus homepage. You’re still required to login to Disqus’ site to control things and the “manage” settings in WordPress is nothing more than the API and uninstall feature.

Bottom line: The integration into the website is flawless and it gives our readers more control on how they want to participate in our community, Disqus is a great gap filler on how to handle commenting on websites. While the installation of the widget was flawless and transparent, the managing and set-up of the widget is a bit clunky. But for the cost (free) and what it does, Disqus is a great tool to have in your WordPress widget toolbox.