Current awareness. All about keeping current. How we ‘do’ current awareness in the library world has changed over time, naturally, possibly because librarians are often quite early adopters of new technology. About 15+ years ago current awareness would probably have meant subscribing to email lists and reading library journals and magazines, and looking at various (web 1.0) websites.
In the last few years though, current awareness means we can be aware of current issues at a much quicker pace: journals come out only every so often, yet a tweet can be sent in seconds and a blog written in minutes. As ever, there’s good and bad about the changes – today probably most people feel overloaded by all the stuff they should be keeping up with. But it’s not so much information overload, as filter failure said Clay Shirky. Or, not utilising settings and tricks on Twitter, RSS feeds etc. (Or even, not using librarians to select and sort information for us…!)
So, Thing 4 (hang on, I’m getting there!) is all about current awareness and specifically Twitter, RSS feeds and Storify.
Among some people I’m an old hand at Twitter, having been on there for 2 years in a professional capacity. Compared to other people though, that means I’m just a wee bairn! I certainly don’t have followers in the 1000s. I joined Twitter after seeing it in action in various conferences and hearing different speakers extolling its virtues.
But my relationship with Twitter varies. Sometimes I check it very often and think it’s great, other times I barely check it once a day. I have found and passed on to colleagues many a useful snippet, link to blogs or articles or reports etc, or found out about things that we may have missed otherwise. Yes, there is a lot of ‘just missed the bus’ or ‘urg, just spilt my tea’ whitter and waffle on there, so you either decide to stop following those people who don’t generally tweet stuff that you find useful, or you just skim through and ignore it.
Two attitudes I’ve tried to adopt when it comes to Twitter may be useful for other Twitter people (Twits?) – they should help with the feeling of ‘OMG how do I keep up with all this?’. One is to treat it like a conversation in a room. If you go into a room and there’s huddles of people chatting to each other, you don’t go up to each one and ask them what they just said just now, and what did they say 5 minutes ago, and what did they say 30 minutes ago? You select one group, or one person, you chat to them, then you move on (if you’re good at networking. Or, you just stand in the corner sipping your drink and think ‘I hate networking’!). Twitter is the same. Look at it for 5 minutes, see who’s saying what, check any lists you’re subscribed to, then move on. What happened on there 30mins ago or 3 hours ago MAY have been relevant, but you are unlikely to have the time to find out. If it’s important it’ll probably reach you in another way.
The second tip (from Phil Bradley) applies to social media/networking in general. Do not feel you have to be on every channel all the time. We don’t contact all our friends all the time. We may ‘phone one friend one weekend, we may write a letter (a dying art form, but my parents and I exchange letters every week) to another friend twice a year, we may visit someone once a year. But we don’t try to keep in touch with all of them all at once, using all channels of communication. So, we don’t need to be on all the social media channels all the time. Dip in as and when, and use different ones to communicate with diferrent people.
In re-looking at Twitter this week I’ve decided to unfollow a few people, updated my private list of ‘daily ones to check’ (useful if pressed for time), and also looked up some of the lists recommended in the 23 Things blog post.
I’ve been using these for quite a while – years. Possibly since 2007-08? But, there is definitely room for improvement as I know I’m not maximising on its potential. I started using RSS feeds with Netvibes and am happy with that. I initially set up one for personal use, then a work one (but it turns out I never shared it – it was/is still in beta…), and also one for my yoga persona. This public yoga netvibes page was my cheap and easy way to have a ‘website’ without needing to faff with uploading webpages to a server etc etc. But since April 2011 I moved over to a blog instead for my yoga life.
But, interestingly, whilst at home I look at my feeds on Netvibes almost every night, at work, I barely look at them all week, or month. This happened after I signed up to Twitter for my library work. Several of the people I was following were the same ones as blogs I was following, and then time is pressurised etc etc, I ended up only looking at Twitter. So I can’t really say which library blogs I find most useful or visit the most even though I’ve got stacks of them in my Netvibes page. I used to keep a list of Welsh library blogs, but I haven’t updated that for a while. In general my RSS feeds have got really unwieldy, lack organisation, and I’m certainly not making the most of the technology. Also unfortunately in work the server/connection seems really slow so it takes forever to load the Netvibes page and then it’s is a bit cronky.
I really want to get back to reading blogs for my current awareness so I need to sort out my Netvibes pages – here’s a link to my public one, if you want to see the state it’s in! I think I want to: create a public ‘home page’ on Netvibes which will pull together my blogs, Twitter, slideshare accounts etc, and I also want to have feeds for the blogs I follow, maybe divided up into different categories. There’s also probably quite a few blogs I haven’t added, so it’s going to take a bit of time to refresh all this.
Now, Thing 4 instructions recommended using Google Reader. But here’s the thing – I don’t like Google (I know, probably irrational) and don’t want to sign up to a Google account. I’m happy with Netvibes so I’m not going to bother which Google Reader for now. Call me stubborn, but I don’t care!
Ok, here’s another confession. I don’t really get Storify. I thought it would be like a story (start, middle and end) but the ones I’ve seen so far seem to mainly be a collection of tweets from conferences. Maybe I’m being too literal about this? Maybe I’ve not seen the right ones to convince me yet? I clicked on ‘create a story’ anyway, and my work browser is not supported by them, so I can’t do it anyway! Ha!
Other current awareness tools I use
I subscribe to various JISCMail lists (28, it turns out!) – I find them useful to keep an eye on different library sectors or aspects of library world. As my job is an all-over library adviser I do need to know about most aspects of librarianship. Although Phil Bradley has commented in several recent presentations at conferences that he no longer finds them useful, I utilise the daily digest function so that I only get 1 email per list per day (and some lists have messages only once every few weeks, so I often only get about 5-8 JISCMail emails a day). In Wales the LIS-WALES is the best way to reach a large number of librarians. I was also taught a trick of seeing who / how many people subscribe to each list – I can no longer remember how to do this though! Oh, and on Netvibes you can put feeds to JISCMail lists on your page so you check them from there, and you don’t even have to be subscribed to a particular list to have its feed on your page.
I would like to experiment with Scoop.it. Just this week my line manager and I were discussing ways our organisation could utitlise social media (it’s only me doing it at present – I’m just SO advanced…). I reminded him not to start with the tool (see my blog post on that) but to start off with what we want to communicate, to whom, why etc. I mentioned I was going to be looking at Scoop.it and we got quite excited about that idea! I like the look of it much better than Storify. [Update - since writing this I've just had a play with Scoop.it and think it's going to work! I might produce a 'magazine' on it next week.]