What’s in your room?

RoomI finished reading Emma Donoghue’s, Room this morning and can’t get it out of my head.  Room is told from the viewpoint of a five year old named Jack who is imprisoned in an underground room with his mother.  Jack doesn’t know he is a prisoner because his mother has built him a world where living in a room is normal.  Everything in the room has a name and a place, and to Jack these things have magical qualities that make them almost like living things. Rules govern every moment of time in the room; designed partly to keep Jack safe but also to help his mother retain her sanity.

While their eventual escape from the room is a blessing for his mother, for Jack it is a confusing experience and he wants nothing more than to return to the familiarity of the room.  He longs for all of the things that filled the room and for all of the routines that governed his life.  Instead he is forced to change his routines and grow used to new things.  Behaviors that were acceptable before are frowned upon in this bigger world. There are more rules, rules that make no sense and violate the rules Jack is used to.

When Jack finally talks his mother into returning to the room he finds it is not as wonderful as he had remembered.  It is smaller inside, and while his things look familiar he does not find them as compelling as they used to be.  Jack realizes that he has outgrown the room and he says goodbye to it and walks back out into the bigger world.

165589_1252059517123_5958313_nI identify with Jack’s unique view of the world, or with the idea that we all have a unique view of the world.  As we grow up we learn the societal norms, we learn how to fit in, and how to fall in line.  We carve out safe little rooms of our own that we put our personal beliefs and rules in. Many of these rooms are public that we present to those in our extended social circle.  Some are private that we share with only a select few.  Then there is that one inner room that we share with no one, which contains all of those things we fear would reveal too much about us.  Would people like us if they knew who we really were? Would they understand our view of the world?

It is when you are willing to move beyond that fear that the world becomes really interesting.  Messy.  Frightening.  Exhilarating.  The mistakes you make are agonizing and you are embarrassed that you made them and you are so mortified that you don’t want to put yourself in that position again.  At that point you have two choices:  retreat to that safe little room where everything is comfortable and familiar, or continue to build on this new room until it becomes as familiar and comfortable as the old.  The second choice means that you are likely to continue this process again and again and perhaps forever because once you have discovered that the fear is not as bad as you had feared it would be, you won’t be able to stop.

An outline of my own recent journey.  I wonder what’s next.223546_10200508934707855_446299464_n

To Collaborate or not Collaborate….

Internal collaboration within libraries would seem to depend upon the culture of the particular library.  A library that is open to change and is comfortable with introducing new technologies would be more likely to succeed than a library where change is a complicated process and where the librarians do not like to use new technologies.

Introducing something like a wiki to a library would not only depend upon a culture that was comfortable with change, but also upon a culture that had a certain amount of trust amongst its members.  The nature of a wiki allows for editing by several people.  With community driven social software like wikis, lack of trust may mean the difference between a successful wiki rich with content, and one that is not updated and underutilized.

Before implementing a wiki a library should evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the library and staff.  Would a wiki be relevant for the needs of the particular library?  Will the staff use the new software?  Are they comfortable with new technologies?  Does staff collaborate willingly on other projects?  If the answer to any of those questions is no, then software like wikis may not be a practical thing to implement.

People are there, build it already

Should libraries build a presence and provide services on popular social networking sites like Facebook?

I think that the question should rather be…why aren’t they already?

I only have to point to my own university as an example of why an online presence is possible and helpful in creating online communities.  One of the SJSU Facebook pages that I have subscribed to is the SJSU School of Library and Information Science page.  I like this page because it is specific towards the SLIS program and helps keep me informed on various things that are happening on and off campus.  Other SJSU Facebook pages I have subscribed to are:

ASIS&T Student Chapter: San Jose State University

Library and Information Science Students to Encourage Networking (LISSTEN)

ALA Student Chapter (ALASC), San Jose State University

Actually in going back to gather these links I noticed that there were more SJSU Facebook pages that I didn’t know about:

SLISConnect

SJSU SLIS Second Life  (this one hasn’t been active since June 2010)

San Jose State Career Center

One thing I would have to say about some of these Facebook pages is that there could probably be more activity on them than there is now.  I think one problem with pages is that there is a tendency for people to think that they do not have permission to post on the pages; or perhaps it is that people are using a page to keep an eye on upcoming events or on industry information and feel no need to post their own content.  Whatever the reason for low participation on these pages, I do think they serve a vital purpose in disseminating information.

Besides pages on Facebook however, there are also groups that a library can use to create an online presence.  The Society of American Archivists SJSU SLIS Student Chapter for example, is an open group that anybody can join and I like it because it almost has a community like feel to it, more so than the pages in my opinion.  I think part of this can be attributed to the fact that in groups, members who post are recognizable by name and for the most part with a face.  Content posted on pages on the other hand, is mostly done under the name of the institution rather than by a recognizable person.

In regards to creating library communities on Facebook I see more of a future with the use of groups; to me they seem more personal.  Instead of a nameless librarian sporting the avatar of the institution as is the case with the pages, specific librarians could be admins in a group where everybody else was considered to be part of that group.  As group work seems to be a trend especially in my own online learning environment I would think that fostering that same type of environment through Facebook groups would be a good thing to do, especially when it seems that so many people are spending so much time visiting this social networking community.

People are already on Facebook…for any library who isn’t I ask…why aren’t you?

My Own Personal Brand

The topic on personal branding is timely as I have been thinking lately about how my online presence might be perceived by others.   I had always used anonymous user names in the social networking sites I frequented in the past so I had never given too much thought to maintaining an online image.

When my former social networking site geared towards adults over forty went defunct however, the majority of the users that I had up to then only known anonymously moved over to Facebook.  Owing to the format of Facebook this meant that we then discovered who each of us were in real life.  Some people recreated their anonymous profiles but the majority of us revealed ourselves and our real lives.

There were some growing pains in this move mostly owing to the format changing from unrestricted online conversations to more moderated conversations.  Some friendships were broken over what was and was not considered to be appropriate content and on whose wall that content was being revealed.

New friendships were formed during this time as well.  This I believe was due to the transparency that was occurring in what had once strictly been our online personas but which now also represented our real life personas.  While the anonymity that the former social networking site fostered allowed us to be more revealing, revealing our true identities on Facebook allowed us to become more real.

Now as I begin to look for a professional position in a library I know that I will be hesitant to add future coworkers to my Facebook page and wonder if I need to create a separate Facebook account for work.  I do not think that I post anything that might be deemed inappropriate by others but this is of course subjective.  For example while reading some of the posts in the discussion board for this very class I see how easy it is for some people to take offense at something that might be considered to be benign by others.  Is transparency the best policy or is discretion?  At this point I am not sure.