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December 10, 2013 / Christian M.

Social Media & The Work/Life Balance


Photo by silversolo (on flickr)
Click photo for larger view.

Today was a Snow Day here in the Washington, DC area. To be honest, I was hoping to sleep in, do some housecleaning, and just relax a bit. My weekend was hectic, and I still needed some recovery time. However, due to the wonders of technology, the Associate Fellow’s curriculum continued as scheduled. Instead of an in-person class, we listened to presentations online via Adobe Connect. Our last session of the day was a discussion on social media via a (video) Google Hangout with staff from the Specialized Information Services – Outreach to Special Populations Branch (SIS/OSP). I really enjoyed this social media session. I like talking and learning about social media and how librarians can optimize its use in the profession.

The presenters shared about their own experience with social media and how they are using it within the SIS/OSP division of the National Library of Medicine. Here are some of my notes and thoughts from the conversation.

Is social media use a necessary skill? I think we all agreed that social media is increasing in use by librarians to promote libraries and their services and products. Is social media use a necessary skill for all librarians to have, and should they be using it outside of work? I say yes and yes. There are certain social media platforms that are very beneficial to networking and promoting yourself in the profession, specifically LinkedIn, Twitter, and web services that enable you to create e-portfolios. Also, since many libraries may not have the funds to hire someone specifically to manage the social media, it is beneficial for any librarians to be able to contribute in that area and help share the responsibility. Communicating in the online world is the way of the present and even more so the future. I can understand those who are not as comfortable or who have not had the time to fully explore social media. I don’t think the average librarian needs to know everything about all of the social networks. My advice would be to just pick one (or two) platforms and become proficient with them, and for the rest just be aware of their existence and maybe which ones are most popular. At the moment I use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, WordPress, and Google Sites. I honestly don’t know too much about other platforms at this time. The staff talked about how libraries are using Pinterest. But I’ve never been interested in Pinterest, so I haven’t paid it much attention…I think I should become a little more familiar with it though.

The need to have strategies for managing social media accounts. Some of the SIS staff’s strategies for Twitter include: planning and uploading tweets three months in advance, writing evergreen tweets (reusable), using HootSuite to manage multiple accounts, writing tweets related to health observances, and using interns to write some of the tweets. I found this helpful because I am really struggling with keeping up with my blog. I often think of topics to write about, but I don’t make the time to write regular posts. So I think I should develop a strategy or structured approach for updating my blog and see if that helps me maintain a more consistent presence. I also should think a little more about what I want my voice to be, what is the goal of this blog? Right now, it’s more of a professional “diary” where I share my experiences and my journey through librarianship. Should I keep this approach or try something new? Decisions, decisions.

1323778123_yq0u3dkn5ztu8xlKnowing when and how to separate personal and professional life on social media. This was a really interesting part of the discussion for me. Because my views have shifted somewhat over the past couple of years. I used to strive for anonymity on most of my social media accounts. But then I wanted to be intentional about networking and adding my voice to the online conversation of the library science field. If I said something particularly useful or profound, I wanted people to be able to attribute those thoughts to my real identity and not a “false” persona. However, this is a decision each person has to make for themselves, and it took a little time for me to feel comfortable with putting my real name on my public social media accounts.

Then you have to decide whether you will discuss your workplace over social media and what the boundaries of those conversations should be. Also, do you want to add co-workers to your social media networks? For me, I use Facebook for personal use. I originally intended to only include friends and family — and no coworkers. However, that has changed some. I do have a handful of professional contacts–mostly people I met while in library school and now we are transitioning (or have already transitioned) into professional roles. I feel somewhat torn because these could be my future co-workers or bosses (the library world is small). It’s not that I post anything negative, I just like keeping that one online space as personal. Would it be offensive to delete them? Am I overreacting? As for whether I discuss work, I usually avoid talking about the people I work with. However, I feel comfortable talking about my library customers and have often shared funny stories of interactions at the reference desk (while keeping their identity anonymous). However, others might not want to talk about their workplace at all.

How connected to work and the online world should you be? Wireless internet and mobile devices create a ubiquitous connection to social media, email accounts, and the workplace. If desired, we can stay plugged in to work and the online world. Someone I know doesn’t own a smartphone and is very intentional about separating home from work. When she’s home, she wants to be unplugged from the online world. Another person I know owns a smartphone, but does not have a work email connected to her phone. She doesn’t want the expectation that she needs to respond during her off-hours. In my previous job, I did have my work email come to my phone. But there was rarely anything that I needed to respond to immediately. In my current position, I do not have my work email connected to my phone, but mainly because I haven’t taken the time to figure out if it’s possible (I have a NIH email account). It’s probably for the best. As for social media, I’m on Facebook…too much. But that’s what I use for connecting with friends and family. I used to login in to my professional accounts much more often, but since starting this fellowship, I have not kept up as much (hence the lack of blog posts). Days or sometimes weeks can go by now without me logging in. For me, I think that goes back to strategizing. I need a plan. I just don’t have the energy to be on all those accounts every day, but maybe I should make a plan to login and contribute to them all at least once or twice a week. We’ll see.

Talk to me! 🙂 Are you an avid social media user? How do you separate professional and personal life? Are you ever unplugged from the online world?

A couple of years ago, I participated in 23 Things for Professional Development. A couple of those posts discussed social media.



Leave a Comment
  1. Evelyn N. Alfred / Dec 11 2013 5:25 am

    I’m unplugged while I’m sleeping…

    • LibGirl09 / Dec 11 2013 7:15 pm

      lol, I think that is becoming more of the norm…only unplugging at bedtime.

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