Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


AskUndergrad on Twitter

New jobs are full of important accomplishments that are largely invisible. I’m really happy that in my first few months on the job here I’ve got at least one loudly visible accomplishment.

I feel like I’ve figured out how to make Twitter work for my library. How to use it to connect our patugltwitterron base to our collections & services. And I’ve been able to use Twitter to support the philosophy I’m building my job around: connecting undergraduates to their intellectual life via library services.

What do I mean when I say that? Well, if you look at the screen cap to the right you can see the three main types of tweets I’ve been training the grad assistants to develop. The blue one is aservice tweet.” A research study I’m involved with (based on Nancy Foster’s Rochester Study – link is a .pdf) has been revealing that our students don’t know what they can do in our library. We’re trying to tweet at least one service a day, from our 24/5 hours to the existence of typewriters, color printers, and scanners, right on down to the nitty gritty of reserves searching and the OPAC itself.

The purple one is a “partner tweet“. My Learning Commons has a number of student services and campus partnerships that we host in an effort to both be “the campus in the library” and hopefully develop intellectual and library connections with units like Study Abroad, Career Center, undeclared advising, and One Book One Campus.

The use I am most excited about though is the “this day in history tweet.” These are connections between a historical event and library resources. The links are to pre-canned searches in the OPAC or database, or to a LibGuide, and are designed to make the connection between something interesting and library stuff, and hopefully build critical thinking skills as well as basic library awareness. We also do variations on these tweets with campus & community events, film series, festivals, and current news. My secret wish? That the Google calendar we use to make note of interesting events will eventually be maintained enough to make public, and that campus & community program planners will seek out inclusion on the UGL Recommends calendar!

I’ve been considering this semester an experimental roll-out, where I am working out training issues, fleshing out the wiki we’re using for guidelines and content, getting folks used to tweeting regularly and using the variety of tools we need to pull this off (we use Twitter, a PBWiki, a Google calendar, a link shortener with analytics, a canned search generator for the OPAC, a website with instruction for creating proxied search pURLS for the databases, and we’re looking into a tweet scheduler and Google analytics!)

The biggest challenge has been that we’re broadcast only. Our Twitter is embedded in the UGL home page (that’s why every entry is dated), and we’ve been using it in such a way that no one needs to understand twitter to get some advantage. I now have to solve a very luxurious problem though — we’re catching on, and the number of actual UIUC undergraduate students who follow askundergrad has shot up. I like having the feed on the homepage, but I also want to get interactive! I’m thinking about using a hashtag and embedding that, but am leery about losing more precious characters. It’s a fantastic dilemna, and I’m looking forward to solving it!


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I’m a Shover & Maker!

And I’m really proud to be part of the amazing community of change-makers at Library Society of the World. Check out my Shover & Maker post.

Do you feel like you make a positive difference in your library, to your users, or to your library community? You can be a Shover & Maker too! All it takes is the willingness to stand up and own the change you make. Shove on in!

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Excuses, excuses…

It’s been such a long time! I expect that unless you read this through a feedreader or other alerting system, you’ve long given up on me! I’m so sorry! The transition from old job to new job took more mental energy than I expected, and I expect I will continue to blog here less, for several reasons.

  1. I started blogging to force myself to write & think whole thoughts through regularly, and fit that practice into my schedule. My new position supports writing and research time, so that outside pressure is no longer active.
  2. In my previous position (small library, with a severely overworked staff juggling far too many balls at a time) I felt cut off from ongoing conversations and had a need to create an intellectual community that might be interested in more big picture synthesis than my community afforded. I am now at a much larger library, and have a larger intellectual community right at hand
  3. I ma still working out how the scholarship and tenure priorities at my new gig intersect with this blog (and being a public intellectual in general…). At the moment, I am feeling somewhat protective/defensive/possessive of my intellectual life. I will need to be publishing through the peer-reviewed process, and there are inherent conflicts between the immediacy of blogging and how ideas spread through intellectual communities online and the distance in time of scholarly publishing. As I negotiate which of my ideas will  integrate into my traditionally-published intellectual footprint and which of my ideas are then available for immediate consumption and conversation, this blog will very likely pick up more steam.
  4. A secondary goal of this blog was to be reciprocal. I had been a passive consumer of other folks’ blogs for a long time, and when I interacted with them on twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, I felt like I hadn’t put enough of myself out there for them to know why they might want to friend me. This blog was my attempt to make a name for myself in the blogoverse, to put myself out there in an accessible way. As those social networks have evolved and become more established, I feel my identity and credentials are more secure, and that pressure is taken off of this blog
  5. The tertiary goal of this blog was always to engage folks in conversation. It never really succeeded in that front. Some posts received comments, and some folks commented regularly, but by and large conversations never really emerged. I have found a place where I can instigate and participate in energetic and exciting conversations online, and much of the driving energy of this blog has been displaced to the LSW room in FriendFeed. I’m Rudibrarian there, as most places online, and I urge you to join in the conversation there, if that’s something that interests you.

Despite that list, I still have thoughts I’d like to post here, and may from time to time.  I’ve been thinking about a lot things. A *lot* of things! Stick this in a feed reader, and who knows, a post might show up about one of the things that’s been on my mind lately:

  • the Taiga provocative statements
  • leadership, facilitation, vision, management
  • user-centered services, libraries as service
  • seeking truth about digital natives
  • the cognitive distance between creating and using information
  • developing critical thinking skills outside the classroom
  • the tenure process
  • Kindles, and how to circulate them and what would we want on them
  • the role of ALA in academic libraries (lately, this has taken the form of thinking about licensing and how we lost the fight for owning content, and why didn’t ALA take a stand, which has led to a lot of thinking about membership and how membership engages in ALA and what a mess trying to get involved with ALA at that level is and how can ACRL take a more active role on advocating and how can members get more involved in driving ACRL policy and does ACRL set policy and, and, and….)
  • privacy, privacy privacy!
  • the role of librarians in protecting patron privacy
  • effectively using social software as library outreach and branch locations
  • the intersection of those last two
  • changing the conversation about Learning Commons’ and Undergraduate libraries

So, while a lot of pressures have been released, the old brain is still churning away, and still doing it in public.

I really appreciate the readership I’ve had here, and the opportunities you’ve afforded me. I have no doubt this dance will continue, if not here, elsewhere. So, keep an eye out for posts, and look for me on FriendFeed, and in the comments of your favorite blogs! Hopefully we’ll find ways to keep thinking together, and stay in conversation!