This year’s theme for the CILIP Multimedia, Information and Technology Group conference was social media, and I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Sheffield and attend. The programme was packed with excellent keynote speeches, parallel workshops and more, and I left with lots of food for thought, and ideas for innovations in my own library’s use of social media.
The conference kicked off with a keynote address by Marie Kinsey, who is Professor of Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Her paper was a whirlwind tour through the changes brought about by social media in journalism over the past ten years, covering all things from ‘citizen journalism’ (e.g. members of the public livetweeting newsworthy events) to issues of image authenticity, copyright and attribution. She stressed that social media training was now very much a part of journalistic training, as young, tech-savvy journalism students are comfortable using it socially, but need to be trained to use it in a professional context. This would become a recurring theme throughout the conference.
I then moved on to the first of the parallel workshops, on professional development through social media, led by Alison McNab and Judith Wayte of the University of Nottingham. They made the point that a lot of such professional development has to be done informally, outside working hours, as library professionals may not have the support of senior colleagues to undertake it. Thankfully this is not a problem for me, although I have noticed that a lot of interesting and important themed Twitter chats take place outside ordinary working hours, presumably because participants can’t take time out of work to join the conversation. McNab and Wayte also highlighted the value of using services such as Storify to create a more permanent record of tweets which are otherwise quite ephemeral. This is something I will definitely look into doing.
The second parallel workshop was led by Suzie Kitchin of the University of Northumbria, and was on using social media to facilitate conversations with researchers. She began by pointing out that we must ensure that we, as library professionals, are using platforms that researchers are using, not driving them to other platforms where we think they should be. This was another recurring theme of the conference. Kitchin then made the excellent point that researchers themselves were the best advocates for social media use in terms of encouraging their peers. She talked of collaborating with academics at Northumbria who she viewed as being particularly adept users of social media, recording short videos of these academics explaining how and why they used particular platforms, and then playing those videos in social media training courses. Such material is perhaps more persuasive than a member of a library team explaining in abstract terms how social media can be used in research.
After lunch we regrouped for the second keynote, Brian Kelly of UK Web Focus talking about digital life beyond the institution. This talk really got me thinking. Kelly drew our attention to potential problems faced by academics who for a variety of reasons left their academic institution. They may have used institutional email addresses to subscribe to various databases, journal alerts services, reference management software and so on, and thus be locked out of all these accounts once they lose access to their email. They may have articles and data uploaded to an institutional repository, and some kind of research profile with links to publications on an institutional website — what happens to these when the researcher leaves the institution. Kelly noted that most training on preparation for retirement focuses on financial concerns, and barely touches on these digital problems. His paper had a profound impact on me, and it led me to think of certain ways I could adapt the training I provide to users in order to address the problems Kelly raised.
This keynote was followed by short papers by four PhD students, covering subjects ranging from open educational resources to patron responsiveness to library Facebook posts in public libraries. Several papers returned to the theme of younger students being proficient users of social media in a social context, but less confident in using social media to seek information or in an academic or professional context. This should be seen as an opportunity, rather than a problem, for library staff, as it’s an area where we need to be able to help.
The final parallel workshop of the day was led by Lucy Keating of Newcastle University, and was about encouraging library staff to explore and gain proficiency in social media. Keating explained that her library had organised an annual workshop for all staff in which people could lead sessions on various aspects of social and other digital media. The workshop was hosted on LibGuides, so people were able to participate remotely (and indeed the second iteration of the workshop took place entirely online, as Keating discovered from feedback that many staff members had been unable to get time off to attend the workshop in person the first time around), and did a lot to boost staff confidence in their own social media skills. In the discussion that followed Keating’s presentation, one interesting idea emerged, something that I’d be keen to implement in my own work: researcher or student app swaps, in which participants bring in their phones or tablets and share interesting apps that have been useful in their research or studies. I already provide training in relevant apps to students, but this is generally part of an induction course, after which time there are no refreshers or updates. An app swap could fill this gap.
As I am only one person, I couldn’t be at every session, as many of them were happening in parallel. A lot of people were livetweeting during the conference, and if you’d like to see what I missed, you can try reading through the #mmit2015 hashtag.