Monday, 25 October 2010

Twitter elections

Is this the first Twitter CILIP election?
The campaign to elect the next Vice-president of CILIP (who will automatically become President the following year) is underway with two candidates - Phil Bradley and Edwina Smart. 5 candidates are also competing for 4 places on CILIP Council.
To my knowledge this is the first time that social media has played an important part in the hustings. Social media - in particular CILIP Communities but also independent blogs and Twitter - have emerged as a forum for members to question the candidates and for candidates to explain their views and plans for CILIP. But there is more to it than that. Social media has become a hot topic of debate in itself. The view has been expressed that CILIP is too London-centric and inward looking. Social media is seen as a way of overcoming this, of taking CILIP out to the wider membership. There is even a suggestion that users of social media are a new generation of library professionals in contrast to the traditional old guard and that the adoption of social media by CILIP will change the way in which the professional body operates.
One of the presidential candidates Phil Bradley, has criticised the fact that the CILIP AGM was not live streamed and that it was not in a venue where people could send tweets. Another blogger has started a lively debate about CILIP being a London clique with an anti-technology bias.

But is this a new wave of connected librarians or simply a different clique. Is it a small gang of techies in an echo chamber talking to themselves and to no one else? How large and representative is this library social media community? One proxy measure is the number of Twitter followers for library organisations and leading librarians. CILIPinfo has 1700 followers. The CILIP Chief Executive Annie Mauger has 333 followers. CILIP President Biddy Fisher has 447. Many of the librarians I follow have around 300-400 followers. I would put the number of library Tweeters at no more than 1000 maximum. Other librarians may use social networking tools other than Twitter but clearly this is a very small percentage of library professionals. Those who argue that CILIP should use these tools to communicate with members and to deliver training are ignoring the fact the vast majority of the profession does not use these tools. Overreliance on social networking at this point in time would not make CILIP more responsive to its membership.

That is not to say that CILIP should turn its back on social networking- far from it. Use of these tools is growing and in particular is popular with new professionals. If CILIP were to make more use of these tools for communicating with members then more members would use them and discover the wider benefits. CILIP has to lead by example and out new Chief Executive and soon to be elected president in waiting are in a strong position to do that.


Phil said...

Carl, you raise some interesting points. However before I respond to them, it's necessary to correct some factual errors. The other candidate for VP is Edwina Smart. Katy is standing for CILIP Council. Secondly, this is not the first election that's been run using Twitter; some of the candidates for election last year used their Twitter accounts to correspond.

While it's certainly true that I criticised the AGM for not being live streamed I also made the point that speeches had not been recorded at all, and that reporting on it was very limited on the CILIP website.

Your comments regarding cliques is quite frankly disappointing. I communicate using social media, but I also do a lot face to face when I'm running courses or attending conferences. Edwina is also active on many committees as well. However, if you want to toss around the number of followers I've currently got over 3,500 - librarians from all over the world, libraries, publishers, authors and so on, so if it's a clique then it's a very large one. Moreover, those librarians who ARE on Twitter don't work in a vacuum; they all have colleagues and in my experience are key to getting messages out to work colleagues.

I am not ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the profession doesn't use these tools; I should know, since I teach a lot of them. If you're going to criticise, please back up your criticisms with facts. Social media is *one* way of communicating, and you're also looking at one format - Twitter, and there are plenty of other methods of communication.

You say that using social media isn't going to make CILIP more responsive. I want CILIP to better communicate, in every way possible, and to use as many tools as it can do. By live streaming, by recording presentations, tweeting and blogging the message gets out further and quicker. Of course we need to use traditional methods as well, but NOT to use free resources is shortsighted in the extreme.

As you point out, social media tools are on the increase, and this isn't going to stop any time soon; if anything it's going to pick up even more than it is at the moment. So yes, we want to use these tools and encourage others to do so. Your last paragraph seems in almost complete contradiction to everything else that you've written in this post and leaves me quite confused.

In summary, CILIP needs to reach out to its membership in every way possible, both with social media and traditional methods. It also has to lead by example as you point out, and hopefully any 'clique' is going to quickly turn into a majority.

John Dolan said...

Carl, thanks for a fascinating observation.

Since standing in the CILIP election I quickly found I had to take part in the CILIP e-hustings. This made me summon up the courage to twitter. I had always been curious; it was time to have a go. I went in. A couple of people welcomed me. Phil Bradley tweeted an offer of help should I need it. I’m enjoying it; hopefully I’m not boring everyone with my bits; I’m encountering new people. A fascinating self-learning curve.

I have also written on lis-pub-libs. Since leaving MLA I’ve kept my link though only replied occasionally to individuals if I felt it useful. With the CILIP elections I have written more. It is a competition after all and I hope to win.

Thinking of debates, rather than the more common practical requests, I asked this morning on lis-pub-libs “why are these exchanges always the same small circle of voices talking to each other? They seem apart from the wider world and the LIS community”. Perhaps yours is a similar take on the people on twitter.

On twitter I have found new librarians and discovered new groups. Fresh, keen, imaginative, looking for solutions. Some of the issues feel familiar from past times but they are couched in the circumstances of today. Overall however, it’s really stimulating. The people remind me of the diversity of the LIS community converging from different library sectors yet sharing the fundamental principles of the library idea.

As you suggest CILIP would be the agent to help them connect so they don’t look across a peculiar digital divide. Also apart from enabling a dialogue in the LIS world these are, now, some of the tools of our trade. We need to be at ease with them and to be ready to adopt the new ones that will inevitably emerge.

Now, do have a look at these. Brilliant!

Still slightly scared, thanks again

Lizz Jennings said...

You make an interesting point. However, I must disagree - this is the first time in years that I've felt interested in the CILIP elections, and it's largely because there have been conversations on Twitter about it.

I'm not entirely convinced about livestreaming an event (I work in an open plan office, so anything during office hours is wasted on me) but I'd like to see CILIP's membership activities such as the AGM recorded for later viewing (or at least summarised systematically, perhaps in the blogs).

There may not be huge numbers using Twitter, but it seems that enough do to make it worth the effort, and if 1000 members do feel engaged and interested in CILIP's governance as a result, then that's probably a really big win.

suvarna said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carl said...

As Phil points out, the first version of this blog listed the vice-presidential candidates as Phil and Katy Wrathall and of course it should have been Edwina Smart.

Thanks for all the comments. My view is that social computing will be very important for CILIP and the profession but I do want to sound a warning that not everyone is involved in this debate. I have been going on about this for some time! See my blog of 3rd May 2007 "Put up your hand if you can't here me" and several othes folowing that.