If you build it, will they actually come?

Tumbleweed Rolling

Anyone? Anyone at all?

Having a web presence is important, both for you as an individual and for your library. I wrote about how as a student, it’s really helpful to build an online presence and Steven Kaszynski wrote on his blog about library’s promoting their online presence. It makes sense and it’s not too hard to do right? In all honesty, this past semester there have been a few things that I have struggled with, in terms of building an online presence for my library school student group, ALISS. This blog post by the Annoyed Librarian on how little users actually pay attention to library’s on Facebook really hit home, because I’m struggling with this very problem! I have to ask the question, if you build it, will they really come?

Over the summer, as the new Chief Info Officer  of my group, I was charged with maintaining the website. I redesigned the website and installed WordPress to make the website more dynamic, and make it easier to update content. Students can comment on the posts and there’s potential for conversation on the website. Guess who actually comments on the blog? Other ALISS officers and spambots. Not quite what I was hoping for. Between the other student officers, we post really great opportunities for students to apply for scholarships, internships, student events and more! Opportunities that I didn’t even know how to find as a first year student. All great stuff, but it falls on deaf ears. We tried promoting it through the SLIS list-serv, to which another student replied “I almost never pay attention to those emails.” We promote our events and the website on Facebook and Twitter and still there’s a lack of response. So what happens when you’ve built our online presence, continue to update content but can’t get your audience to pay any attention to you?

The SLIS program at my school is geared towards people who are already working FT jobs. It’s a commuter campus. Our students tend to be older, have families and other responsibilities outside of school, so they might not have time for student events. But that’s why having the online presence is important. However, part of the problem is that you still need face-to-face interaction to promote your online presence. If people aren’t paying attention to your posts while they’re online, I’m not sure how promoting through other online outlets will help. It just doesn’t. Making connections in the classroom and telling people things like “Hey you like ____ right?  I heard about an internship that you might be interested in. It’s posted on our website” might carry more weight. To be honest, I’m not sure. I’m speculating here.

This semester, all my classes were online. This is a first for me and in general, I do like going to a physical class and talking to people in person. I felt cut off from my student body and I don’t know who our new students are. How can I reach out to them and promote our events if I don’t know what their faces even look like? If I feel this way, how many other students do? I have a lot of questions and I don’t have a solution to this problem. I’ve heard from other student groups and ALA chapters that it can be hard to get people to participate, but how do you make it successful? If anyone has any insight, I’m all ears.

Back To School

Fall is one of my favorite seasons.

We’re off to a new school year. For some of us who are still in school (or work at one), this is a fun/busy time as we all get back into the swing of things. Lately, there have been some excellent posts with advice to the new library school student. Andy Woodworth wrote a great post to the MLS Class of 2013 and over at HackLibSchool, the Library School Starter Kit has a TON of tips and advice for the library school n00b. Seriously, I wish I was more plugged into the library world last year when I was just starting. I really had no clue about the wealth of knowledge and great community that existed out in the interwebs. I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on where I have come from a year ago. For any new library school students, I hope they can learn from some of my mistakes.

 

A year ago, I sat in a new student orientation. I had recently moved to Indianapolis from California and was adjusting to my new settings. I will admit that I did not do a lot of research into the online library community before I started school. It didn’t even occur to me to do that, because I was a very low tech, not plugged in person. I used Facebook and that’s about it. I didn’t even know what an RSS feed was, I didn’t read any blogs except for webcomics, I didn’t know that Twitter had any purpose, I didn’t know that writing in a blog would be therapeutic, I didn’t know what “the cloud” was. Really, I did not know a lot. In fact, it took me quite awhile to get to where I am now. My remedial tech skills class taught me what Google Reader was, and forced me to go out and find library blogs. From there, I was able to find a way to connect to the online library community. After forgetting my flash drive at school MULTIPLE times, I figured out what Google Docs was. I have had a Gmail account for a couple of years and I did not use it to it’s full power until a year ago. This is so shameful. But from this shame and all these mistakes, I grew and I learned. Yay for life long learning!

