American news habits and information needs

A week ago, during a multi-organization meeting about how public libraries play a role in connecting federal and state policy information to the community members in need of the real scoop, the topic of broadband access was teased out in a couple salient directions. One I found particularly wanting further discussion is how disconnected a community can become from changing government directions (think the Covered California insurance marketplace as an example) when its online access is limited to public computers? It’s not that skills like using a mouse or email continue to lack penetration; instead, what hasn’t bloomed in such circumstances is the habit of staying informed around civic engagement concerns.

How do we, as information specialists–and civil servants, help community members build the skills and the habits which constant news updating require of anyone participating in our culture?

Joachim Scopfel, Director of the Atelier National de Reproduction des Thèses, Charles de Gaulle University (France), has published an infographic that gives us not only numbers related to how Americans share news, but also points up the very venues for news that may not, after all, be all that available to all Americans. And even when technical availability exists, are community members engaging the most efficient methods for accessing policy updates? The research shows a continuing reliance on email over social media, as the online channel for updates. As with all correspondence, email brings with it the requirement that the recipient evaluate the authority of the sender: is the news included reliable, timely, and appropriate to the recipient’s own situation? On the other hand, a direct Twitter feed, from, in this example, Covered California, guarantees the authority and timeliness, while each message’s design should allow the reader to be able to judge quickly whether it pertains to her situation.

As information guides, can we boost community access to what’s official, help direct community members’ attention to how they, impacted as they know they are by government policy and policy changes, can take control over keeping abreast of those policy news bits, bites and bytes that affect them? What does tech access education look like in libraries offering the news skills needed as we approach the first quarter point of the 21st century?

Big week for all (library) things net

The Electronic Frontier Foundation released yesterday  its 2014 report on Who Has Your Back –a quick, clean way to see which online company platforms protect user privacy to what degree. It’s essential reading and a good guiding document for discussing privacy issues, advocacy, concerns, and practices with your library community, including students, the general public, and library boards.

This week also saw the FCC hold hearings on how making regulatory changes that affect net neutrality might be received by stakeholders. Hey, you’re a stakeholder. You can review the hearings, the current outcome, and make a response by following the #NetNeutrality hashtag on Twitter. (That feed includes links to formal documents published by the FCC in the immediate wake of the hearings).

It’s also been just over a week since the Gates Foundation made its formal announcement that the long-standing program that gave many American, as well as worldwide, libraries their first internet connectivity possibility, the Global Libraries project, will wind to a close across the next three to five years. That’s another indication that we need to step up, as library service providers in the 21st century, to evaluate and advocate for what’s good for our communities and what our communities need to have assured as sacrosanct when it comes to online access, privacy, and best practices for government and for us.

Twitter as a professional development tool, q&a

A few hours ago, we hosted a webinar on Using Twitter for Professional Development–right up to the moment when the interwebs decided to shut down. Happily, Infopeople’s planful staff had been collecting accruing questions over the previous 52 minutes and Adobe did not erase them when it made like a newspaper and folded. So, here’s a belated series of responses, an expression of thanks for your patience, and a really truly unintended extra plug to consider the webinar’s encouragement to go Twitter.

Sarah asked: What if you don’t have a smartphone? How easy is it to use?

Francisca: In fact, one of Twitter’s strengths for those who really want to access it any time anywhere is that it works just fine on a computer, a tablet, or a smartphone. It is platform agnostic. Some Twitter apps, including TweetDeck, provide nice shortcuts, but any accessing and communicating on Twitter via any internet-connecting equipment with a screen is serviceable and simple.

Sarah:  Do you check Twitter like you might check Facebook throughout the day?

Francisca: This comes under the topics of both time budgeting and responsible professional behavior. As with any social media venue (including Facebook), how often you’re accessing it at work can dilute the time you are assigned to spend doing other duties. A good rule of thumb for many professionals is to align your Twitter catch up time with your email or phone message time: when you start your day, perhaps at lunch, last thing before calling the workday over. This can be tweeked, of course, if you have planned with coworkers to participate in a live-Tweeted event (such as an author interview, a conference program you are attending virtually, etc.) at a specific time…just as you might have scheduled your real time attendance at this afternoon’s webinar.

Darlene: Do you have your staff create twitter accounts using their work information so it can be used for professional development?

Francisca: Great question for Twitter, Darlene, and hope you put it out there and report on your findings! We are responsible for keeping up on professional development, and our workplaces should be supportive–as noted in Tenet 8 of the ALA Code of Ethics.  You as an individual should not expect that all professional development will come to you via your employer–and your employer does have reason to make your accessvto professional development opportunities possible. Of course, if you are expected to use Twitter to speqk there on behalf of your organization, then the account used should be workplace information based.

Sarah: What are the negative implications of just having one Twitter account and not one private and one public?

Francisca: We touched on this just as the big webinar ending crash arrived. Quick recap: if you are really a confirmed Twitter user in your social/family life, you probably want to be careful to keep your professional Twitteratti from overlistening to the exchange you might be having that is, well, personal….asking your son to report in since it’s now 2 am and he was expected home with your car at midnight, etc. Of course, judicious use of direct messaging can address this matter, too, and there are lots of Twitter authorities who swear it’s better to have just one Twitter account and keep your singular persona scrubbed and professional-enough.

