From Anil Dash’s post If your website’s full of assholes, it’s your fault:
But as I reflected back on the wonderful, meaningful conversations I’ve had in the last dozen years of this blog, I realized that one of the reasons people don’t understand how I’ve had such a wonderful response from all of you over the years is because they simply don’t believe great conversations can happen on the web. Fortunately, I have seen so much proof to the contrary.
Why are they so cynical about conversation on the web? Because a company like Google thinks it’s okay to sell video ads on YouTube above conversations that are filled with vile, anonymous comments. Because almost every great newspaper in America believes that it’s more important to get a few more page views on their website than to encourage meaningful discourse about current events within their community, even if many of those page views will be off-putting to the good people who are offended by the content of the comments. And because lots of publishers think that any conversation is good if it boosts traffic stats.
Well, the odds are I’ve been doing this blogging thing longer than you, so let me tell you what I’ve learned: When you engage with a community online in a constructive way, it can be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life. It doesn’t have to be polite, or neat and tidy, or full of everyone agreeing with each other. It just has to not be hateful and destructive.
Information professionals should be using social media if they care about the rest of the world. I mean, I’m a fan of cataloguing in a cave, but engaging with your community is important. Even if you’re the most locally focused librarian ever in a community where none of your users give a shit about Twitter it’s important to be using it to pull in information and to show off the knowledge being created in your community.
One thing we learned in our Community-Led libraries course with Beth Davies and Annette de Faveri was the importance of not coming into a space with an agenda. Not showing up and saying “Here are some awesome things the library can do for you!” but hanging out and asking what is happening with them, letting the community lead the library. That takes a long time. I think participating online requires a bit more push than that, because if you’re just hanging out as a library, not talking on Twitter, you’re invisible (in a way you aren’t when you’re sitting in a halfway house with a box of donuts).
I also think the idea of a limit to our participation in social media is stupid. I mean, sure, posting pictures of patrons on Facebook without their permission is a bit sketchy. But stopping information professionals from being part of the world just because of who their employers are is bullshit.
A story from work: A library in Northern Australia was making use of some of Koha’s features to integrate a blog onto the front page of the OPAC. The library staff were creating this information to participate in the wider world and were really proud of it. And then their Communications Department found out and shut it down. Not because of something bad that happened but because of stupid bureaucratic power disputes that said librarians aren’t authorized to create publications. That story makes me incredibly angry. To have participation curtailed by the communications department who wanted more control over messaging is kind of terrible.
Part of my visceral reaction to that story has to do with my personal history working at a public library that had a regressive attitude towards people talking about things online. I was disciplined for blogging about work on my personal time. The disciplinary hearing involved the director of our library telling me I was not fit to be a librarian and shouldn’t go to library school because of my disrespectful attitude. This experience led to my disclaimer/explanation page you can see linked to on my library blog’s on Opinions page, and you can read some of my other ruminations about privacy and the like when that former library actually created a social media policy because of me. That link includes a response to a danah boyd article.
I wrote a post about creating stakes to fight apathy on Librarianautica.
When I looked up Education 2.0 the bookmarkable stuff I found was a defunct Ning site (and an active one for Art Education) references to the Khan Academy and some interesting articles from Wired in 2007 when they were doing an Education 2.0 spotlight, plus a Neurologist talking about an Education 2.0 that hasn’t been achieved because computers are still an afterthought. They all had to do with interaction and participation through digital media, so that’s good and consistent, I guess. I liked the fact that two Ning groups were noticeable since I think of them as one of the interesting upstart social media companies that seems to have melted away into corporate blandness. (I may be completely misreading the current state of Ning. If so, and you care, I’m sorry.)
Another use of 2.0 I looked briefly at was a subject dear to my heart, comics. Specifically webcomics. There was a book in 2008 called Webcomics 2.0 and reviews even then mentioned the confusing nature of the title, since the book might be seen as a sequel. I thought that was kind of interesting since this was a book made about internet people and you’d think the audience would be up on the buzzwords.
