Friday, 1 May 2009

It's not the technology, stupid!

The CILIP 2.0 debate has spawned a follow up wiki and "everyone" is having a say - including me.

My message is "It's not the technology, stupid". This is not (or should not be) a debate about whether CILIP, or the profession at large, uses Twitter, Wikis, Blogs, Facebook or any other social computing tool. The debate is how can CILIP communicate with its members, and with non-members (aka potential members). How can it involve them in decision making, policy development and debate. How can librarians involve themselves in decision making, policy development and debate, within and outwith CILIP. If this could be done by smoke signals from the roof of Ridgmount Street then that would be fine and we wouldn't have to bother about Web 2 or 3.

New technological developments provide solutions, but these solutions were not developed for librarians so there is not always a match between what we want and the tools we have. We can and should use what is available but not get captivated by the tools and loose sight of the message.

Twitter is a good example. It has flaws. The essence of Twitter is the soundbite. You can't say anything worth saying in 140 characters! Now I've got your attention we can argue about that. Descartes would still have 125 characters left after outlining the foundations of his philosophical system (in Latin of course) but for most of us microblogging is just for headlines and not a medium for professional discussion.

The written article in the Gazette or Update is not just an old fashioned version of Twitter or blogging (see Debbie Raven's comment to my CILIP 2.0 blog). It is usually different; better structured, more considered, more informed.. A blog or Twitter stream may be more open, more democratic; but as Bob Usherwood reminds us, excellence is at leat as importance as equity.

Social computing gives CILIP and the profession at large valuable tools to develop and strengthen involvement, awareness and professional development. CILIP needs to take the lead in using these tools, promoting their value and empowering people to use them. Heads of library services and managers should also be taking a lead and encouraging and enabling staff to use them at work (within reason). All library workers should be exploring these tools. It is no longer a fad or an option. As information professionals we should be using these tools, both for professional development and as a source of information for our users, because of what they contain and not for what they are.

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