For a virtual reference service to remain relevant to users, it must evolve to reflect trends in digital communication.
Professional development (PD) is vital to our personal and work-related growth but it can be challenging to find the time to stay current with what is happening in the world of information professionals. I’ve found that social media can be a great way to supplement professional development, saving time as well as dollars.
Here are two strategies you might find useful in order to fit a “daily dose” of PD into our work lives: Following LIS networks and tracking “loud talkers.”
Social media: A solution to PD challenges
Professional development takes time. Courses or training sessions can be too long or too far away; our computer speakers sound weird; we need to run errands at lunch; funding for conferences, webinars and other PD seminars might be unavailable—reasons abound when it comes to avoiding non-mandatory PD sessions, valid or otherwise. Plus, the LIS world is constantly changing, making it difficult to stay on top of what is new.
Adults in Canada spend an average of five hours and 49 minutes using the internet via their PCs or tablets daily, and an hour and 47 minutes using social media on any device according to Statista. With all that time spent online, why not leverage it? Forget about reading the comments on a news article and getting worked up about internet trolls; get networking, reading LIS related articles/news, and learning about new breakthroughs and the technologies that affect our profession.
Many of us need to be on social media as part of our job description, or might be in the habit of quickly scrolling through some social media sites while trying to give our brains a reprieve from those stats we were just inputting. One way or another, social media has become part of our lives and it’s time to take advantage of that time spent mindlessly scrolling down the Twitter feed hoping to find an article to share on behalf of (insert institution here).
Tip #1: Follow LIS networks
For me, part of professional development is networking. Social media tools are powerful connectors and we’re already using them to foster relationships. Apply these tools to networking and start getting to know our fellow LISers by following them and LIS organizations, on Twitter or LinkedIn, or joining groups that relate to our library career interests on Facebook. They share articles, podcasts, webinars, and more. The great news is, once we start getting to know people digitally, we start to recognize their names. Then, when we do attend webinars or conferences/events in person, it gives us a way to start a conversation. Not to mention that librarians around the world use social media so we can get a lot of interesting viewpoints and opinions, i.e., and stay in touch with the profession, without having to pay or travel.
Articles written for social media are often short so they are quick and easy to digest. Instead of sneaking in that quiz determining which mythical creature we are, read the article a fellow LIS professional posted on Twitter instead. If we notice someone has shared their poster for an upcoming conference on social media, read it. Facebook live events of speakers are often posted with a more permanent link afterwards so we can watch or listen to them any time.
Tip #2: Track “loud talkers”
Make a list on Twitter to organize the new people we’re following. Once clicked, the list will have a dedicated feed that only shows articles from those organizations or individuals we have selected, i.e., the experts or “loud talkers” we want to follow.
On Facebook, join groups and like pages, use the Pages Feed option to see their recent updates and customize who you do and do not see posts from in your news feed preferences settings.
On LinkedIn, we can read articles people we follow write or share, so start getting selective over who to connect with.
Daily dose: Social-media based PD
While social media-based professional development has its pros and cons, the majority of us are already using these platforms for what could be called “less than productive” purposes. Taking even half the average amount of time we normally spend on social media, not even just the internet in general, would give us just under an hour of professional development per day.
If social media has changed the way we interact with each other, advertise, get news, network, etc. why would it not affect the way that we learn about our respective fields as well?
Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2017, January 16). The General Social Survey: An overview. Retrieved from https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2017032-eng.htm/.
We Are Social. (n.d.). Daily time spent with selected media among adults in Canada in 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2017 (in hours.minutes). Statista: The Statistics Portal. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/237478/daily-time-spent-with-media-among-adults-in-canada/.
We are social. (n.d.). Penetration of leading social networks in Canada as of the 3rd quarter of 2017. In Statista: The Statistics Portal. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/284426/canada-social-network-penetration/.
Written by Stacey Lapp
Stacey Lapp currently works at the FIMS Graduate Library at the University of Western Ontario and is a graduate of the Western MLIS program.