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The Short Game And The Long Game

“Librarianship is not a set of skills to be learned, or a set of degrees to be mastered. Librarianship is a conversation that has taken place over millennia.”

David Lankes recently had a great post about engaging in the big questions in the profession. He said that “bad conferences are filled with ‘how we do it good’ pieces.” His point is that what is really important is to invite others into a bigger conversation as opposed to talking about just what you do or how to do something.

There is a great deal of value in talking about how to do something. It’s practical and people can see the tangible effects right away. My posts on this blog about iPad apps or Twitter are by far my most popular. But our profession isn’t solely about keeping up on the newest tech or trends. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day of your job or focus on new technologies that you can bring back from a conference, but if we don’t regularly ask bigger questions we’re compromising our future.

I see this other places as well. In library instruction its easy to concentrate on tools or how to do things, such as how to successfully navigate the databases. We’re experts in these things and students need to know how to use them to succeed on assignments. But they are just tools. If we only spend time on them we’re giving students skills for the present, but compromising their future. Tools change. We have databases and catalogs and discovery and Google today. There’ll be things we can’t imagine yet. That won’t be true in the future. In addition to teaching students how to succeed now, we also need to give them the skills to succeed in the future. We don’t want them to succeed just in their upcoming assignment. We want them to succeed in life. And knowing how to use a database is not the answer, or at least not the whole answer.

We need to be helping students develop the habits of mind that are crucial in research and lifelong learning. These are things like critically evaluating different pieces of information, perseverance in the search for information (not just giving up after a failed Google search), and a spirit of inquiry and constant questioning. These skills will last much longer than learning a database whose interface will change in the next few months.

We need to be playing both the short game and the long game in teaching and in the profession. There are tangible, practical skills that students need and that we need as professionals to succeed in our short term pursuits. But we can’t get so caught up in what we are doing right now that we forget to teach habits of mind or have the bigger conversations that will shape our future.

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New Journal Article Published

My friend Sarah Cohen and I were just published in the latest issue of Communications in Information Literacy. Our article is titled “Turn Your Cell Phones On: Mobile Phone Polling as a Tool For Teaching Information Literacy.” From the abstract:

“While mobile technologies are ubiquitous among students and increasingly used in many aspects of libraries, they have yet to gain traction in information literacy instruction. Librarians at Champlain College piloted mobile phone polling in a first-year classroom as a less expensive and more versatile alternative to clickers. By utilizing a technology that virtually all students have in their pockets librarians found that it increased engagement from previous iterations of the session. In addition, by asking poll questions about students’ experiences, librarians were able to facilitate in-depth inquiry into information literacy topics. Ultimately, from direct experience in over 30 different classes, we found that mobile phone polling is a useful tool for any librarian to have in their pedagogical toolbox.”

The journal is open access you can go download the PDF right now. And apparently they are going to experiment with making our article available in EPUB format as well!

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Getting Started With Social Media For Your Library

I occasionally get emails from people who have seen my more popular posts about library social media including: Four Reasons Libraries Should be on Social Media, How Libraries Can Leverage Twitter, and Six Things Libraries Should Tweet. People who write often want to know how to get started using social media from a library account. I wanted to collect some of the advice that I’ve shared with them into a post for others who may have similar questions.

Whether you’re starting out or just looking to refresh your library social media presence, one of the best resources I’ve found is the Social Media Examiner’s Resource Guide. It gives you a social media marketing industry guide and tons of practical articles on topics like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and blogging. In addition, the popular tech/social media blog Mashable has some solid guides on topics like Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve also found that there are a few important things to remember to make your social media presence effective and fresh without burning yourself out in the process.

Influence and Engagement not Numbers

The two most important questions to ask when starting out (and regularly after that) are “what are my goals for having a social media presence,” and “what am I trying to accomplish?” People often think that having a lot of fans or followers is really important in having a social media presence. This is misguided. What matters in social media is not the quantity of followers, but the quality of the conversations. There are plenty of reasons to be on social media and number of fans/followers can be a helpful metric, but your focus should on user engagement and influence as opposed to becoming popular.

Use a dashboard

Using a social media management dashboard is the best way to stay abreast of conversations and keep your content fresh. You can use free tools like TweetDeck and Hootsuite to manage both Facebook and Twitter and schedule posts. Doing this in a single block can save you time and ensure that you regularly have fresh content being posted. Dashboards also help you to see things like mentions, posts, replies, and saved searches all in one place. These one stop shops will help you you see what people are saying about your library and be a part of that conversation.

Include your users

Talking only about yourself is a quick path to losing the attention of your audience. One of the best ways to get engagement on social media is to make your users a part of the conversation. Our library Twitter account regularly retweets posts from students and other groups on campus. On Facebook we post things like student artwork, and on Twitter we often retweet photos from the library’s third floor.

 

Use the richness of the medium

When using social media tools it’s important to leverage them to their full potential. A text only post is going to get a lot less engagement than one that is rich either visually or contextually. In Facebook include images in every post. Period. It’s been shown to increase engagement by 120%. On Twitter include links, hashtags, and @mentions. There is a lot you can say in only 140 characters. And depending on your audience there may be other social networks you may want to experiment with such as Pinterest or Tumblr.

“Connections create value” and there is “power in community.” These are rules of the social era that libraries have known for long time. There are now ever increasing ways to create these connections and build community. What advice would you give to someone trying to start a social media presence for their library?