Friday, 1 February 2008

Social Networking for librarians

Librarians have on the whole been slow to adopt social networks as a means of professional development but it seems to be taking off. The CILIP Communities website provides a number of forums where members can have lively discussions on a range of issues. Critical Eye Communications have recently launched The Skills Exchange, described as a place for librarians and information workers to meet and exchange ideas. It also has a number of forums on topics such as the role of the modern library, web 2.0 tools & applications, copyright and repositories. CILIP Yorkshire & Humber Branch has been very innovative in setting up a Facebook page and its own wiki. And of course SINTO has a wiki.

The idea behind all these is similar. Sharing ideas and discussing professional issues with librarians from other organisations is an important tool for professional development. Opportunities to do this have traditionally been limited. We read the professional press and attend the occasional meeting or conference but most of the time we are working on our own. Social networking provides the opportunity to keep in touch with a community of interest from your workplace or home. As with many new developments the critical thing is not mastering the technology but changing our behaviour to take advantage of the new opportunities. Many people would take a half -or full-day, or more, off work to attend a meeting or training event but would find it difficult to spend a few hours a week to sit down in front of a computer and take part in on-line professional discussions. I wonder how many heads of service or training officers encourage their staff to do this during work time as part of their CPD activities.

It is perhaps dissapointing that there are now so many different social networking sites on offer - but there has always been a number of different professional journals available, each with its own remit and coverage. These things grow organically and we can not expect them to conform to a central plan. What is important is that individual professionals and LIS organisations seize the opportunity that is being offered and join in with these networks.


LibraryScholar said...

There's some talk of open authentication systems like OpenID meaning that you could acess various networking platforms from one log-in, and leading on from that, the platform-application model lends itself ultimately to embedding different systems inside each other... could be beautifully simply or horribly complex?

Stephanie Taylor said...

Hi Carl,
Thanks for mentioning The Skills Exchange. I think it is important to correct one impression that you have given: The Skills Exchange is not Critical Eye Communications as such - that is the whole point of it. It is neutral of any organisation (such as CILIP) it is apolitical and cross-sectoral. This, I believe, is what can make it work. It is a space for the Library and Information community to make their own. It is something I have seen a need for over the years, and technology today has made this possible. It is, essentially, a free forum. Anybody could have clicked that button, created it, and created the opportunity. It doesn't require any organisation behind it, and all the 'political' implications that can bring. The point is, 'any monkey could have done it' - I just happen to be the monkey that did. ;-) In the interests of accuracy, it would be better to say that Stephanie Taylor has recently launched The Skills Exchange....