How many things? Only 23.

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.

And coincidentally, I picked this up on Twitter from @lisajeskins the other day: all the handy Twitter abbreviations you might need, and then some!

RSS Feeds
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 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 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 and think it’s going to work! I might produce a ‘magazine’ on it next week.]

Time to consider your personal brand and your online presence. I’m not sure that I would view myself as a ‘brand’. I think a more helpful word would be ‘persona’. Thing 3 encourages us to reflect on our online presence including considering our name, photograph, professional vs personal identity and our visual identity/brand. An easy way to do this is by an Internet search. I have done this several times before (for I am slightly vain!) and because I’ve always been interested to see what’s ‘out there’ about me.

I searched for Alyson Tyler using a variety of search engines. First I used Everyclick (which is powered by Yahoo! and donates money to your chosen charity every time you search), but I didn’t appear on the first page of results – my Twitter account appears half way down the second page. Using DuckDuckGo my Twitter account comes 6th, and one of my slideshare presentations comes in at the bottom of the first page. Dogoogle is much better – I come first! It lists my Twitter account, slideshare, library blog, LinkedIn account. As you may have guessed from that search engine’s name it’s based on Google, but also supports dog charities. Using Ixquick (“the world’s most private search engine”), I came a long way down the first page, and only my LinkedIn profile was picked up. Finally I used Google. Although it listed various online presences of mine first in the results (same ones as Dogoogle), it still couldn’t resist asking ‘Did you mean alison tyler?’ No, I didn’t! I spelt my name correctly thank you. On all the search engines later pages brought up various presentations I’ve done, articles written, references to my on other websites, and a few things from a former brief career in publishing.

I  had to do this searching at home because I knew the results would be NSFW (Not Safe For Work). Do you want to know who does come up first or amongst my results? A woman called Alison Tyler (note different spelling) who is described as “a trollop with a laptop”, a prolific writer of ‘adult’ fiction, and other words that might set your filters on red alert! Some search engines automatically return images alongside the text of each result – this is useful in some cases, but not if you’re searching for me and are sat in an open plan office.

I also experimented with different search terms. Alyson CyMAL mainly brought up my library blog, whereas Alyson Aberystwyth brought up my yoga persona. This is interesting because I do have a double life (not in the erotic industry I assure you!). I am a qualified yoga teacher and teach yoga in Aberystwyth. If people are searching for my yoga classes, I need them to be able to find information about them easily.

So, presenting myself online I have to overcome most search engines’ desire to change my name and compete with a high profile ‘adult’ Alison, and I have to have both a library brand and a yoga brand.

I think both of my personas are generally quite well branded as ‘me’. In terms of my library brand, my Twitter accountlibrary blog, and slideshare are all professionally presented and I tend to use the name ‘libalyson’. During the recent CILIP Wales conference two people said hello to me having worked out who I was from my Twitter profile picture.

My yoga blog, my account (for uploading yoga handouts) and entry on different yoga directories eg Yoga Hub, are also quite consistent and professional.

The one site where my two professional brands overlap is LinkedIn. Like the Green Stone Librarian I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing on there and I have not activiely used it to make connections with people I already know. I’m hoping future Things will help me figure out why I’m on there and what I can do to increase my use of it or its usefulness to me.

I mainly have professional personas online, as opposed to personal ones as I’m not on Facebook currently. The one online area where I do have a more personal presence is Goodreads which I’ve recently joined. I have a hidden delicious account for my Internet bookmarks, although I plan to create a public version of that one day, and I have both a personal and a work Netvibes accounts, although the latter is also still hidden.

Finally, THIS blog is quite different. It’s slightly less ‘serious’ and I chose a WordPress theme that reflected some things about me (I’m female, green and would like to be a bit funky).

On reflecting on this week’s activity, I have looked at my picture on my library blog and slideshare and am going to change those [update – done the blog one]. I also experimented with the gravatar in WordPress and got it to work, finally, with a picture of me. I don’t believe every picture of me has to be the same one -it’s nice to have a bit of variety – but I need to change a couple of older ones or ones where you can’t see my face very clearly.

All in all, I’m not ashamed, embarrassed or afraid of my online ‘brand/s’. Phew!

