Sunday, 6 November 2011

#cpd23 Thing 12: Putting the social into social media

Using social media has pretty much transformed my professional outlook from prematurely bitter whinger to, well, determinedly enthusiastic and thoroughly overworked busy bee.

Nothing to do with the topic.
Eighteen months ago, or so, I started trying out social media/web 2.0 tools as part of the 23 Things Cambridge programme.  I only really did it because I was starting Chartership and thought it would look good in the portfolio.  At the time I was, and had been since I finished my MA, feeling pretty detached from the profession. Sure, I knew quite a few librarians and library staff, and I'd cast my eye over Update most months, but none of it seemed to connect to what I was doing or how I was working.

It turns out, of course, that what was wrong was my connection to the wider world, and not the wider world's connection to me.  By getting involved in (or just eavesdropping on) conversations on blogs and, above all, on Twitter, I began to see that there all sorts of amazing people out there doing exciting and interesting things, and, more remarkably, that they're happy to talk to little old me!

Wandering up to someone Big and Important at a conference is scary.  Answering if they ask a question or start a discussion on Twitter is less scary.  That for me, is the magic of social media in the professional context: you can type out your little thought, have a look at it, see if it makes any kind of sense, edit it, and then contribute.  Much easier than wandering up to someone, blurting out something embarassing, and scuttling off to hide behind a tea urn.

And why does it matter that the talking to people thing is easier online? Well, you find out about all sorts of cool stuff that's happening and that's been written, and about cool people who want to collaborate with you, or borrow your ideas, or just meet up.  And then, when you do meet them, there's so much less hiding behind urns and so much more useful networking.

Lastly, social media doesn't mind if you're having on off day, or week, or month.  You can disappear off into the shadows for a bit if you need some time to yourself, and that's fine.  When you come back things are still going on and people are still happy to see you.  Magic!

Edited 1 February 2012: This post has been published in the CILIP East of England branch magazine Sunrise as part of a special issue on social media.


  1. Great post! You've put beautifully into words exactly what I feel about social media. Thank you from Jen :-)

  2. Totally agree with this! So glad I don't have to hide behind urns/plants anywhere near as often as I used to.

  3. Yup, well said, I found myself nodding in agreement with all of your points. I signed up to 23 Things because I thought 'it would look good' for my portfolio, but I've got a lot out of it. The biggest thing has been twitter / engaging with the wider library profession and 'meeting' some wonderfully inspiring people.

  4. Yes - you explain the potential for social media to break down doors, widen communication and encourage professional development very well. This is even more important for people who work on their own or with in small teams where there isn't much daily contact with others in the profession. There are issues about identity and privacy I guess - maybe you might like to consider these in another post sometime.

  5. and I thought I was the only one who hid behind tea urns or just sat humming to myself at the back of the conference. Great post and agree entirely with it.

  6. Thanks for all the comments! Interesting to note that a post I whisked up in 20 minutes flat rings so true with people.

    Jo - thanks for mentioning hiding behind plants - that makes my randomly-chosen photograph relevant!

    Sarah S - I've written a bit about identity and anonymity before (see, which isn't exactly privacy but is connected!


  7. Hi Katie

    I have replied to your comment on the EofE blog but thought I'd reply here also. Many thanks for your offer - we'd love to include your blog post in the next edition of Sunrise. It's just the sort of thing we're looking for!

    The next newsletter is due out in January. Please get in touch if you need to know anything else.

    Thanks again