Tuesday 13th March 2012 was a busy day for British libraries. In London, the libraries lobby was taking place, with a rally at Westminster and a call for constituents to come and talk to their MPs.
Up in Newcastle, we had the North-East Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) AGM and a committee meeting of the CILIP Career Development Group (CDG) North-Eastern division.
The NE CILIP AGM took place in the beautiful old lecture theatre of the Mining Institute. To the best of my recollection, Colin Raistrick, chair of NE CILIP, put it this way: "I know you didn't come to hear me addressing the group, but to hear Phil Bradley tell you about social media afterwards"! So I have to be honest: I didn't take any notes during the AGM... but I did fill a few pages during Phil Bradley's talk!
For those of you who have never heard of him, Phil Bradley works as an Internet consultant and is the current president of CILIP. And I have no idea how many ties he owns, but from where I was sitting, the one he was wearing that Tuesday looked a lot like it had both PCs AND books drawn on it... Hehe.
Phil Bradley started by explaining his role as CILIP president. Running for the presidency of CILIP is a 3-years commitment: the first year you are vice-president, the second year president and the last immediate past president. The president is a non-voting member of the CILIP Council. He chairs different committees, works with the CILIP team, represents CILIP at some conferences, talks to the media, etc. Phil Bradley stressed that he was keen to talk to and listen to members. The move of this year's national AGM to the North-East is also part of an effort to be more in contact with members and to have a less London-centered CILIP.
Phil Bradley is focusing his presidency on the following themes:
- Ensure that CILIP as an organisation and individual staff use social media resources to enhance and leverage its position;
- Articulate the importance of social media to individual members and groups;
- Discover and broadcast good library practice and innovation to the membership as a whole.
His goal for the end of the year is to come up with a set of CILIP social media guidelines which would help members use social media and gain access to it as part of their professional lives.
The third theme would also help him give arguments in favour of libraries and librarians in the media and in political debates.
But back to social media. What is it then? Phil Bradley admitted not being keen on definitions but still explained that social media was linked to the notion of user-generated content, which was the focus of what we had come to call "Web 2.0" - or more simply, the way the internet is developing. Nowadays, you do not need an in-depth knowledge of HTML or FTP to make something available on the internet: everything is more simple to create than pre-social media, which also results in easier access to information as more and more things are "cloud-based". As an aside, it is actually something governments are trying to regulate: for example, the American SOPA was designed to control what users can do.
Phil Bradley said that the tool (the PC) is not important anymore: it is the activity that matters. Our society is moving away from the artefact to a frictionless environment, where things are browser-based and the user is not tied to one particular device anymore.
Before social media, everything was on websites. Now, everything is crowd-based and easy to share (via Twitter, blogs, etc.) with many ways available to communicate.
|Go to www.theconversationprism.com to view the full image|
Institutions restrict access to social media because they are concerned that staff are going to be consumers rather than creators, and also because they are afraid of what their own staff might say about them online! It is important to have access to social media in the workplace because there is now information on it that is not available anywhere else. As an example, news tend to appear on Twitter first: it is almost instantaneous, whereas it would take time for news websites to create articles and then for search engines to index them.
Press departments no longer have control over the message, as people can easily blog, tweet, comment, etc. Where Web 1.0 was about control over the information, social media is about free access to it.
In practice, what does it mean? For a start, there are changes relating to internet search. A lot of search engines are now incorporating Web 2.0 in their results (blogs, wikis, tweets, presentations on websites such as slideshare, etc.) - hence the need to have access to it. The ranking of results on Google is also moving from "the most linked to website at the top" to "the most recommended [via social media] or talked about".
Social media is indeed about people recommending things to other people. Instead of searching for the information on our own, we like to ask people we know or see what they recommend, and we are now used to participation. Having a social media presence is therefore a way of getting involved into people's conversations.
There are several websites or apps helping us pull data back for our use, based on topics pre-set by the user and on recommendations. For example, Zite or Flipboard create your own personalised magazine downloaded straight onto your iPad. Similar things are also possible with websites such as XYDO, Scoop.it or even Netvibes. These tools, as well as other RSS aggregators, wikis, etc., demonstrate an evolution of the Internet away from websites that are too still, too fixed.
At this point, Phil Bradley also recommended Quora, where you can ask questions of people who are experts in their field, and social bookmarking websites Trailfire and Pearltree.
To conclude, social media results are becoming more and more important. Librarians need to go where the conversations are to find the information. Therefore, we need access to social media to allow us to do our job more quickly, cheaply and effectively.
"It's all just information!"
And just to put a bit of drama into this post: thus the presentation ended. Well, not quite; there were a few questions and comments!
Later on that same day, I attended the committee meeting of CDG North-East at Newcastle University Library. And I am proud to announce I am now an ordinary member of this committee!