Well, I thought I’d start off in Wales so checked out fellow 23Thingers on the Delicious account, and currently there’s a small select band, some of whom are yet to populate their blogs. However I did find a fellow librarian and friend hiding under a green stone, another librarian I know in Aberystwyth (Nia) and a library student at Aber Uni. I then left Wales and skimmed the list of 23Things particpants and saw Veggie Haggis and had to click on that one, being notionally Scottish and vegetarian (vegan) myself.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll explore the list in more depth to see else who’s around – I may know some more people!

I feel a teeny bit of an imposter for not working in libraries myself, unlike the small selection of other 23Thingers that I looked at, however, for my job I stay up to date with many topics including marketing, social media, library research, online stuff, information literacy, e-books, buildings/space, workforce develompent, impact and evaluation, and so on. But if we start getting into the nitty gritty of people describing and sharing about creating an online learning object or linking reading lists to the catalogue from the VLE I’m going to come a little bit unstuck!

Back to the blog-o-sphere though. The library blogs I follow  are many and various and I use Netvibes RSS feeds to manage them*. I try to follow quite a lot of the Wales library blogs, as well as the Scottish Libraries blog and many others eg Digital Shift. Annonyingly, my Netvibes feed is slow and cronky on my work computer so I don’t end up looking at as many library blogs as I used to. At home I follow various yoga, feminist and eco blogs – yep, I could fit in a stereotype if you want!

*One day I’ll finally get round to creating the public display feed thingy which means other people can see what feeds you subscribe to, and make it public somewhere on this or my work library blog. I’ve been saying that for a year+.

Thing 2 – Done

{May 10, 2012}   About me

I’m going to be super-lazy and link to the about me page on my other library blog! No doubt more about me will come out later, I think we have to reflect on our career thus far etc. What I’ll say here is technically I’m not a practising librarian any more, but I work with and for libraries; I live and work in Aberystwyth, Wales; I’ve been adopted by a cat; I’m also a yoga teacher; I’m a Welsh learner of some considerable years; I like reading (I’m allowed to say that, yes?); I like cycling and sometimes just about like jogging; and I’m very green. (Not in skin tone, obviously, for I am not a toad, or a monster or an alien, although I am from Planet Vegan.)

NB I wrote this as a ‘page’ but it appears pages don’t work in this theme. Nae matter, it’s a separate post now.

There are several reasons why I decided to take on 23Things, including: improving my skills, keeping up and  learning new stuff. I’m looking forward to all the new things I haven’t used before (including Prezi which can make me feel sea-sick if the presenter has lots of swooshing and goes too fast) but am a little concerned about the time commitment. A colleague who completed it last year reassures me it’ll be fine and it won’t be too much work. I’m pleased to see there’s several reflective weeks and some catch up weeks. I can also see me ending up doing some at home (like, right now) instead of in work  if I’ve run out of time in work to do The Thing.

Career wise I’ve been in my current post (Libraries Development Adviser for CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, a policy division of the Welsh Government) for a grand ol’ 6.5 years! I know! My role means I need to know a lot (or a little) about almost all library things going on in Wales, the UK, and possibly beyond. Also I am the programme manager for the Government’s library strategy (Libraries Inspire) but I’ll try not to go on about that here…

My social media skills would be considered low to medium in some settings, and advanced in others, depending on whose company I’m in! I’m always ready to learn more though, and such skills and communication skills are in my annual performance management plan for 2012/13 so when I saw this was starting again I thought it was a good opportunity to get going with it.

I’m also looking forward to making connections with other (Welsh) library folk.

{May 10, 2012}   And we’re off!

Have just taken the plunge and registered with CPD 23 Things. It started Monday 7th May, so I’m only a few days behind already. I’m sure that won’t happen for the rest of the 23 weeks (err…. actually, knowing me, it will!).

Although I have another library blog, and a little-bit-abandoned Welsh language library blog, and a yoga blog (not connected to my library job obviously), I thought I’d have a separate 23 Things blog as I didn’t want my library one to get littered with my ramblings and reflections, and, most people probably won’t want to sign up to follow this, whereas I want all the followers I can get on my library (and yoga) blogs!

Thing 1 – Done.

et cetera