The heritage preservation and conservation field seems to have thoroughly embraced social media, perhaps in part because we are a group widely dispersed around the country (and the world). Given the number of conservation labs and preservation departments with just a few staff members, being able to interact with an online, virtual community of preservation and conservation professionals becomes critical not only to professional growth, but also to the cohesiveness and shared knowledge base of the field.
When the Preservation Department started this blog (as well as its Facebook page and Twitter feed) over a year ago, Iowa State University Library did not have a defined social media policy. I’m currently chairing the Social Media Working Group at ISU Library, which has pulled members from several different Library departments, some of which use social media and some of which do not. We’re just polishing up the final draft of our report and recommendations for Library social media guidelines. Our hope is that social media activities within the Library will be better integrated, so different departments can support and promote one another rather than operating in isolation.
I’m interested to hear from our readers about your professional social media activities and interactions. Are you a student, a private conservator, an institutional conservator, or a preservation professional? Do you maintain a blog, Facebook page, or Twitter feed about your preservation studies or professional activities? If you work at an institution, is there a social media policy in place that governs your activity? Do you have internal support from your institution for blogging, or do you use an external blog hosting platform (like WordPress or Blogger)? Is your target audience other professionals, lay persons, or both? In what ways has social media served as an effective professional tool for you?
Let us know about your experiences in the comments section!
Kudos to you and your institution for developing a social media policy (or guidelines). I think this is important for both institution and staff.
I’ve been an on again, off again, and back on again active participant in the social media world. I’ve a blog, a twitter feed, and Facebook pages for myself, and my work. My employer has no social media policy.
An obvious challenge of social media is the blurred lines between our various roles – for me the roles are professional, institutional, and personal. Unless you try to maintain some level of absolute anonymity there is no way to maintain a strict separation between these identities. For eg. on my blog I don’t mention where I work, but it doesn’t take more than a Google search to figure that out. I don’t express my opinions with the same candor on my work Facebook page as I do on my personal page, but once again, it’s not hard to move between the two.
Social media has been hugely important for me. It has created connections to new colleagues in a variety of disciplines. Through social media I have become aware of resources that I might not otherwise have seen. I also share what is going on in my work and thinking and often get valuable feedback.
That doesn’t respond to all your questions, but I hope others will respond as well.
One of the reasons we’ve been working on social media policy here at ISU Library is those “blurred lines” you mention — and even with a written policy in place, it’s tricky to negotiate, for example, Facebook, where your professional hat and personal hat might sometimes be donned simultaneously.
It’s encouraging to me to see people trying to use social media for professional as well as personal goals, and I hope that as social media continues to evolve, various professions will embrace it as a wonderful means to network, self-educate, and grow.
This is definitely a very interesting and current issue for discussion.
My workplace is very big on social media and there has been a definite shift in the work-roles that people now have towards opening up social media avenues. Personally I think that this is a very positive thing and we are very lucky to have a good support system in place from within our institution. For collections that are situated within Universities or Colleges I think social media is an especially useful tool for reaching out to the student population – everyone’s at it! Be it Facebook, Twitter or Flickr.
I myself write a blog about my work-related activities and my idea and drive to do this has thankfully been embraced and supported by my workplace. I don’t know if blogging has been an effective tool for me to reach out to other professionals within the field, but even if I might not have any readers, it works as a brilliant tool for me to have a back-catalogue of sorts of the kind of work I do. It almost acts as a kind of portfolio.
Your blog is great! Wonderful that you get so much support from your workplace for social media activities. I agree that it is an increasingly important tool for reaching the student population in particular.
Funny you should ask this question. I am winding up work on a Blog Strategy Working Group. We developed some documentation for starting and maintaining a blog, working with IT to set one up, etc. Our library has something like 18 blogs, some of which are actually used more like home pages more so than blogs.
Me and the author of Devil’s Tale set up a Bloggers Support Group that meets once a month. We share information on tips for blogging, share info on using WordPress and Google Analytics, etc. We really had no official “go do this” mandate, we just did it and the group has proved really useful.
I blog for our department, I also set up our Flickr channel and FaceBook page, and we maintain a Twitter channel which is really just fed by our FaceBook posts for the most part. In fact we just finished a readership survey and 30% of respondents said they first found our blog through FaceBook and Twitter.
Support: it’s there but at this point unwritten. A lot of bloggers in the library consider it more as a grass roots effort. I put blogging into my job description so that it was legitimized and my boss supports that (I encourage everyone to do that because it does lend a certain gravitas to spending time blogging). I think our administration is happy for the results or maybe they just haven’t thought about the resources it sucks up. I haven’t been brave enough to ask that question.
Audience: Well, until we did our survey I thought it was mostly internal. My focus is to show what is happening down here in the basement behind a locked door. However, our survey results indicate that 85% of respondents are not affiliated with Duke…this totally surprised me. I don’t specifically write for “lay people” or “professionals”. I write more about what we are doing, what out there effects our work, etc. Social media for me, and therefore for the department, has really enabled us to show people what we do, how we contribute to the mission of the library, etc. It’s been a great medium and much more immediate than a newsletter.
WordPress: Our library just switched to a self hosted instance of this.
OK, finally, all of that said I, like Kevin, blog personally as well. I run two blogs of my own, one is preservation/conservation related, one is personal. I also have FaceBook and Twitter accounts that I use regularly. I try very hard to keep those separate from the social media stuff I do for work. It’s not always clear cut, I have posted links to PCAN on Preservation Underground and vice versa, but I try not to do too much of that because I want to be able to say things on PCAN that are separate from my position and affiliation with Duke (although I suppose you always have to be very careful since that can be a very slippery slope).
I have so much more to say but will stop. I would love it if AIC or ALA had a whole series of discussions about social media. I never would have thought I would be a blogger in any sense, but it is now a critical tool both personally and professionally and I can’t imaging doing outreach without it.
Beth, the Bloggers Support Group sounds fantastic — what a good idea. It’s always nice to see people coming together to share ideas and support one another, especially when it’s not mandated “from above”!
I’ve also added blogging to my job description, totally agree about the necessity of legitimizing the time and energy it takes.