Web 2.0 has significantly altered how academic librarians develop collections, assist researchers, present findings, and engage and communicate with users. The scope of change is not quantifiable and is often impossible to grasp. We shift to digital and electronic collections, set up social sites for researchers to collaborate, cultivate online digital institutional repositories, create infographics to present results and findings, and use Twitter, blogs, and wikis in course designs and information literacy instruction sessions. We seem to be rather courageous as we fearlessly adopt social media, networking, and software to engage our users, ignite their interest in engaged and active learning, and support both the individual’s success and that of the institution. It is essential in our profession to identify the changes in how librarians interact with users, evaluate our core competencies, and create strategies for improving competencies while acquiring new skills.
While the reference interaction may hold its supporting framework as established by Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, changes in how those interactions are executed and delivered are real, obvious, and perhaps seemingly unmanageable. Some librarians are intimidated by the use of social media in research, at an institutional level, and particularly in providing reference services to users. Others claim that social media is a fad and should not be given much sway. Regardless of an individual librarian’s attitude toward social media, its use has had immediate and direct effect on librarians’ reference experiences and taxes our levels of competence in the context of social media use.
Librarians’ reference interactions support and aid in the development of our users’ search skills; however, transferring ownership of the search to the user is critical. No, we do not find the answer to a user’s assignment question. We have developed a suite of competencies that unpack research strategies that make sense for the users in a heavily populated social media environment. To do this smoothly and seamlessly, we must now have basic working knowledge of the institutional IT infrastructure as well as the library’s electronic licensing stipulations to trouble shoot an enormously large number of technological anomalies that occur that create barriers to access. We instruct users on database interfaces, mobile applications, and e-learning platforms (Moodle, Blackboard). We continually tailor electronic resources to meet our users’ needs. We evangelically publicize through social media the availability of electronic resources. We create videos to upload on YouTube. We have private Twitter accounts to communicate real-time, two-way, and ongoing information with classes. Librarians build portals where resources for subject matter are localized and focused (LibGuides). Librarians build systems that have the ability to retrieve applicable data in timely intervals and disseminate to users by leveraging social media custom alert options. Librarians know and use knowledge sharing technologies (tag clouds, Web 2.0 & 3.0, wikis, blogs, SMS, Twitter).
Librarians are blogging. Yes, we blog somewhat vigorously on a myriad of topics. My colleagues research and write blogs on topics such as running, biking, and yoga in the context of personal development and interests. Others are wickedly good foodies, blogging about cafes, recipes, and unlikely food combinations. However interested I might be in such blogs, I really have to limit how many blogs I read and have decided to focus only on those covering issues in my profession. Here are a few blogs that I enjoy and follow, and that are written by librarians:
- The Daring Librarian
- Librarian in Black
- The Unquiet Librarian
- Vancouver Law Librarian Blog
- Librarian by Day
- Lauren’s Library Blog
- Confessions of a Science Librarian
- The Lipstick Librarian
- Annoyed Librarian
I am a shameless voyeur into the world of these librarian bloggers. Such varied perspectives, broad scope of interest, and tremendous depth of expertise found in our profession is evidenced by these very blogs. Many academic libraries use blogs and wikis to communicate with their users effectively, efficiently, and with good results.
The University of British Columbia has embraced social media and created a centralized blog portal. UBC Blogs encourages both students and faculty to participate in the blogging culture as a tool to support teaching and learning. They also promote the use of social software such as Flickr, podcasting, and tagging. Explore their site Educational Technologies: blogs and wikis. UBC Library participates vigorously in blogging.
Dalhousie University presents blogging and social media as a unified platform for information sharing, collaboration, and engagement to “add unique voices to their web presence”. Dalhousie University Library blogs, too.
What does blogging, virtual reference, Twitter, and using various other social media mean to librarian in the context of competencies? It translates into a strong need to develop a suite of skills for writing html and CSS, creating videos and tutorials using online programs, tweeting using hashtag in instructional sessions, critically evaluating more online resources, screen casting reference interactions, curating topics, bookmarking, and working with faculty and students to archive their research, data sets, and bibliographies.
It means we are change agents, willing to explore technologies to better serve our users, and keen to pilot Web 2.o initiatives.