October 20, 2009

I Deleted My Twitter Account: The Biggest Mistake of My Professional Life?

When Twitter started to become really popular, I created an account. I figured, if Ellen is talking about it, it must be the best thing ever. I soon found out that Twitter is just more of the thing that occasionally bothers me on Facebook (FB): The status update. I'm sure I'm not alone here. Do you have a friend who is constantly updating their status with mundane details? Does that person drive you nuts too? My account lasted all of two weeks.

For awhile I was enjoying linking to things and people I found interesting, but I didn't see how it was superior to FB. I was getting all the information I needed from FB, why did I require yet another social networking tool? I'm regretting my decision now as Twitter seems to be the library thing. At the time I deleted my account, I didn't see Twitter's potential to be a really interesting, and daresay effective, way to share information. How could I have been so blind?

With Twitter, the user is able to share links to interesting information they have encountered during the day. You tweet this to your followers and they have the opportunity to read further, but sometimes the headline will suffice. While initially I only saw the mild irritant that Twitter would become: friend would constantly be updating about mundane details and others would join in making my iPhone vibrate off into oblivion eventually causing me to destroy the piece of technology I love most. Yeah, that sounds like fun. Stupid Tasha and the pressures of social networking! - This is another blog I'm sure.

Although Twitter does have the potential to give the user a proverbial rash by spreading the useless factoids of the Interweb and otherwise, it can also be used as a powerful tool to spread quality information. You no longer have to tell your friends, "Hey, I read this great article, I'll email it too you", you can just tweet it and be done with it. This is why people use Twitter in their social lives, but herein also lies the library potential. Libraries use Twitter to promote programming, new resources, other libraries, anything really, to their patrons and the larger sphere. In many ways, Twitter is the marketing libraries have been waiting for. Partially because it is so far reaching, but mostly because it's FREE! We all love free.

There are many other uses for Twitter other than those mentioned here. Finally, I see Twitter's potential. Needless to say, I'm going to begin another account.

October 19, 2009

To Conference, Or Not To Conference

Librarians love conferences! There is always an opportunity to attend a conference when you are a librarian. Depending on which associations you are a member of, you probably receive conference reminders at least monthly if not weekly. Some of the associations I am affiliated with dedicate whole monthly publications to annual conferences. Although I would love to attend every conference I am invited to, I have trouble weighing the cost of going to a conference with the benefit. As an unemployed librarian - well, while I am employed, I am not employed as a librarian per se - I don't have a ton of money. This makes making the choice of attending conferences very difficult.

I understand that I have the option of presenting at a conference in order to get a better rate, but it's not exactly the conference part that breaks the bank, it's the price of hotels that will ultimately convince me not to go. I don't have a lot of professional contacts who would be comfortable splitting the price of a hotel room with me, so I'm usually going it alone when it comes to conferences. Most conferences last 3 to 4 days. That totals at least 3 nights in a hotel, unless of course you attend the events the night before the conference, then you have to pony up another night at a hotel. The last conference I thought of attending was in a city that I don't live in. Not only would I have to drive or fly all the way to the city, I would have also needed to stay in a hotel for at least 4 nights! The cheapest hotel I could find was miles away from the conference center, so I would have either needed to get a rental car or take cabs to the conference every day. If I wanted to stay near the conference center, the rooms would cost close to $200 per night. Um, that's a lot of money, especially when you're not "rolling in it" like all the employed librarians out there. Even employed librarians have trouble finding funds for conferences.

Obviously, my intention when going to conferences these days is to network and find a job. Usually there are job pavilions at conferences; however, when there aren't very many jobs in the area I live, how can I bet that there will be employers at these job pavilions? You can probably see my dilemma. How do people afford these things?

My solution is to attend events in the area that I live. This may not be ideal, but I already pay rent, so I can't justify spending hundreds on a hotel every night that I'm away. In a way, I'm allowing the opportunities to come to me. Although it may not be working out as well as if I risked attending a conference, I'm making the best out of a less than ideal situation. Hopefully it pans out.

