Author Archives: Alicia Zuniga

Farewell, Google Reader

Was anybody as disappointed as I was when I found out Google will be discontinuing their RSS feed aggregator, Google Reader? I use this tool to fuse together all of my blogger interests in one place: librarianship, fashion, social media and home design. All of these things, that have little to do with one another, can be found in my blogroll. We’re talking at least a hundred subscriptions (I might have problems). How in the world am I going to keep up with them now?

I wasn’t alone in my outrage. I read several articles that other bloggers wrote upset with the termination of a tool that some readers use religiously. However, once I started to delve into other articles, the termination of Google Reader didn’t seem so insane, just extremely premature. There are arguments that RSS feeds are becoming obsolete and no longer useful. I also read arguments saying that RSS feeds are esoteric, or not common to the average technology user. However, an even bigger percentage of tech writers argue that RSS is on the decline, true, but it’s nowhere near being dead. This debate reminded me a lot of our email discussion topic.

So what does this mean for libraries? Well, it’s one less RSS tool that a library can use if they wanted to have their patrons subscribe to their blog, or provide a public RSS feed for patrons to access multiple relevant blogs. It’s also one of the easiest to use (in my opinion), which is frustrating because users will face a learning curve transitioning to another reader. Libraries can also lose a lot of their readers in the shuffle from one reader to another. Some just won’t bother to do it. If libraries are utilizing blogs they should probably have a blog post alerting their readers of the change, and options on alternatives. This is a perfect example of why information professionals need to be up-to-date with changes in the information sphere. Without being alert to this change, they could wonder why their blog analytics have changed all of a sudden.

This also means that libraries may need to search for other digital means to direct traffic to their blog. Cross-publicizing their blog via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and/or Pinterest would be extremely useful in retaining old readers and attracting new ones.

Between now and July 1, I’ll be searching for a suitable replacement for my beloved Google Reader. Suggestions are welcome! 🙂

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MLIS and social media mashup

It’s that time of the year again: scholarship application time, that is. As I began to write down the requested work history for one of them, it asked to specify any library-related experience I had at each job. I hesitated before listing my previous social media position, but ended up writing down my duties anyway. This got me thinking of how relevant a MLIS degree is for working in social media.
1. Curating content
Working at a digital agency requires expertise at searching through the noise and finding relevant information for each client’s account. This means staying up to date with multiple data streams, picking through information overload and developing digital savvy; things we are taught during our LIS course of study. Not only is finding these valuable gems important, but learning how to organize and store them for timely release to the public is also essential (database creation and maintenance, anybody?). We are no longer the gatekeepers of information, but more like helpful road signs guiding a user in the right direction. We can personalize the content that our user is receiving, and users are thankful for this timesaver.
2. Analytics
We have to know how to find information about these users’ activity. There are all kinds of digital tools available to aid us, and choosing one is just as important as the choosing which information is deemed relevant. What useful information are these “likes,” comments, retweets and favorites telling us about the information needs of our users? These are the exciting things that we can put our analytic and research skills to work on.
3. Information visualization
Once we have these analytics, it’s important to present them in a manner that is easily interpretable to the client or funders, or whoever you might be trying to get your message across to. Pulling these random data points together and creating an aesthetically pleasing story is something that LIS students are great at, and may even be a course requirement (like the Info Viz class I’m currently taking).
4. Adapting to users’ habits
Everyone is online now. Using social media is simply adapting to users’ information-seeking patterns. Who better than to take advantage of this than information professionals? We are supposed to be on the cutting edge of every new way information can possibly be disseminated, and social media is no exception. To deny the need for expertise in this area is to live in denial. One need only rewatch the YouTube video we first watched in class to grasp the impact this is having on the way we store and seek information about just about anything.

When people hear I am studying to get my MLIS, they automatically assume that I am going to be a librarian in a traditional public or academic library. These are limitations of the past now. Our job titles and duties are evolving and I think it’s as exciting time as ever to be pursuing this line of study.

Tweet Tweet

Could you have ever imagined a library full of tweets? The Library of Congress is one step closer to making this possible.

Last month, Mashable (one of my favorite sites to get my social media news from) published this article describing the Library of Congress’ work-in-progress to archive all public tweets from Twitter’s inception in 2006 to 2010. The thought of Tweeples’ public tweets neatly arranged and accessible for researchers is such an exciting idea to me! What a great resource for studying the way people communicate online.

Concerning our class topics of Wikis and RSS feeds, I have to wonder if there will be future projects concerning the social media archival systems. What about one for blogs that contains a searchable database of public blog entries? Or a tracking system for all edits of public Wikis like Wikipedia? There is potential for this in the corporate and nonprofit library sector as well, as I see that tonight there will be an SLIS presentation concerning records management by SocialArchive for organizations’ and companies’ social media accounts.

As exciting as this is for a research-loving nerd like myself, it’s also a bit frightening when I take privacy into consideration. True, this is all public information, but the thought of my 2006 self’s (a mere college freshman!) tweets on display within the Library of Congress is cringe-inducing. BRB, going to go delete some potentially embarrassing messages 140 characters in length or less…

Instagrammin’

Lately I’ve been obsessed with the photo-sharing platform Instagram. Instagram exploits the fact that us humans are highly visual creatures and created a social network solely dedicated to sharing snapshots of users’ lives. The creators of this app were very intent on making sure it only be used to snap on-the-go photos by restricting uploads to those from smart phones. This ensured that users wouldn’t use the app merely as a photo aggregator where batch photos could be uploaded from their laptop just as they can with Facebook or other social networks. It wasn’t until recently that users’ profiles were even viewable online without a mobile device. Even so, capabilities on the non-mobile version are extremely limited. This, to me, is what sets this platform apart from other photo-sharing networks.

Another appealing aspect is their photo filters. This allows each user to edit their photos by choosing one of the several predetermined filters until it appears to their liking. Who doesn’t enjoy feeling a little bit more like a professional photographer? This ensures the most aesthetically pleasing photo for the user editing it and for users consuming it. Instagram has been my go-to app to view pretty things (photography, blogger outfits and collages).

I can see libraries using Instagram just like any other user does: to share snippets of its daily happenings. When I worked as a social media assistant in a digital agency, I learned that users want to see humanizing posts, not merely adds or calls to action. Seeing what goes on behinds the scenes at the library, during lesser-known programs or showing some personality from staff can really go a long way to make an information institution more appealing. It also has the potential to elucidate the fact that libraries are not just books anymore by providing visual evidence to the contrary.