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October 31, 2012 / playforth

Internet librarians and librarians on the internet

This week it was the Internet Librarian 2012 conference. I’m not going to do a full write-up here, because I was only there for one day and there were three parallel tracks, so my experience feels even more incomplete than usual. What I will be doing is going back to Twitter, not so much for the full conference archive which even in bitesize chunks might be hard to digest, but for my own tweets. This isn’t because I’m vain (though I am), but because by definition the tweets I bothered to compose and send represent the messages I wanted to take away, and share with others. And the act of tweeting, condensing what I’m hearing into 140 characters, is an enforced real-time summary – which saves me some of the work of summarising again after the fact when reflecting or reporting back to others. For a snapshot that I don’t need to keep forever I tend to use Twitter’s own advanced search, which isn’t great but works well for this exercise (ie combining a hashtag with a ‘from’ operator:  #ili2012 from:archelina).

Speaking of Twitter, there was an interesting comment in the closing plenary today about the fact that so many of us were glued to our mobile devices, even in breaks, rather than interacting with those around us. I agreed with the commenter that sitting in silence round a lunch table all absorbed in our separate online worlds is not exactly healthy, but at the same time I can’t imagine a conference without Twitter. It’s partly the way it extends the reach of the conference itself by letting people follow without attending in person. It’s partly the lively backchannel that it provides in parallel to (and sometimes in oppposition to, or spiralling out from) the live conference. But it’s mainly because I’m shy, and Twitter is like a sandbox for social/professional interaction that lets me build relationships (whether based around gin, dresses, The Archers, repositories, cataloguing or all of the above) before actually taking the plunge and introducing myself to someone in real life. In other words, I’m more likely to speak to people at conferences if I’ve ‘met’ them online already, and my professional life is much better now I have this option. (I’d probably never have take the step of actually *presenting* at a conference if it wasn’t for Twitter and my connections and support there.) It works the other way too, with real life events and networking enriching my Twitter life; by the end of today I had a dozen new followers who’d been at the conference. So yes, I’ll still be packing my trusty tablet next time I go to an event. But no ‘tweating’ (tweeting with one hand while having lunch with other), I promise…

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