Saturday, May 29, 2010

[Off Topic] SLA Information Outlook: Focus on Social Networking, April/May 2010

In late March, I was asked to write the introduction for series of articles in the April/May 2010 issue of Information Outlook.  After I wrote the piece, it was discovered that it couldn't be used because I'm a candidate for SLA's Board of DirectorsSLA tries to create a level playing field for all of its Board candidates and being published in Information Outlook would have provided an advantage to me.  However, since the article could not be used by SLA and since the issue has now been distributed, I'm publishing my article here. 

The three articles in the issue, which I reference below, on social networking are:
And who stepped in to wrote the intro in my place?  Dennie Heye. (Thanks, Dennie!)

    2008 was a turning point in mass communications and social media.  The U.S. Presidential election, the Mumbai massacre, and several natural disasters around the world demonstrated that we had moved from being informed of events via traditional mass communications (newspaper, radio and TV) and are now relying more on ordinary people to gather and disseminate information.  2008 was also when SLA implemented its own version of “23 Things” and the Innovation Lab, signaling that we needed to be fully conversant in these new information tools.  Now in 2010, we look around us and see old media relying on new media to alert it to breaking stories and to gather information from the people on the street. The idea of a story breaking through Twitter seems almost normal now, yet it was an unknown concept in early 2008.

    As librarians and information professionals, we look at this new world order and wonder how to tap into this changing information stream, how to disseminate our own information via social media, and how to capture and preserve the knowledge that these social media sites contain.  Yes, not only do we have more tools for communicating with our clients, but we have more places to check for information that could be important to our clients and the work that they do.  Indeed, social media has put much more on our to-do lists.

    As we continue to discover the power of social media, one truth becomes clear: those that understand the power of information are the ones that are using it.  It does not matter what the person’s age, social status or cultural background is, but whether that person recognizes that the information which flows through social media can change the course of a person, a product or an organization.  In fact, it tends to be the thirty-somethings (and older) who truly understand the power of information and who then understand the power of social media. 

    In this issue of Information Outlook, we are focusing on social media and how our colleagues are reaping real benefits from its power.  In the last year, we have talked about our brand as an association.  In this issue, we will hear about a library school that is using social media to impact its brand.  We are accustomed to stories of commercial organizations using social media to place it and its products in a more positive light, but how would a school accomplish the same thing?  And can we learn from their endeavors?

    A second article discusses the wisdom of the crowd.  We know from our training that the information that is in people closest to an event are the ones with the best information.  With social media, we may be able to tap into that information.  However, we also know that what can circulate isn’t truth, but rumor.  While I learned many years ago that many rumors are true, the problem is are indeed true and which ones are false.  And who is used to searching though information in order to construct a more accurate picture of what is occurring?  Yup, us.

    The third article considers how we can develop social networking strategies for our libraries and information centers.  Being conversant in the tools is one thing; having a strategy for how you will use them is something else.  We need to move beyond any haphazard use and consider how to make our online interactions (social networking) and user created content (social media) part of our work, just as breathing is natural part of our lives.

    After you have read these articles and considered how you can implement what you have learned from them, tell us about your ideas, successes and challenges.  Please write a letter to the editor or an article for publication in Information Outlook.  We would enjoy hearing from you.

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