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 webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its 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. INALJ has had over 20.5 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians 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 one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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