As far as libraries go, I found an interesting non-bloggish blogspot site from 2008 run on by the State Library of NSW, billed as a Learning 2.0 course. While they use the 2.0 thing consistently with the rest of the webiverse there (though Australians I’ve met tend to say “web two” instead of “web two point oh” which still weirds me out), what I really liked is how they called their 2010 sequel course New South Wales public library learning 2.1. The idea that you don’t jump straight from 2.0 to 3.0 and that bit of consistency with how computer people do version numbers, which is where we got the whole 2.0 thing from anyway, made me very happy.
I feel like libraries and other information organizations just use the 2.0 because they like to keep up with trends from five years before. Individuals within organizations might be pushing for things earlier, but by the time stuff gets approved it’s become cliché. I guess the good thing about only using the terms once they’re cliché is that “everyone knows” by now that people saying 2.0 mean something to do with computers. It doesn’t mean much but it’s something to start with, I guess. (And if people don’t try to make godawful puns with it.)
Using social media as a way of creating a space for people to have a stake in their culture is hugely important. That’s how you fight apathy and how you a human is alive. The notion of people asking Why Wasn’t I Consulted? more in the internet age compared to the TV age is huge.
“Politics, as constructed by the news, becomes a spectator sport, something we watch but do not do” (Jenkins 2008: 10).
That is a terrible thing. If there’s going to be a revolution it can’t be televised because everyone needs to participate in it.
This is an issue that affects librarians even beyond the actual serving of our patrons, but in keeping our jobs. A bit on library student apathy from Magpie Librarian:
We’ve been thinking of who our next advocates might be. I thought I was pretty damn brilliant to think of trying to tap into the MLS student population. I figured that a) they’re already passionate about libraries and b) they have a vested interested in wanting library jobs to open up. I went to speak at a NY library school that I will leave unnamed. They well-publicized my event during curriculum space (a time when there would be no classes). I spoke in the student lounge to a group of students glued to their textbooks. I talked about library closures, layoffs, the future of libraries. I didn’t get much of a response, other than an uncomfortable wall of silence. One of my fellow Urban Librarianites called out, “Do any of you care about advocacy? You know, the apathy is what’s going to kill us.” A girl looks up from her textbook, “I have a lot of reading to do.” I silently handed out some advocacy tips and got the hell out of dodge.
R. David Lankes’ states in his Atlas of New Librarianship:
The MISSION of LIBRARIANS is to IMPROVE SOCIETY through FACILITATING KNOWLEDGE CREATION in their COMMUNITIES.
I love the concept of librarians being agents of change, and how it requires more than simply lurking. There has to be creation going on, not just talking, but creating a space for people to participate in creation is one of the most important things a library can do.
Some of the conversations taking place in the first week of LIBR559m (Social Media for Information Professionals an online course taught by Dean Giustini @ SLAIS – Summer 2011).
I don’t really understand why libraries wouldn’t use RSS. Maybe if your library doesn’t do anything you want to keep people updated on?
A really basic use for RSS (and Twitter) is to have a constant stream of interesting things past your eyes. For a library, spotting the things in those streams that might be useful for passing on to their users is great. It shows they aren’t siloed off in their own little world of books, and acknowledges that the world of the internet is part of the library. Even something as simple as subscribing to feeds from your user groups’ websites to know about the events they’re having is a big deal. That’s how you become part of the community. You can’t rely on people coming into the library to tell you things. You have to be proactive and give the users a way to shape their own experiences with your institution.
An example of things librarians can do to make their catalogues more accessible with RSS is to make it easy to set up RSS feeds of OPAC searches or tags or lists. If as a user I come to the site looking for books with strong female protagonists and I find that the users have tagged a pile of great books with “badass heroines”, if I can subscribe to that tag cloud those books show up in my feedreader that’d be sweet.
RSS can push the library out into people’s consciousness without requiring them to come all the way to the site to see what’s new. People are lazy and if they can get the information they want given to them in the way they want it, that’s great.