Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Wallflower at the party?

How social are librarians? Are we the life and soul of the party or do we hide in the corner? I am really thinking about our role in social media initiatives. SINTO has recently run events on Social Computing covering wikis and blogs and we will be running a follow up seminar on tagging, social bookmarking and social networking. There is a great deal of interest in these subjects but are there any role models out there?
Information World Review recently featured two bloggers who asked the same question and provide a model. Stephen Dale, a knowledge and information expert at the Improvement & development Agency writes a blog called Dissident. The aim of this is "Introducing Social media tools and 3rd generation knowledge management techniques into local government. Tackling the silo working practices and resistance to change that contribute to inefficiencies in the public sector" In a recent post he asked why librarians weren't taking a higher profile in promoting tagging and social bookmarking?
The Business of Knowing is a blog from Helen Nicol who lives in Sheffield and works in Leeds. Her main area of interest is Enterprise 2.0 - how social computing can help businesses. She recently drew attention to the impact of blogging on offline relationships. "I've noticed recently that my involvement in blogging, particularly internally, is having a real, positive impact on my face to face work relationships... We've connected on a level that has increased the degree to which we share knowledge and experience, the degree to which we collaborate. This isn't necessarily on a blog, it's because of a blog."
Clearly the situation is different in the different sectors. Many academic librarians have embraced blogs and other social network tools and are promoting tagging etc as part of information literacy training. I expect that they are also developing offline relationships with academics in their organisations.
In public libraries the situation is more difficult. Librarians are only just beginning to embrace web 2.0 technologies and local authorities are less eager to embrace or encourage these technologies as Stephen Dale points out. Also there is a different relationship between the librarian and their users and the librarian and their colleagues in the authority. I suspect that there are few local authorities where the library service and library staff are seen as being central to the operation and success of the authority. It is a valuable service to the public and part of cultural services but not always a resource for the organisation. In this context it is hard to think of examples of librarians & information professionals using internal blogs to develop better face to face relationships in the way described by Helen Nicol.
Librarians often complain that their role is not recognised and that they don't have a dynamic image but like the wallflower at the party the answer is to get up and circulate. And perhaps one day local government will have the Enterprise 2.0 tools that businesses are adopting.


Helen Nicol said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment Carl - having met librarians with an interest in social software, and an appreciation of what they can offer their businesses and organisations, they appreciate this is a huge opportunity for library and information sciences. It's a case of getting out there...which is how I ended up having the experiences I wrote about...

Dissident said...

Carl - thanks for picking this item up from the blogosphere. I should add that I got a lot of flak from Librarians who wanted to prove me wrong, and who are clearly fully engaged with social bookmarking and the collaborative and knowledge sharing opportunities available via WEb2.0/Enterprise 2.0 technologies. However, this didn't really surprise me, since it's more likely that those using these technologies would have picked up on my blog (and Helen's), so I still think there's a silent majority out there who are indeed behaving as wallflowers at the party. I'm hoping that by raising their awareness of the possibilities, through blogs such as this, they will get more fully engaged, and help in the development of best practice for things like social bookmarking. I'm willing to learn from the experts!

Carl said...

Dissident's comment reflects my previous posting of 3rd May - Put your hand up if you can't hear me. There are two library communities, the webbed who are engaged and the web-sceptics who are not and who won't pick up on the debate conducted through blogs.How do we speak to them?