Thursday, December 26, 2013

You, Me, and Social Media, by Virginia Alexander

I found that as a MLIS graduate student, I had few librarian connections. I wasn’t sure where to turn, or how to start making connections with library-minded people in my area and beyond. As I became more and more interested in social media, I started seeing the value of putting myself out there online and how connections through various online platforms could impact job opportunities, friendships, and networking.

2013 has been the year of cultivating my own personal brand of librarianship through social media and my current blog. Now that I have a year under my belt working with various platforms, I only wish that I had begun earlier and certainly wish I would have begun as a graduate student.  I’ve learned many things along the way, and want to share them with you.

What are you conveying to friends, colleagues, and possible future employers online?

Many times it is hard to understand what avenue to take on social media, especially for a young librarian or graduate student. Social media is meant to be fun, but it is also a very powerful outlet. We may feel like we are connecting on a one-on-one level, but it is important to remember there are potentially multiple people viewing your profile.

If you are just beginning your social media adventure or are thinking about revamping your current one, I would like to recommend:
  • START SMALL: As a librarian, I firmly believe that being on Twitter and connecting with other librarians from all over the world will help you not only learn more about your profession, but also do more at conferences, and develop a general understanding about provocative issues in the library field. Invest in learning more about an aggregator platform such as HootSuite. You can do certain keyword searches through various platforms such as #libchat.
  • FIND YOUR VOICE: As your skills as a librarian develop, this will become easier. I hope to convey what type of person I am through my Twitter account, and various social media. I know that this can feel like a sticky situation because you want to show your personality while still remaining professional in the face of potential employers reading your timeline. It is a fine balance. Remember that your who you are online is an extension of who you are offline.
  • FOLLOW THE CHAMPIONS: Whenever I start something I really don’t understand, I try to find the “champions” of that thing. Following PLA, ACRL, Courtney Young (ALA President Elect), and others that will guide you in understanding what is important in the library field.

Best Practices
  • NO FIGHTING: Always stand up for what you believe in, but in a non-aggressive manner. Proving your point and tearing someone down are two very different things. Remember, your potential employer, or potential co-worker, could be watching. Show them that you know how to defend your opinions rather than bombard the opposing viewpoint.
  • CONTENT: Understanding what you want to post about is a tricky cat to dress. Some librarians on twitter only post or retweet statuses that deal with librarianship or research. Some librarians only talk about their personal life, and some do a mix of both. For myself, I try to talk about things that excite me. I try to show other people what I am creating. I try to encourage others. As you move further into social media, what you want to achieve will become more apparent. Don’t force it.
  • DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: I would say that this is the hardest one for me. Many times people will want to fight, or will want to unfollow for various reasons. You as a young (or just new) librarian must be able to understand that it isn’t personal.
  • STEP AWAY: Always know your limitations. Many times it is important to step away from social media. If you start feeling that overwhelmed, put down the device and take a moment. Chances are that you won’t miss very much. Social Media will always be there waiting for you to return.

The concept of Digital Citizenship is still fairly new, and also somewhat geared towards a younger audience. You have the opportunity to be conscious of the image you are projecting and instead of avoiding the subject all together, take the topic by the reigns and become king of your social media. You control your image! I can wager that you will find other librarian that have the same interests as yourself, and will be as lucky as me to find some wonderful friendships as well.

Virginia Alexander, also known as the SketchLibrarian, is an academic librarian in South Carolina. In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, crafting, and creating. You take a look at all of her drawings, library musings, and general hatred of interstate-driving on her blog, SketchLibrarian, Three things about three things. Please also connect with her on twitter @SketchLibrarian

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