Lurk and Learn: Take Advantage of Library Social Media as a New or Aspiring Librarian

by Caitlin Moen, former Head Editor, INALJ Louisiana
previously published 12/18/13 & 7/11/14

Lurk and Learn: Take Advantage of Library Social Media as a New or Aspiring Librarian

Caitlin MoenWhen I was in library school I had never worked in a library or really had any connection to the library community.  I knew there were communities and individuals out there, but I was a little lost on where to look or how to integrate myself into a seemingly already cohesive community.  I am naturally a bit of an introvert, so it makes it much harder for me to insert myself into a group already in existence.

Enter my new strategy: lurk and learn.  It started with the Library Society of the World (LSW) group on Friendfeed, which a friend introduced me to. There are amazing and prolific individuals on there having real life discussions about real life library issues.  I joined, introduced myself, then fell silent – watching the posts and reading about what professional librarians were struggling with, what their successes were, and what they got truly excited about.

I expanded my lurking to include the twitter-verse.  I hate tweeting – I never think what I have to say is that interesting and I never know where to draw the line between the professional and personal within the tweets. But I don’t actually have to tweet – just follow people who do and see what they’re all talking about.

Then I found the ALA Think Tank on Facebook. This is a 5,000+ member group that has no affiliation with ALA – it was just started by ALA members who initially used the group to plan their ALA activities and talk about libraries in the interim times.  It has grown to be an enormous group of librarians and others interested in libraries, and every day there are discussions about programming, requests for help on reader’s advisory, queries about policies, and discussions about the library world.  There is some chaff to weed through – 5,000 members and a commitment to not censoring discussions leads to some obligatory cat posts and inevitable drama.  But it’s easy to avoid the drama when you’re lurking and absorbing what others have to say, and there are some real, quality discussions happening in the group.

I love online lurking in the library social media world. I absorb so much – I’m made aware of issues that have no real applicability to my current situation, but that I’m interested in as an aspect of my profession.  All the information helps to keep my brain awake when I am feeling stagnant.  And inevitably, lurking and learning leads to…. participating.

That’s right – at some point, as you are lurking and watching and reading, there will be a question that you cannot HELP but answer.  Or someone looking for empathy on the exact situation you are in. Or someone sharing information you KNOW to be wrong, and as a librarian, you need to step in 😉  Or someone talking about a book they loved that you loved too, and you never knew anyone else who had read it.

This is the glory of the lurk and learn.  You start doing it because you don’t know enough to participate and you don’t feel qualified to contribute.  But before you know it, all that lurking and all that learning has helped make you a more experienced and more comfortable information professional.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ has had over 20 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.