On July 9, 2007 I signed up for Facebook. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my career….where I’ve been, where I’m going, what I need to do to get there, that sort of thing. I think that’s a function of it being AALL Annual Meeting time, and, as a result, law library draft season. Seriously, I can’t turn around without seeing a job ad and I actively try to avoid them.
When I noted the anniversary yesterday, it occurred to me that signing up for Facebook pretty much changed the entire trajectory of my career. Prior to this, I had a only casual interest in Web 2.0 technologies. I mean, I was a blogging fiend and had been experimenting with the medium in one way or another for going on five years. I also had dabbled with MySpace and wrote a little newsletter article about it. But I didn’t think of technology as being a major part of my job or in anyway “my thing.” Legal History and Information Literacy! Those were my things!
(Actually, I guess in a way I still haven’t quite accepted my status as “techie”. The CS-SIS started a Facebook Fan page which I have yet to “fan up” because, and I quote, “I’m not a computer person.” This statement was met by a puzzled look which I slowly growing accustomed to getting from co-workers.)
So, anyway, I joined Facebook. Why? Because an old friend from high school was on it and he suggested I give it a try. I wasn’t even thinking about using it for work or how it might personally benefit me and/or alter my career. But it has. Greatly.
Here’s a couple of examples:
One of the first things I noticed was that several other University of Kentucky librarians were members of the site. Not only have I made a more personal connection with several of them – which is sort of important since I am UK Libraries faculty and it is other UK Librarians that make promotion/tenure decisions about me – but I’ve also gained professional knowledge from them and gotten some interesting work opportunities.
An example within this example? Well, one day I logged into Facebook to see that my colleague Stacey Greenwell had a status message about being excited about advertising pages. By this she meant the Facebook Fan Pages. I decided to create one for my library that day, which ended up being the first law library fan page. As a result of this, I ended up being quoted in a AALL Spectrum article on Facebook and law libraries. That’s pretty exciting stuff for a new librarian and my institution, considering some of the other places and people mentioned were Harvard, Duke and Jim Milles. (And yes, I’ll admit to being petty and counting the number of quotes used from each of people mentioned in the article. ) Also, as result of the Facebook connections, the other UK librarians got to see that I sort of knew my stuff Web 2.0 wise, and was asked to help coordinate Blue 2.0, a system-wide Web 2.0 learning program.
I’ve also had the opportunity to “meet” other law librarians. It’s funny…once you make a connection with one, others seem to find you and on different networks. For me, to use a public health analogy, Jim Milles was Patient Zero. He friended me on Facebook one snowy Saturday morning, and after that the invites started rolling in. And then I basically stalked him across several other Web 2.0 services, and have gotten even more contacts with law librarians. Most of it has been superficial, almost a virtual exchange of business cards, but I’ve also had some really great learning opportunities and an invite to the University of Buffalo alumni gathering at AALL, so it ain’t all bad.
Social networking sites and Web 2.0 technologies just have a way of snowballing. It’s hard to just maintain a presence on one (although it seems that lately the big quest is to find an appropriate aggregator for all the info out there.) Somewhere along the way I ended up with profiles and/or using just about everything out there. And now people contact me out of the blue and ask me for advice and opinions on how to incorporate Web 2.0 stuff into their jobs. Weird. And now when I see job postings for “emerging technologies librarian”, I think to myself, “Self, you could probably do that job.” Double weird. Especially for someone who still can’t really work her cell phone.
One of the recurring questions that people have about social networking and Web 2.0 is “how much of myself should I put out there?” Personally, I just go for transparency. It’s less stressful for me to not worry that someone somewhere will find something I wrote under a nom-de-keyboard. I think there’s two general rules of thumb: (1) Do what makes you feel comfortable, because otherwise you won’t use the service. (2) Don’t put anything out there that’ll you’ll regret. And if you’re working in an academic environment, there’s a third rule which is “treat all of your students the same.”
Even though I strive for transparency, there’s still some problems for me being so out and open on the web. Namely, the person that I appear to be in my blog/twitter and Facebook, will not be the person that you meet at AALL. I mean, it’s me….it’s not a false persona or anything. I’m just much more comfortable expressing myself in writing than in person or in front of an audience. One on one or small group interactions terrify me. I mean, I’ve been known to hide from people in the bathroom rather than deal with saying “good morning” to them. So even though I’m not presenting or even attending that many mandatory committee meetings, I’ve been doing the *stressbarf* thing about AALL because this is the first year that there’s a chance people will come up to me and expect me to act like a civilized human being. So if you meet me, and I act weird, it’s not you, it’s me.
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