Today is the last day of the Internet Librarian conference, and as usual it has been an extremely engaging, informative gathering. It is truly a privilege to be able to absorb the experiences of such a diverse group of information professionals; the challenging part is to retain at least some of that data and bring it back to inform our practices at Alliant.
One of my favorite discussions was at a session on engaging patrons through social media such as Twitter and Facebook; the speaker spent a good deal of time talking about internal resistance to social media; that is, staff members who “just don’t get it” for one reason or another. Generally their lack of understanding is attributable to the newness of the medium — they just don’t know what a tweet is for, or how it works — but in some cases it has a more dysfunctional origin: some will oppose The New on principle.
To illustrate the point, the speaker used an example shared with her by an academic library proponent of social media. This librarian had been experimenting with social media for some time on a small, informal scale, trying to start conversations and build a sense of community among the institution’s library users — a laudable goal, and one which had strong support from most of her colleagues. Oddly, though, one staff member (another librarian, no less) somehow viewed this activity of hers as not just a waste of time, but as inappropriate workplace behavior. The Critic, as the person was referred to, would actually spend work time meticulously tracking the social media librarian’s tweets and Facebook posts, looking for missteps, and even brought printouts of these to staff meetings, pointing to them and making observations such as, “I don’t know what *this* has to do with libraries!”
Of course, this story drew gales of laughter from the Internet Librarian attendees, most of whom are familiar with this type of “librarian’s librarian.” But there was a more serious note to the tale, and the audience appreciated the way innovative staff have to work twice as hard as the more traditionally-minded. First they have to stay engaged, have great ideas and be willing to try them out and possibly see them fail; but they also have to fight against small-minded pettiness from their co-workers, the people one would think should be supporting their efforts. The dedication it takes to do this is profound, and represents our profession at its best.