Getting real about social media

Start of the second day of Internet Librarian International, and Hazel Hall (Director of the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University) is going to talk about “relevance of social tools for information professionals” (slides at

Hazel says that we need to recognise that what we aren’t going to do is as important as what we are going to do.

Hazel relates how social media informs her – to know that her sister caught a salmon last Friday, meet up with people on trains, important dates, what’s happening in various organisations, the birth of a friends baby and the death of a colleague.

Social media are aggregators of people (not data or information alone) – their lives and experiences – and this is true for librarians and information professionals of course as well as everyone else. Hazel says that librarians and information professionals are good at organising and commmunicating information – and so natural for us to use social media as an extension to the ways we have done this traditionally. However, we may not be so good at engaging with library stakeholder communities in a participatory, collaborative fashion – and understanding how we can use social media to help with this.

Hazel talking about how it was possible to use a blog post to propose a physical meeting – impromptu coffee mornings – and this draws from an extremely wide set of people – who might not otherwise usually meet or interact. Hazel says new knowledge happens at boundaries – and by bringing these people together you explore the boundaries.

Hazel says that even after 500 years we really don’t full understand the impact of the introduction of the printing press. She mentions the ‘Gutenberg parenthesis’ – that the limited amount of printed information available made us believe that it was normal to codify information – but that looking back on this in the future we will see this as the anomaly in human history.

Hazel mentions the 5 stages of twitter acceptance:

  • Denial – ‘twitter is stupid’
  • Presence – ‘I don’t get it but I feel I ought to do it’
  • Dumping – ‘I’ll just advertise stuff like blog posts etc.’
  • Conversing – authentic 1-1 conversations

“I’m using Twitter to publish useful information that people read, and to converse 1×1 authentically” – this is where the true value of microblogging lies.

People use Twitter in different ways – e.g. Phil Bradley uses his account very differently to Hazel. Hazel keeps her truly ‘personal’ interaction for Facebook, as Twitter (for her) always has an aspect of her professional face. (Hazel feels this is perhaps because Phil is an independent consultant, and so always representing himself – I’m not sure I agree, I suspect it is just more about what you are happy to publish to certain audiences – Phil is simply ‘more public’ than Hazel would be my conclusion I think).

Hazel relates how librarians and information professionals have been using social media for staff development, professional communication (e.g. in place of email lists), profile raising – tweeting and blogging, peer-review work.

Hazel moving onto the use of social media for the delivery of library services. Research snapshot shows that in this cas social media is used largely to deliver the same services in a different way – and noting that libraries are often ahead of the game in comparison to the rest of the organisation – however still very much a ‘we publish’ and ‘you consume’ model – Hazel asking where the user participation element is.

There are example – using a blog to build on traditional services and engage library members through discussion in comments, recommendations etc.

“We are all part of the reality: develop our users, develop ourselves” –

In his PhD Umar Ruhi ( describes how users move through stages of use:

Consume -> connect -> canvas -> communicate -> comment -> commentate -> contribute ->collaborate

We need to develop stakeholder participation – lead communities. Hazel relates how at Napier they’ve used Yammer to do student support – students used it because it was useful and because humans like making and sharing things.

Hazel believes libraries should be following ‘end users’ (library members) via social media – this isn’t to say you’ll see every single tweet, but that you have that direct contact. She also notes that this isn’t necessarily about Twitter – your users more likely to be on Facebook.

Q: Thinking about appropriateness – is it possible to manage personal/professional identity

A: Can’t necessarily manage others – but need to be aware of what we do ourselves – no real answers at the moment

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