The Fine Art of Creating An Online Professional Presence

I am big in Canada!

Dear Internet,
Before I begin, I need to note some changes that have been going on. First big change is that I migrated all the blog posts over from my professional site to this site. I was not updating the blog portion of my professional presence in a meaningful time frame AND I talk a lot about professional stuff over here so combining the two became a natural progression. I have put the posts relating to the professional stuff on its own page, which is automatically updated as new content is published. I also have a widget in the right navigation bar for easy access.
The second change is that I reorganized the professional site to be more transparent on what my goals and career plans are, and took away the features that were geared for current MPOW by putting them on its own portfolio page.
Lastly, while I was working on this, I found out from my favorite John that at the recent Ontario Library Association, I was a THING OF EXCELLENCE (see photo at beginning of this piece) on online portfolios. I found the accompanying wrap-up of the presentation, which has a lot of good info.
That’s it for the news.
This all ties into when I started writing this post on developing a profesh librarian site last year, geared to illustrate my own experiences and giving examples of others. MPOW originally required faculty, of which includes librarians, to have a Faculty Performance Evaluation portfolio (formerly known as the FGIP) in place and on paper. My work is nearly all in the digital world, so thus my portfolio was digital. In the fall of 2013, MPOW moved over to an in-house digital product to manage and did away with paper and also making my site obsolete.
I came to the conclusion this was a good time to make my profesh site more robust and provide all the things! I changed the layout and theme a few times until I got something close to what I liked and started filling in more content, primarily stuff from before I started working at the college and more details about professional projects I was currently working on.
Yet, I felt like no matter how much I tweaked, I was still not satisfied with how the site was turning out. I came up with the brilliant idea that I needed to see what other people were doing, so I headed to Google and searched:

librarian -“ask a librarian” -“annoyed librarian”1

Time frame searched: Within the last twelve months
Criteria: Professional-esque site, with something that resembled a resume/CV, with a list of projects/presentations/papers or something resembling professional development. It was fine if they had a blog, were linking to other sites they frequented, or provided content that was more relevant to personal than professional.
I rejected sites linking to LinkedIn for resume/CV information since that required a LinkedIn account, which I don’t have and will not get. I rejected sites about librarianship that were portal or aggregation sites. I rejected book review sites.  I rejected the use of the word “librarian” in the title or URL by people who were not librarians.
I rejected a lot of content.
I combed through 56 pages of Google results.
I found very little. Maybe two sites, possibly three that fit my criteria.
I sulked about this for awhile because how was this even possible? There were a gazillion librarians, no one has a professional site? I knew creating digital portfolios was the rage at most library and iSchools, so why were these not coming up? Why weren’t people I knew who had professional sites coming up? My search was pretty broad and I did not discriminate against any type of librarianship.
Someone suggested I should look at the websites of people I know, which was a fine idea! I went through all 500+ people I follow on Twitter and added their names to my now growing list. Several people made recommendations. Of the roughly 50 people listed below, less than a handful are ones I do not know.

Margaret Heller
Becky Yoose
Jodie Schneider
Bohyun Kim
Christiane Evaskis
Chealsye Bowley
Mita Williams
Rob Dumas
Amanda Goodman
Emma Cragg
Annie Pho
Phil Bradley
Frank Skornia
Loida Garcia-Febo
Dennis Nangle
Heidi Steiner Burkhardt
Val Forrestal
Andrew Shuping
Tiffani Travis
Sara Mooney
Ned Potter
Cynthia Ng
John Pappas
Ann Clark
Andromeda Yelton
Dorothea Salo
Matthew Reidsma
Sarah Houghton
Nicholas Schiller
Coral Sheldon-Hess
Mackenzie K. Brooks
Leah White
John Jackson
Jenny Levine
Erin Dorney
Stan Bogdanov
Kate Kosturski
Marie Elia
Lynda Kellam
Emily Clasper
Jessamyn West
Andy Burkhardt
Cathy Cranston
Anne-Marie Deitering
Ian Clark
Jacob Berg
Emily Drabinski
Lauren Bradley
Michelle Kraft
nina de jesus
Ruby Lavallee
K.G. Schneider
Ruth Collings
Ginger Williams

Here is what the sites above have in common:

  • Clearly identifies who the person is
  • Provides a resume/CV or some kind of professional biography about the person
  • Presents publications / papers / talks of works either completed and/or in progress
  • Contact information is clearly made available in some form (email or social network)

It is now a nearly a year later and I repeated the same Google search. I combed through nearly 14 pages of links and found that only FOUR of the names listed in the table above showed up, as opposed to two in 2013. I found another 11 people who matched my criteria but were not in the above for a grand total of 15 people out of hundreds of hits as opposed to three in 2013.
In my search, I learned:

  • A large number of librarians really love using and for their portals
  • Librarians of all flavors really love doing book review blogs
  • Almost all were “something” librarian (sneezy librarian, scratchy librarian, and so forth)
  • Librarians really love using “uncategorized” as their default category taxonomy on their blogs (WHY??)
  • Despite doing a global search, I had a hard time finding English language non-American librarian sites
  • With the exception of the four in my list, none of the librarians listed above came up in my search despite almost all of them having “librarian” somewhere in the title of their site, URL, or on their landing page
  • Despite using the word “librarian” on my landing page and using good SEO, I did not come up in the searches performed in 2013 and 2014
  • Search performed in April 2013 came up with 56 pages of results. Same search and Google settings in February 2014 came up with 14 pages of results.

This outcome really surprised me. I went searching for other sites to get ideas for design and content, and now I’m thinking about the fallacy of Google and search in general.  Primarily with Google, their new algorithm now leads news and products pushed to the top over sites with content.
But what this discrepancy says to me more is how we’re valued as a whole. We can’t project who we are, the diversity in jobs AND the people in the profession, if the term “librarian” is continually used to have such fluid meaning. My favorite John responded,

it’s both a desire for that authenticity and an implicit belief that the work librarians do is not very hard.

And he’s right. This is what frustrates me that we tell people who are going into the field to go search for librarians online but if a librarian themselves can’t find those like her, how on earth are we to expect the young bloods coming up in the field to connect and outreach to those they want to be mentored by? How are we able to connect and collaborate if we cannot find each other?
We keep going on about marketing to outside our profession, but exactly how are we doing that? If you’re not utilizing social networking and are relying your website as your main presence, then how are people finding you if even the most basic searches reveal nothing? Are we really putting together sites that make it easier for others to find us or are still projecting the cool kids club attitude by unintentionally putting barriers around ourselves?
P.S. I did find and fall in love with the Oh, So You’re A Librarian tumblr while doing this search as their gif curation is exquisite.

1. This search means, “Google. Please find me all sites that have the word “librarian” in them but does NOT contain “ask a librarian” (a common phrase used on library websites to direct users to ways they can ask a librarian) or “annoyed librarian” (the anonymous writer for a column in Library Journal).