The current issue of YALS has the topic of Communities and Communication, which I’d like to expand on in this post to include electronic ways one can participate and communicate with peers or the community your library serves.
Obviously, joining YALSA/ALA is the best way to become part of this community – and YALSA does a great job of communicating with its members (via the YALSA Blog, the Hub, ALA Connect, YALSA-BK, etc.). Jessica Sullenberger’s article in YALS’s fall issue, “Get Connected to YALSA Online,” discusses the pros of each of the different communication/community tools, offering suggestions on how to use each to maximum effect.
But what about other divisions in ALA? Steve Matthews’ “Stopping the Slow Train to Disaster or How to Talk Up, Trick Out, and Establish Beyond a Doubt That School Libraries Are Vital for Kids (and That Means TEENS!)” highlights the importance of advocacy; one subtle – but effective – advocacy tool is to become a vocal participant in other areas of the library world. For example, many members are also members of AASL, ALSC and PLA, which are clearly natural fits with YALSA members’ work. But if you’re a teen librarian, it might also be worthwhile joining ACRL or LIRT – at the YALSA 3.0 Institute in Boston, I listened as a panel of students said that they don’t go to their school librarian for help with research or using databases, they went to their public librarian; at the LIRT program during ALA11, a public librarian stressed her role in helping students prepare for college and beyond.
Thinking of moving up the management chain? LLAMA is a good place to lurk. And LITA’s Top Tech Trends (and other tech discussions) is always interesting. Joining your state library association or a local one (for example, METRO in New York) leads to connections and community with those that are in your situation.
Other ways to foster community are via e-lists (Listserv is actually a trademark, much like Kleenex). The YALSA blog recently had a great post on some lists that are worth joining. Others can be found inside ALA (and you don’t always need to be a member of a division or roundtable to join that list). Of course, you have to figure out the signal-to-noise ratio for the various lists. One of the most popular among school librarians, LM_NET, can reach over 100 posts/day! Twitter and Facebook are great tools for building your personal community and contributing to the greater library world. It goes without saying that the sharing of ideas is one of the best parts of joining these lists; when someone is looking for titles for a display or a reading club (like one that explores Street Lit), going to Fiction_L or another list can give you titles and authors that perhaps weren’t covered in Vanessa Irvin Morris’ “The Street Lit Author and the Inner-City Teen Reader”, as well was finding out if the authors are good candidates for author visits in person or via Skype.
Three ways for a library to engage their community are via Twitter, blogs and Facebook. Among many others, I’m following @nypl, @somers_library and @warner_library, the Ann Arbor District Library and Danbury Library blogs. There are no Facebook “likes” from me to any libraries for two reasons: I can see the page without liking it and several of my friends have asked that I not “like” them because I’m not a part of their community (they don’t want to discourage students, who may be intimidated if too many outsiders are there). Walt Crawford is doing a study of how public libraries are using those tools to communicate and foster that sense of community, and a study published in DLIB that focused on academic libraries has some interesting observations and considerations. Linda Braun’s webinar “Tweet, Like, Link: Creating a Social Media Policy for Your Library” (login required) is a great resource for starting the process and developing policies. Garnering community involvement leads to soft advocacy, particularly among teens – as Lauren Comito and Franklin Escobedo say in “Teens as Advocates”, “One of the best ways for teens to become advocates is for them to get involved with a Teen Advisory Board” (and having them assist/plan with your Twitter/Facebook/blog outreach will ensure they’re successful programs).
There is no one way for us to communicate and build a community: it’s all what you feel comfortable with, and what your community feels comfortable with. Staying in touch with our peers, sharing ideas and resources is so easy now, and translating that to our school and public library communities is something that every librarian needs to consider.