I learned that it would be important for me to connect with the library world. This means keeping up with current events, finding librarians and library school students on social media and going to conferences. No, you don’t have to join Twitter, there are plenty of librarians and library groups on Facebook too. Even Linked In is a great place to connect with other professionals. I can’t stress how important connecting and staying current with the field is. Every library school student should be doing this, because we are so fortunate to be in a field with many people who are willing to help and answer questions. As a student, we have so many duties and obligations to our studies and our jobs; but taking the time out to just see what’s happening in the library world really enriches what you bring into the classroom and your job.

I have come a long way from where I started a year ago and a large part of it was just trying to be more active in the library world. I know that this year things will change even more dramatically but that’s another blog post. What have you guys learned from the start of your library school experience? Any other tips you want to add?

Worlds colliding!

Two Worlds Colliding

My worlds are colliding!

When I had originally set up my twitter account, I had intended for it to be mainly for library related things. In my head, I wanted there to be a separation between my personal life, which I mainly kept on Facebook, and my student/professional life. Even after joining the HackLibSchool team, I didn’t befriend my co-editors right away on Facebook and I just interacted with them mostly on Twitter. Actually, many of my friends, even my classmates in real life don’t even know that I write for a blog, or have my own. Not that it’s a good thing they don’t know these facts about me, it just goes to show how separated I have been trying to keep my life; but now all those divisions are tumbling down.

I’m friending more librarians on my personal Facebook and I’m losing touch with some of my California acquaintances/friends. I spent a good part of yesterday questioning myself about what I thought constituted a friendship or a connection, and which of those are actually valuable to me. My professional and personal are quickly becoming intertwined and at first, that gave me pause. On the other hand, it might be a sign that I am actually transitioning into a profession. Some of the people who give me the most support in my academic endeavors are people that I have never met.

You know what? These connections mean more to me in many ways; but I can’t help but feel like I’m losing part of my past. I haven’t talked to some of my best friends in ages! These are ones who have known me for years, prior to library school, who supported my decisions to pursue this degree. This makes me sad, because I’m finding that the physical distance puts a strain on these friendships, but I also know that they’re not going anywhere. I am also looking forward to getting to know some of my newer friends that I’ve met at conferences, because I have many things in common with them, sometimes even more than people I have known for a long time or in real life. It’s actually refreshing to meet these folks because they make me feel more at home. I think as we move forward in our lives, our interests change and so do our friendships.

I think my issue was that before I had actually met some of my internet library friends in real-life, I thought it would be easy to keep a division between my two worlds. Once I actually got the ALA, relaxed, got over my anxiety of talking to strangers, I found it much easier to approach people. The Pumped Librarian put it best in her post-ALA wrap up, when she said that it’s better not to think of networking as networking, but rather hanging out with cool people in your profession (she says it a lot better, I’m just paraphrasing). Being at ALA basically felt like I was hanging out with my friends, even if technically, what I was doing could be considered networking. After all the awesome meet-ups, I got Facebook requests and also made some requests on my own. As a result, I’ve found that my worlds are crossing over and I’m having a harder time distinguishing professional from personal. Looking back on my initial segregation, I just feel silly about it.

At this point, I have decided that I need to come to terms with a few things in my life. First off, librarianship is now a HUGE part of my life and who I am. It’s not only a professional interest, but a personal passion, so anyone in real life who knows me needs to know this. Second, I’m not going to be anyone that I am not. At first, I didn’t know how to use twitter, I didn’t want to retweet Andrew WK because I was afraid it wasn’t “professional”. Whatever, if you don’t think he’s hilarious, something is wrong with you. Kidding aside,  I do understand the fine line between what’s inapproriate conduct and what’s acceptable. I will say, I find it boring to follow people on twitter who only tweet articles and never interact with other people. Twitter is one of the main reasons why I felt comfortable approaching people and introducing myself to them. It was easier to talk to people at ALA11 because I interact with them on Twitter. I will admit that my online presence has slowly become a better representation of who I am in real life. I know I’m capable of good work and am a pretty nice person, which I think that’s what will really shine through.  No more hiding, no more walls.