If anyone has any stellar advice as to how I can attend a conference without going broke, could you please contact me? I would love the opportunity to learn more about my profession especially as I feel that I am not fully involved in my profession. Any help would be awesome!

October 10, 2009

Misinformation and the Importance of Information Literacy

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you are aware of the movie 2012 hitting theaters next month. What you may not be aware of are the methods being used to promote the disaster flick. Of course Sony pictures is using the traditional method of film promotion, a trailer and a website, but they are also promoting the movie in a somewhat insidious manner using an alternative trailer and website. I didn't know about this until one morning when I was sitting on my couch drinking coffee and eating breakfast watching television before going to work and a commercial came on. The commercial discussed the coming apocalypse due to some type of catastrophe and that science has confirmed that rumors about the year 2012 are true. As a result, governments are holding a lottery to ensure human survival. Seriously? This is really happening? Science, the most reputable of all meta narratives? Really?

The commercial stunned me a little because it was so convincing. I immediately checked the website the commercial referred to: http://www.instituteforhumancontinuity.org/. Initially, I fell for it. I found myself making plans for an uncertain future. Should I just throw caution to the wind and pursue my real dream of joining a traveling circus? Or, should I continue on my current path of librarianship even though that scenario might never pan out? I'll probably pursue the latter in any event. Fortunately, I was only convinced for all of five minutes that the world was ending because shortly thereafter I used my information literacy skills to find out what's really up. What do we do with sources to determine their validity? Evaluate using the following: Reliability, accuracy and validity, authority, timeliness, and bias.

It didn't take too long for the site to fall apart. Although it looks polished and "scientific", the value of the information crumbles the second it is tested for reliability. There is no reliable information on the site; however, it is a little unsettling that to the untrained eye, finding out that this site is actually a promotional tool for a movie is difficult. It takes a lot of fishing around to discover this fact.

Accuracy and validity are my favorite evaluation tools. Can the information be verified elsewhere? Although you will find a number of sites dedicated to End Times, the majority of them are maintained by fanatics and they are hardly reliable, non-biased sources. Most are backed by vague and mysterious "scientists", otherwise unidentified and uncredentialed. At the moment, I am having trouble finding a reputable source regarding the 2012 Apocaplyse.

At this point, I don't find it necessary to run the gamut of evaluation criteria. I already know this is an advertising scheme for a disaster movie, but what about the people who are duped by the Human Continuity commercial? Associated Press verifies that although many people will do a little homework for some piece of mind, many will forgo research in favor of panic and fear. Although I cannot either confirm or deny the 2012 Apocalypse (although I'm leaning toward the no apocalypse side of the debate), or any other apocalypse for that matter, I can say with complete certainty that there is a world of misinformation and fear mongering on the topic. The thing that bothers me most is the misinformation, which might as well be fear mongering because I can't really think of any other reason to spread misinformation about the end of the world. What is most unsettling is the fact that this little issue is representative of a much larger problem; however, it reaffirms the idea that librarians serve an important function in the information society.

October 7, 2009

Oh Canada...

Being an ex patriot myself, I am always disappointed (but not surprised) to hear that something that is already widely available to Americans is not available to Canadians. Looks like the same is true for Kindle. Canadians know about it: We were discussing the new technology in Library School before I graduated in April, but they just can't seem to get their hands on it yet. What gives? At this point, I have no answers. I am doubtful that I will receive answers in the future. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense as Canada is just as technologically advanced as its neighbor to the south (and north: Alaska). One thing's for sure, these technical delays don't do much to convince the rest of the world that Canada is not in fact a nation of sheltered individuals that are uninvolved in societal advancements.

Kindle, the Competition, and DRM

A link to a recent article in PC World about Amazon's Kindle, it's competition, and the Digital Rights Management (DRM) issue.