Netskills webinar: Supporting researcher engagement with social tools

Today I attended (if that’s the right word) my first webinar entitled “Supporting researcher engagement with social tools”. The session was presented by Alan Cann (Leicester University) and hosted by Netskills. When I first logged in to the webinar I was concerned about whether I would be able to follow the discussion as there was a webcam of Alan, the slides and a chat box where participants could post questions or comments. When attending a conference I am always in awe of people who can listen and tweet at the same time, I am yet to master this skill. Despite my inital concerns I was able to keep up and what followed was a really interesting discussion on how, through the use of social media, researchers can improve the quality of their work as these tools facilitate their ability to find, use and disseminate information.  Alan and some colleagues at the International Centre for Guidance Studies have written Social media: a guide for researchers which hopes to enable people to make informed decisions about getting the most out of social media. They took quite a broad definition of social tools, covering these aspects:

  • Communicative (e.g. twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Collaborative (e.g. Delicious, CiteUlike)
  • Multimedia (e.g. Flickr, Second Life)

(for a full list of what they classed a social media go to page 7 of  Social media: a guide for researchers).

Alan presented some case studies of researchers who feel that using social tools has made them better at what they do, using them has become  an integral part of their working life which has resulted in to name a few; effective data sharing, information being found much more quickly, networks are established with respected individuals. In  fact one participant of the webinar cited an example where she has had a proposal, which was written in collaboration with someone they met on twitter – they have not met face to face -, accepted.

There was a discussion about the differences between visitors and residents of social media. Alan suggests that some people feel like they don’t have anything relevant to say or contribute so ‘lurk’ on the parameters of these tools.  Sometimes I feel like that, a lurker, reading blog posts and not commenting, not tweeting in response to a discussion and this is something I need to redress, hopefully in part by participating in #cpd23, it’s a confidence thing.

There was also a look at some of the criticisms levelled at social media; privacy, banality, work-life balance. It was nice to see a couple of people comment that they don’t mind the banal aspects as it makes the person seem more ‘human’ and can give an alternative perspective on that person’s life , their ideas and motivations. (Good to know when my tweets are probably high in the banal quotient ).

Alan also talked about good and bad networks and I think this is the key thing I am taking from the webinar – it’s not about the social tools themselves, it’s about how they are used to create the right network, an effective network.

Library Assistants – their future role

On 1st June 2011 I attended an event organised by WESlink (West Midlands HE Library training group) which looked at Library Assistants and their future role. This was a manager’s workshop and a few months before the same session had been run with Library Assistants. The structure of the event meant there was feedback from the library assistant session, an update of changes that were occurring at Warwick University followed by small group discussions around what changes were happening at each institution and the (potential) impact on a library assistant; skills required, type of person needed, and what staffing models should be implemented.

In terms of the changes and challenges being faced by academic libraries it was a similar and familiar picture and below are some of things discussed:

 Wordle - library assistants

It was interesting to hear about the positive things that were happening at other universities, for example, the library at Newman University College is moving into a new building in time for the start of the new academic year and at Warwick they have developed an app for the iPad to record enquiries when staff are roving out on the library floor.

Concerns that Library Assistants have about their role were also talked about. A common experience was that when a library assistant left the role would not be filled or the post would be changed to term-time only. At some places students were being employed to participate in projects such as discards or to staff IT help desks. This begged the question of whether the days were number for a library assistant. To partly address this and develop the skill levels of library assistants some institutions have adopted a rotational approach so, after say 12 months experience in Document Supply the library assistant will move on to Technical Services or  Collection Management or another site to consolidate their knowledge and experience. From my experience this is a good thing, when opportunities arose for me to move departments within the library I took this up and it has given me a good overall view and understanding of working within an academic library and how things fit together.

I think the main thing I took from the discussion is that there are exciting but unsettling times ahead working in libraries. I have been following some of the #SLA 2011 tweets on twitter and there were two comments I read today which resonate with this WESlink session I attended:

 

@annenb Getting rid of librarians because everything is online = getting rid of accountants because everyone has a calculator on desk. #sla2011

 

@theREALwikiman

If I could sum up the common message of most (or all) of the library thought-leaders I’ve heard speak, it’d be… #sla2011 (1/2)

 (2/2) Libraries & librarians are actually on the cusp of an incredible opportunity, so let’s not stuff it up, & let’s be BRAVE. #sla2011

 

Things have changed, things are changing, things will continue to change and staff who work in libraries and information need to be flexible, adaptable, forward thinking and accept that change happens (which can be difficult), so change within an organisation needs to be communicated well, managed effectively and sensitively.

Libraries and Facebook

Yesterday I attended a WESlink event which was looking at the changing roles of library assistants. Representatives from local universities talked about what changes are being made in their library and what impact this is having on the skills, knowledge and experience of a library assistant. One area discussed was the use of social media, in particular Facebook. The general consensus was that people were uncertain about how useful Facebook was as a tool for libraries to use with someone describing it as ‘when your parents turn up to a party you’re at uninvited’. Cut to this morning and catching up on meeting minutes I learn that our library is interested in having a Facebook presence. So I wondered what other university experiences were & posted a question on twitter “Calling academic librarians: does your library have a facebook page? how has it been rec’d by students? Thank you”. Lots of people asked for a collation of responses so here it is and if I get anymore I will be sure to add them.

University & response

  • University of Brighton

No, difficult being split site. Do we have one for each library or for the service. Something for our comms strat!

  • University of Wolverhampton

Yes have FB page

  • University of Sheffield

Yes have FB page, work in progress, used for basic information but had a number of check-ins so looking at developing the page

  • Specialist library

Not yet, We’re multi-site with v different users + seeing if fb or tumblr would work better.

  • Bodleian social science library

Yes have FB page, no of ‘fans’ has been slow but steady, not much interaction from them, a few likes/comments.

  • Montana Tech

Yes have FB page, Lukewarm so far. Wonder if it’s not cool in our institution’s culture to “like” the lib page? Working on promo ideas.

  • Swansea Met

Yes, set up in the last week and have 36 followers so far, a good proportion of those are students

Thank you to those people who responded and the retweets.