Readings Week 11: Twitter and Tweeting

This week’s assigned “reading” was to create a Twitter network for ourselves made up of librarians and other people from our career interests. I enjoyed finding new, interesting Twitter users from the fields of library science, iSchool faculty and students, academic and public librarians, and digital humanists (the latter being just as active as librarians, I’ve found). This assignment also helped me to organized my existing group of librarian-ish users whom I already follow–I created a Libraries and iSchool list and started by adding all the relevant users that I already follow. Then I checked their following and followers to find new users. Having a list makes Twitter much more manageable; I can

Some of my first impressions were that librarians are very, very funny. Reading through different conversations can be a bit like going down the rabbit hole; I went from reading up on the Day of DH 2013, to reading librarians’ takes on current events (like thoughts on the bestselling book Lean In), to Andy Woodworth’s (@wawoodworth) #reasonslibrarianscry, to a Flickr account of rad library-inspired tattoos. While this was entertaining, it certainly illustrated that Twitter is meant to be used, not just read. It’s an excellent tool for Interacting and maintaining a conversation with some of the more well-known folks in libraries, an opportunity that students may not get elsewhere.

I am an on-and-off Twitter user; my heaviest tweet traffic comes during conferences–and this is definitely something I noticed in others in the publishing and library fields while I was at those conferences (even my boyfriend commented on this as he sat beside me during the keynote of HASTAC last year–every time Siva Vaidhyanathan uttered some quotable soundbite, the sound of tapping in the room intensified). At conferences, I sometimes feel a bit superficial when I tweet, since I don’t regularly use Twitter at home, and also because “everyone’s doing it.” There’s also a feeling of sounding amateur when using the conference hashtag–all of the big names in the industry could see it! It can be scary to voice your opinion in such a public forum. It can be rewarding, though, too. A Twitter interaction with @ararebit at DLF Forum in Denver last fall led to a chance meeting on my ASB trip to the Folger. I had tweeted about wishing there were more library school students at the conference; a fellow grad student replied and we planned but ultimately failed to meet in person. It turned out she is the girlfriend of one of the Folger’s employees and happened to be there for tea one afternoon and recognized me. It was good to finally connect in person!

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Library Bloggers and Key Blogger Issues

Recently, I began following four new bloggers in “Library Land.” I’ll summarize them and their interests, views, and passions here, and also talk a bit about some trends I noticed they all have in common–or points where their views diverge.

As I’m interested in academic librarianship, the first two bloggers are also academic librarians:

K.G. Schneider of Free Range Librarian

  • Karen G. Schneider is the University Librarian at Holy Names University. She is also a writer who has published over 100 articles and two books, on topics ranging from travel to history to technology. Perhaps because she holds an MFA in addition to an MLIS, her blog is eloquent, well-written, and fun to read.  
  • Many of her posts deal with management, which is something she does in her position as University Librarian: hiring, budgets, library finances, etc.
  • In the early days of the Internet, Schneider wrote about librarians and how they could use the Internet to benefit users; she also ran an Internet training business in the early 90s.
  • She also writes a lot about physical aspects of libraries. Her facility was less-than-stellar when she first began working there, but she implemented a few immediate changes to make it a better and more inviting place.
  • As an ALA Councilor, Schneider writes a lot about attending conferences and the benefits of getting out of the library and talking to others in the field–but also, conversely, on the importance of “being there” in your library.

Meredith Farkas of Information Wants to Be Free

  • Farkas is the Head of Instructional Services at the Portland State University Library in Oregon and an adjunct faculty member at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science.
  • As someone in charge of library instruction, she’s obviously passionate about instruction, information literacy, and exploring ways to help students become more information literate. One way she’s doing this, as described in a recent blog post, is starting faculty workshops on designing research assignments in order to inject “information literacy into courses at a molecular level so that we can help students become not only information literate, but confident in their own research skills.”
  • As could be surmised by the title of her blog, Meredith is concerned with access to knowledge and information. such as in this post. Thus she’s also passionate about the relationship between publishers and libraries, access to scholarly content, relationships with faculty, etc.

From outside my specialization:

Jessamyn West of librarian.net

  • West is a self-described library technologist from Vermont; she also describes herself as a community technology librarian who is user-oriented. 
  • She is one of the most well-known librarian bloggers, cited by many as a prominent voice in the profession.
  • Cited as one of the first librarian blogs, West describes the blog as (and is herself passionate about) anti-censorship and pro-freedom of speech. She’s also passionate about community: like above where she describes herself as a community technology librarian, she has been a teacher of basic technology classes for many years.
  • As a technologist, West is passionate about closing the digital divide and increasing Internet use and literacy among those who might not have the same access to it. As a librarian of sorts, she is interested in how libraries can help close the gap: hosting classes, being an advocate for users against bills like SOPA, etc.

Andy Woodworth of Agnostic, Maybe

  •  Woodworth is an adult services librarian in New Jersey.
  • His writing is humorous and he often posts on current events and reports in the library world, such as the Pew report and news on ebook pricing
  • He also blogs about other bits of popular (but no less important) news like the report that being a librarian is allegedly one of the least stressful jobs.
  • A topic that Woodworth has written about frequently is banned and challenged books. He’s passionate about reporting these challenges so that ALA can collect data and identify patterns, collect information on the underlying rationale, and use this information for Banned Book Week.
  • And naturally he is also interested in censorship.

A trend I noticed across most or all four blogs is, unsurprisingly, a love for the profession. All four bloggers professed their love for learning, and information, and teaching, and their passion for the specialness of libraries and preserving that. I also noticed a strong passion for increasing information literacy skills for everyone, whether for students in academic libraries or adults taking basic technology classes in their public library. Perhaps predictably, another topic taken up by all bloggers is ebooks in the library (I liked what West said about it–that she is looking forward to when we can just call them “books,” for that’s what they are.) The bloggers who work in public libraries talked about issues with lending policies, while those in academic libraries wrote more about the way big publishers bundle and charge for subscription journal services.

I noticed that some bloggers seem to be slightly more traditional than others; or maybe slightly more conservative would be a better word. West, Farkas, and Woodworth seem to be more fired up about fighting the good fight with big publishers over issues of DRM and ebook lending policies. Not to say that Schneider isn’t also concerned about those issues of scholarly communication–perhaps the former are in more user-oriented roles?

There was something else I noticed that I’m interested in peripherally, and that was the occasional mention of the current image of the profession. Who are librarians today? Schneider made jokes on the subject, saying how “kids these days” aren’t required to learn cataloging in library school (a fact that my boss just lamented last week, in fact), that they’re “hipsters,” etc. West also wrote a really great post about the ways libraries tend to be talked about in the media (choice bits: “quit the wardrobe policing”, “we’re not all women”, and “libraries are full of joyful noise”).