Aliss Summer Conference 2011

Aliss organised a one day summer conference around the topic of Social media, Libraries, Librarians, and Research Support held on 20th July 2011. When I saw the programme I knew I wanted to attend as it promised to be an interesting day and indeed it was.

First up was a talk by Jeremy (aka  Jerry) Jenkins ( British Library) with  the engaging titles “#LadyGaga’s Breakfast: Social media as a curators tool”. The title for his session came from a blog providing advice on twitter for academics.

Jeremy suggested that there were three responses to social media: Ban it, Tolerate it, Make it compulsory. Currently the BL, like a number of organisations does not have a separate social media strategy and it can come under the remit of Communication and / or IT strategies. In some ways not having a formal strategy for social media was liberating, there were no constraints and it was possible to explore what social media tools could be used to enhance Jeremy’s day to day role as a curator. Though other speakers during the day felt having no social media policy was a barrier.

At the moment the BL use:

  • Blogs – started blogging 5 years ago and there are 17 active blogs. They used to have more but feel that blogging is going out of favour and people are blogging less. Not sure if I agree with this, as a relative newbie to blogging I think it seems like people are still active and with programmes such as CPD23 which are encouraging blogging. Perhaps Jeremy meant organisational blogging was in decline…
  • Facebook – used for 3 ½ years and over 32,000 likes
  • Twitter – there are a small number of followers on Jeremy’s feed but it means more focussed messages can be disseminated
  • Youtube
  • audioBoo

Jeremy made reference to Modus Cooperandi’s 10 Principles of Social Media and gave useful advice on what to consider when using social media

  • what’s the message
  • who’s your audience
  • what the best medium to use
  • Time – when to send the message? What is the commitment to keep things up-to-date?
  • Future Proof – when happens when you’re preferred tool is no longer available?

Next up were Paula Anne Beasley & Linda Norbury who presented “Advocating Professional Social Networking to Academics” about a project they had undertaken at University of Birmingham. They surveyed staff within the faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences and found there was a knowledge and skills gap on web 2.0 technologies.  They were keen to remedy this, demystify social media and demonstrate how these tools could benefit academic staff in their teaching and learning. Results from the survey were used to inform training content and the session was offered to 31 members of staff. However they found they were not able to cover all the content they had wished as they found the level of IT knowledge amongst the academics was lower than anticipated. Feed back from academics about the training session was that they had managed to take away the fear factor. Instructions were produced and although they need to be updated the intention is to make them available on an opensource.

Alison Wootton, the Accessibility and Inclusion Adviser at Jisc RSC West Midlands, gave a whistle-stop tour of the support they provide to enable e-learning to be embedded in teaching and learning. The advice and guidance Jisc RSC provide is primarily aimed at further education and they will loan out accessibility kits, which include iPads, video cameras and Sony e-book readers, to learning centres  for a period of 4 – 6 weeks. They have produced guides on how to make resources more accessible and made the delegates aware of EduApps, open source software which offer support with writing, reading and planning as well as sensory, cognitive and physical difficulties.  There is one college in Birmingham which has installed this on all their PCs so it is available to all.

After lunch there was a session from Miggie Pickton (University of Northhampton) who gave a very thorough talk about the web tools that are available to a researcher at each stage of the research process and this session consolidated the Netskills webinar I attended a few weeks ago. Miggie has produced a handout for researchers and made suggestions about what tools to use for searching, collaborating, communicating, disseminating and keeping up-to-date. What became apparent is that my knowledge of what’s out there needs to be improved. I know I can’t know about everything but I need to up my awareness levels and try things out to see what works for me, what’s fit for purpose. Miggie also reiterated what Jeremy had said earlier in the day that web tools come and go so it’s important to have exit strategy for when they stop working.

Final presentation of the day was from Sarah Oxford (University of Worcester) who spoke about her experiences of using web tools to collate and share information with her learners and researchers.  Sarah started investigating web tools to look at how to get information out to distance learners and part-time students and as a way to engage with academics as she was new to her Liaison role. Initially she started using Delicious, but began to find it unwieldy as her bookmarks and tags grew, and Ning but this became a subscription service. Now she uses Netvibes and flavors.me as a way to rationalise all her links and these are publicised on her email signature, business cards, at Boards of Study, and official documentation. I think Sarah’s approach is really interesting but I’m unsure whether it would be possible to adopt these strategies here to promote resources as these web tools don’t meet university standards with regards to marketing /branding.

In the plenary findings from a survey conducted by Emerald & UCL were also presented by Heather Dawson (on behalf of Anna Drabble, Emerald). This study looked at the impact of Web 2.0 on the workflow of a researcher and they were asking essentially ‘does  social media mark a watershed in the research process?’ but found ‘not really’. Academics still seem to want to disseminate their information and research in a traditional way, through academic journals. Interestingly though, at the LSE, whether Heather is employed there is a move to get things published on blogs seen in the same standing as things published in journals.

I found this one day conference really interesting and informative. Aliss put together a good programme.  I also tried live tweeting, and I don’t think I did too badly on the old event amplification, if you excuse the rogue spelling, sometimes forgetting to include the hashtags…

Copies of the presentations can be found here & here and there is another review of the day by Judith Thompson.

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