Sandra: Is @infotweets in Spanish?

Francisca: I would love such a volunteer to identify him/herself!

Tracey: Do you have a preference for URL shortener? Does one create shorter URLs than another?

Francisca: I go back and forth between bit.ly and tinyURL…for no inarguable reason. Many sites will present you with pre-shrunk URLs ready-made for tweeting. A word of caution on shrinking what you want people to open: if the original URL isn’t 50 yards long, by tweeting it in full you give your audience the welcome opportunity to see the provenance of the link before clicking on it. Good hygiene reduces viruses, we all know.

Angela: Is there any library that uses Twitter to communicate among its staff to keep them current on library info?

Francisca: Here’s another question to take to Twitter and ask broadly. I’d like to hear, too, Angela, what kind of info you have in mind that would best be transmitted by the library to its own staff via this method?

And here’s that URL shrinker post I promised: 5 URL Shorteners, which also discusses why shortening may not be exactly what you want to do all the time.

Happy New Social Media Year

Here at Infopeople, the new year brings a generous buffet of free webinars, high ROI online courses, and a variety of special projects. You’ll continue to hear about these from time to time right here on the Infoblog.

This blog, of course, is one form of social media we use to spread news, ideas and experiences to you, our community of librarians, library fans, library lovers and cognescenti. We are stirring the pot in some other social media channels as well:

Our Twitter feed, @infotweets, offers what we hope is a rich diet of curated info relevant to libraries, information management, literacy and literature, and cool ideas from other fields that you might just be able to find relevant for your library work. The keyword there is curated: follow us on Twitter and you’ll get just in time news of published research reports and professional events currently underway, but not much (maybe not any) movie celebrity sightings or updates on how we feel about the barista at the local coffeehouse.

Our Facebook page, too, has been restored to a venue we are updating with both status reports–and events such as upcoming free webinars–and postings of news you might use as you consider ways to reconceive problems or issues that have been in your face for so long you may need a jog or reminder that there are indeed different perspectives to consider, perspectives that could offer renewed energy and solution forming locally. (Some of what we tweet also gets featured on our Facebook page, but just the stuff that seems to cry out for a longer discovery period for its potential audience).

Pretty soon we’ll be revamping our Google+ presence and stepping into Tumblr as well.

All these media channels help form our social footprint–and you know what that means: we want responses and leads from you. Armchair travel is fun, but getting back to the author after you’ve visited the place in person enriches everyone.

Happy new year!

 

Questioning Paradigms

Yesterday Forbes published the first of a proposed two-part examination of the Big-6 book publisher/library contretemps around digital book files as collection offerings. You can (and definitely should) read Part I, which Infopeople tweeted much earlier today and which is also available on our Facebook page (gentle reminders that if you aren’t subscribed to @infotweets on Twitter and haven’t “friended” us on Facebook, you may be missing a lot of other valuable library information too–easily corrected by, well, subscribing to both).

The examination of arguments coming from the publishing and library sides is reasonably balanced and welcome as a summation from someone who sits directly in neither camp. As always, the accruing comments are also important, especially Jamie LaRue‘s attempt to help the author understand that public libraries are not about brick and mortar repositories but about information evaluation and provision.

It wasn’t so long ago that libraries and librarians swallowed the popular assumption that “books are our brands,” but it is definitely past time to reconsider echoing that paradigm.

A library director with whom I frequently discuss and debate library paradigm shifts required to align library services with community needs, ran one up the flag pole several weeks ago that can be given due and thoughtful mulling by us all: the public library’s provision of collections is an indirect service.

That’s right: if we consider what we provide, can provide, should provide, and then  divide all these possibilities and realities into direct and indirect methods for serving our communities, she’s proposing that merely having and lending collections, while certainly important, isn’t a direct way of evaluating and serving wanted and needed information. Instead, her paradigm would have it, our direct services include our active engagements:

  • evaluating what we select for those collections
  • reference and readers’ advisory assistance (whether or not collection dependent)
  • reading aloud and other programming we provide based on those collections
  • supporting adult and family literacy activities through library site use, tutor training, and taking parts of the collection to communities such as preschools, job fairs and farmers markets
  • teaching community members how to use technology to conduct the business they need to improve or maintain their daily lives, including completing online forms, homework assignments and health concerns

Among our indirect services, we provide machinery (lots!) and hopefully adequate maintenance of same, shelter from actual storms (if we happen to be open) and a string of  accommodations such as bathrooms and change for parking meters. None of these indirect services is unimportant, “extra,” or, for that matter, glamorous.

Is the collection really any different–when viewed by itself–except that we can glamorize it? It’s available for use and its continued use is possible because we maintain it. Are our circulation rules–which should focus on keeping the collection flowing among potential users–and our weeding and balancing of views the direct services because these are where our “library-ness,” our special and different identity that separates us from bookstores and friends’ shelves when it comes to matters of collection, lies?

Read the Forbes piece. Read the comments. Question your paradigms.