Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Thing 6 Online Networks

Thing 6 - Social or online networks. 

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand:
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:

Lewis Carroll

May I confess, I'm feeling like the Walrus and his esteemed friend as they walk along the beach? Thing 6 is all about social or online networks and for me these are beginning to look a whole load like "sand". I remember the buzz about Second Life and how some members of the profession took to this like proverbial fish to water. What do we hear about Second Life now? I guess I should temper my bewilderment, fear and frustrations. Get used to change; and accept, that as fickle as we are, social media are going to start up, blossom with popularity, and then fade away. For some platforms their lifespan may be a brief as a gnat's; others hopefully more enduring - like redwoods, oaks or yew. The trick is finding the tools that work for you. Thing 6 helps with this personal analysis. 

LinkedIn (http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/stephen-gregory/30/2b0/76b)

I've been on LinkedIn since March 2011, and joined because my mentor is a member. However, we didn't use LinkedIn as part of our mentoring, and so my use of it didn't go any further. Today, in order make this network more useful I've updated and added to my profile and added a couple connection requests. A few weeks ago a colleague posted a query on LinkedIn, and received a number of helpful responses. Evidence, if this is required, that LinkedIn can be really useful. I should use it more!


As previously mentioned, I use Facebook for social and family connections only. I don't envisage that my usage of Facebook will expand to include professional / work interaction for the near future. However, I can see the value of using Facebook as one strand to a library service's communication plan. Swansea Libraries have an excellent Facebook page and it provides a fascinating view of the wide range of activities and events provided by the Service. For some, this will be a great way of service user engagement. It complements their Twitter postings and blogging.  I can also see that Facebook will become an  increasingly useful information resource. Material to supplement Who's who, biographical information requests, and possibly to support company / partnership information requests when our conventional resources fail us. Ditto with LinkedIn!

CILIP Communities

A great concept but in my view this platform hasn't hit adequate levels of regular usage, viewing, participation or contribution. I am a member of CILIP Communities and I have responded to questions in the past. I may even consider adding new queries to the Forum if this seems to be appropriate. But it wouldn't be top of my list.

LISNPN, LATNetwork, Google+

Sand, more sand?  Just goes to show that we need to keep tags on evolving online networks. I may choose not to be actively involved in these networks, but it will be helpful for me to be aware of a wide range of them, and to appreciate those that appear to be popular.

Civil Pages

The UK Civil Service also have Civil Pages, a restricted access, online directory, discussion forum and resource, available to those with access to the Government Secure Intranet.  In my experience, like CILIP Communities, Civil Pages can be a useful resource for:

  • seeking answers to particular types of enquiry (e.g. who works in the Communities & Local Government departmental library; what are other departments doing with SharePoint; is anybody else currently working on x?)
  • supporting face-to-face groups (e.g. the Circle of Departmental Librarians, the Government Legal Librarians Forum). An online space for adding meeting minutes, circulating agenda and discussion papers, and for continuing discussions virtually.
  • enabling resource sharing - identifying who has what, and helping discussion in rationalising collections etc. 
  • providing an online network. Enabling colleagues who may never meet to establish a link; building a network of personal contacts that will be mutually beneficial.

Civil Pages isn't without fault or challenges. Not all civil servants choose to be involved, and  information gets added but not always deleted or managed. Furthermore the platform is difficult to use. Adding new information is frustrating, time consuming and invariably only  partially successful.  


Here's the nub ... I can only keep tabs on a limited number of social networks and so I'll use my Twitter network, RSS feeds and email to help me find and share information that is relevant to me. Where that information comes from becomes irrelevant. As long as I trust it, and it is helpful to me, then that's great.  Platforms such as Netvibes may be helpful in providing a single point of interface. It would be helpful to try this out!

Although dispirited by such quantities of sand on the beach, and fearful of physical labour, the Walrus and the Carpenter eventually discovered, and went on to enjoy, a bed of oysters. The internet and social media tools can be fantastically informative and helpful. Our challenge is locating and benefiting from the "oysters"!   

Not familiar with the Walrus and the Carpenter? Click here