As part of my working my way through the Resources to Support the PKSB on the CILIP VLE, it was suggested for the Wider Library, Information and Knowledge Sector Context reflection activity that I write an entry on the Portfolio on how participating on Twitter has contributed to my professional development. As this is rather an emotive topic, for me and for other librarians, I have decided to blog about it instead.
Quite simply, I wouldn’t have any professional development were it not for Twitter. Twitter has been by guide, my mentor, and my hivemind throughout my entire professional career. I joined Twitter in 2010, the same year I got my first professional post. I have no way of knowing what my life and career would be like had I not joined Twitter, but I am fairly sure it would have been decidedly less exciting and full.
In order to stop myself being overly gushy I’ve broken my ‘Twitter highlights’ up into chunks.
Most, if not all, of the contacts I have made in LIS have been either initiated or cemented on Twitter. I started in following mostly people I found funny or had something in common with politically, and soon this included a lot of librarians.
Librarians are, unsurprisingly, very good at Twitter. It’s a way of networking you can organise efficiently, into groups (which I do not use enough) and hashtags.
One of my earliest follows was the legend that is @OrkneyLibrary. If you ever want a success story of how to do library advocacy right on the Internet, @OrkneyLibrary is it. Funny, informative, unpolitical and unbiased yet also highly current. @OrkneyLibrary, five years down the line, is still one of the best things on the network, their competitions especially are a highlight.
I’ve also found that Twitter is great for cementing friendships and connections formed IRL. You know the women you met at a conference that one time and got on with, but will probably not see for a year until the next conference comes round? Now you can keep in touch with what she’s up to! And she’ll recognise your name in the interview shortlist! And not just because you had a five minute conversation three years ago and you thought you’d get on! This is especially useful if you, like me, worked in an industry where you can’t really afford the conferences, or don’t have the time to go to them.
This brings me on to
Hashtags are the thing that people who aren’t ‘on’ Twitter (and I include those who have an account but tweet once every three weeks, about how dreadful their car insurance is) take the mick out of and misunderstand the most. Hashtags are wonderful because they allow a conference, event, or even an idea to become accessible. I follow a LOT of hashtags, though until recently I’ve had a private account so haven’t participated much. #uklibchat is one of the best ones, as is #chartership. The conference hashtags, though brief, are great if you can’t be there, especially when they include links to slides (slideshare and storify are two tools I wish I knew more about and are both on my To Do list for this year). I recently couldn’t attend either LILAC or UXLibs, but by monitoring the hashtags I was able to take ideas from each conference. I also like using them when I am at conferences, especially the larger ones, as you can find out who else you know is attending.
Hashtags are also a great way of finding contacts. Remember #tropicallibrarian? That was a great afternoon of finding new people who a) did my job and b) had the same sense of humor as me.
Through Twitter I have discovered several campaigns and events that I personally have afterwards been involved in, or collaborated with through my work. World Book Night was one event I discovered through Twitter that originally I ran as part of my own projects. I then started collaborating with a local book festival and my old job. I then found myself on this book festival’s committee, and this year we are having an event in another college’s library. Twitter sparks fires that grow and grow. I also discovered #SharingStories through Twitter, and had a wonderful two years of collaborating with them. Forming working partnerships that again are cemented through Twitter I believe is one of the best things libraries can do.
Finding Stuff Out
We’re librarians-we LOVE finding stuff out. Twitter gives you an insight into what life is actually like for actual people across the whole diverse world. By following conversations I have become so much more aware of the needs and lives of people with disabilities, and I have been forced into thinking more about how libraries tend to focus on meeting the needs of the monoculture. I have also confronted my own beliefs about gender and sexuality, my politics and feminism and how my movement may have actively contributed to negativity in people’s lives. I would probably have never heard of ‘intersectionality’ were it not for Twitter.
I’ve also found stuff out about libraries around the world. Throughout the events last summer in Ferguson I started to follow Ferguson Public Library, which remained open throughout the periods of unrest, serving the needs of its community. This for me was a very inspiring action, and showed the importance of libraries both as purveyors of information and as community centres and hubs.
And lastly, I’ve found out about how people are working to #savelibraries. I’ve joined the Radical Librarian Collective. I’ve been following the work of Voices for the Library over the past five years and written blog posts for them. My recent unfinished MOOC on advocacy showed me how important it is to influence the change-makers into supporting libraries; with Twitter you can yourself gather support and quickly promote your cause to the change-makers without a barrier.
Yes, there are some bad points. Twitter is tribal, Twitter has clans, Twitter has celebrities-for-a-day. Twitter is very good at over-inflating your ego and can make you believe that you have a relationship with someone that is quite personal, whilst actually you are one of hundreds of followers and they have no idea who you are.
But Twitter, just as a networking tool, is wonderful. There are also people in libraries who clearly spend all their time on Twitter and for a while I was one of them. I’m trying to cut down, as I know how boring it gets for people. But I would recommend anyone working in libraries to at least have an account, if only for an easy way for people to contact you. Think about your avatar though-being referred to as BookElf in real life is fun but my name means I have to stay in Leeds forever or be branded a traitor, and also means that, IRL, people expect me to be a lot shorter and ethereal looking-which believe me, I’m not.