I was at the Web2.You conference yesterday, a one day event hosted by the McGill SIS students. As the title suggests, it was about web2.0 and the uses it can have in the library community. But of course, like anything remotely thought provoking, it stretched beyond the boundaries of the library walls and into the world.
In every presentation, there seemed to be an underlying theme: the old rules do not apply in this brave new world of social networking. Michael Stephens, the last speaker of the day, said something that really struck home- we have to let go of the cult of the perfect. He was speaking of the habit of any big institution to check and recheck every document, to bog down new ideas in committees and, the one that most applies to my career and my life, to keep on enforcing stupid rules when they clearly have no purpose but to maintain a sense of control for the rule maker.
Now all of these speak to me on a professional level, as I am dealing with some of these issues at work. The reticence to embrace the social networking technologies comes from 1 part ignorance of what we do in a library (which is connecting people to other people as well as to books) but also 2 parts fear: that all of these applications will cause the system to be overloaded with viruses (not an unreasonable fear,however, in my mind, not a good enough excuse to discount them) and the fear that employees will waste their time on Facebook all day.
The presentations yesterday all showed how the lines between your professional persona and your personal life are blurring. Now, this idea has been forming in my mind for a while and I am still struggling to understand it (Micheal Stephens gave a list of books that I should probably start reading). This doesn’t mean that people will spend their work days chatting with their friends all day about where they went for dinner. NO. It means that you use these technologies for professional purposes, but just like any scenario where you meet your colleagues at a conference, or see them everyday at work, your personal life can’t help but seep through a little bit. It means that in terms of knowledge management, librarians (or whatever you are) have a wider pool of knowledge to choose from. The personal side only makes it easier to contact the people you need to contact when your in need of a quick response.
I find this trend really interesting. It means that people have found a way to make this networking tools actually social and human, as if there could have been any question that that would happen. People are people after all. But it also means that the rules of the game have changed somewhat. Not understanding that the old silo type bureaucracy no longer holds in this world where people can share knowledge with each other instantly means that you will be enforcing rules that will eventually hinder your ability to function at all.
Which brings me to my one rule: Be reasonable. This is the one rule I have as a parent, and one that I try to exercise constant vigilance with. Am I making this rule because it will ensure the safety and well being of my children, or is it because it is just easier for me to make a blanket rule for my own inconvenience? (I am thinking of the use of glitter in crafts in particular- anyone have to deal with a huge blob of glitter glue on the dining room table? Just say no to glitter….)
In terms of the library, this is how it plays out: is it reasonable to ask people to leave their cell phones at the door in a library, especially since the cell phone has access to the internet and people could be getting information from them? Or is it for own convenience? Is it reasonable to ask people not to eat in a library? Do we actually want people to use the library?
Anyways, just some random thoughts on the day. I love attending these workshops, but in a way, it kind of makes me feel like Eve right after she took a bite of the apple: the world just got a whole lot bigger and more complicated and I just became aware that I am facing it butt naked.
In keeping with the idea of letting go of control and of the cult of the perfect, I am just going to send this out into the world right now. I am not even going to triple proofread it.
I’m feeling crazy today.