A Chief Librarian and good friend of mine posed the question to me on Facebook this morning, following on from Yesterday’s tweetathon about CILIP #2.0.

Do tweeters actually do any work (I just ask in a ‘grumpy old Librarian’ sort of way!)

To clarify one thing, my nameless friend is actually one of the most charming, supporting and down right decent people I know – and thus I’m sure he’d be delighted that his comments have sent me off into a long reflection of his points.

We’ve had a very interesting back and forth on the subject already, and leaving aside my thoughts that “He doesn’t think tweeting is working, but clearly discussing the matter with me on Facebook is okay.”, I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince him.  But that’s okay, I’m just a lone voice and even in my wildest fantasies I’m not that influential figure.  Web 2.0 isn’t about any one person (Stephen Fry aside maybe) leading the way, as Clay Shirky would put it “Here Comes Everyone” – it’s more akin to a popular revolution than a lead from the front change.

Each day one more librarian comes onto twitter and starts to share their knowledge, build their networks and develop their experiences is a small victory right now.  Change is slow to come about, and like many revolutions before there’s a whole lot of barriers in its way.  The apparatus of the old hierarchical organisation 1.0 for a start.  One thing that was noticeable as a subtext in a lot of the tweets yesterday were the number of people who are uneasy as to how their bosses perceive their use of social networking.

Or to paraphrase them and my friend “It’s not work is it?”

There seems to be a fear in the workplace, and within the student community too surprisingly, that social networking can’t be used for professional purposes.  It’s a distraction, it’s a fun thing, it’s a leisure pursuit.

Well so too can email.

And the phone.

And going to conferences.

All of which are core business and professional development activities that we are encourage, nay expected, to engage with.  All that social networking is, at its heart, is another way to do just the same.  If anything in my experience it’s not the use of tweeting and social networks that uneases senior staff, it’s the public elements of them.  So long in obstensively in control of all public domain communication routes for their services, the idea that no longer is the brand of the Library a corporate structure; now it has a lower level of granularity in the individuals.

Personalisation of libraries as people not monolithic entities can, in my opinion, only be a good thing.  We spend a lot of time getting to know people, to opening up routes of communication, to try and ensure that we get feedback on issues arising or problems experienced by our readers.  Well guess what?  Thanks to twitter I find out about these much faster than before, and certainly days ahead of when I’d hear using “officially branded” communication routes.

Which enables me, and my service, to swing into action to rectify things long before a minor niggle becomes a major complaint.  And this is before I reflect on how much I learned in yesterday’s 2 hour virtual conference – I only wished I could have continued the discussions down the bar after the workshop.  It was the best conference session I’ve been to all year, and all it cost was a bit of my time and no expensive time and rail fares to pay for.

But if you listen to my learn’d senior librarian friend – somehow, this isn’t work.


2 thoughts on “Working

  1. Really interesting post Gareth, I’m glad you enjoyed the conference, even without Beer 🙂

    I’ve been thinking more and more about twitter and what it does for me. Apart from answering my questions and being entertaining, it also helps me to reflect in bite sized chunks. Reflection is hard for me and twitter has helped me to stretch my reflection muscles more than blogging. Just stopping to add a few words to a link before you tweet makes you think critically – what value has this information to my network? What do I really think about it? Perhaps this is a benefit you can sell to your colleague, but I agree with Alan, walk the walk and others will follow.


  2. That’s a really good point Jo – and as someone who thinks in bite sized chunks (I don’t really do wordy, erm this blog and certain JISC bids aside) might well explain the especial appeal of twitter to me.

    Without a doubt now it’s my number one destination for questions specific to my job, but also broader professional issues too. And with the instant responses coming thicker and faster than blog posts/comments I find it invaluable.

    Will it be my solution for this need for ever? Hell no. But something that satisfies this need will certainly continue to be part of my daily working regime.


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