Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thing 3 (Part 1) : Online presence, branding and advertising

Thing 3 requires us to consider personal "branding" and reflect on our own online presence. On reading the cpd23 blogpost, my first thought was "oh no! I'm doing everything wrong!" - no consistency, no picture of me, multiple forms of name - in fact I can't condense it all into one post.

By happy coincidence, to break out of the library echo chamber for a moment, journalists have been having a similar conversation among themselves this week. It's inspired by the idea that Web 2.0 enables individuals to escape the corporate identity of their employers (which is why some don't like it), creating an identity of their own, or "brand", which in times of insecure employment may be very important.

The concept of "branding" provokes strong feelings. I enjoyed Tom Roper's blog comments (and found much I agreed with): or, for a laugh, look at this robust response to a student from Gene Weingarten. At the same time, I do really like the careful way Jo Alcock has approached her online presence, with the purple flower theme across different platforms, and her consistent name use.

I've mainly been a public sector person, but my mother worked in the strange nicotine-fuelled hothouse world of advertising in the 1950s/1960s - real life "Mad Men" - so I've always been aware of some of the tricks (hence my dollop of cynicism - I can spot a publicity puff a mile off), understanding from an early age that the point is to promote and sell the product. 1950s jingles and slogans did just that (some are still memorable and even still in use today), whereas later more indulgently arty ads seemed to be challenging the viewer to guess what the product was. No use, according to my mother, if you don't remember the name. Moral: a clear message with attractive packaging = sales.

I don't think of myself as marketing a product. I'm not planning to change my job, although in these turbulent times who knows what the future holds? I do however think that considering how we present ourselves online is important to us all. I'm going to skip the name thing for now, as "it's complicated" (mix of common names, doppelgangers,Welsh names, the Welsh language, and marriage). I did the "vanity" Google search using various versions of my name, the best results coming from "Helen + Price + Saunders". Adding "library" to this puts "The Sol and Helen Price Library" at the top - yay! A Helen Price Library!- with the next three hits being me, all from the library staff page at my place of work. Not everything about us on the web is within our control! I found one annoying thing, the ubiquitous which pops up high on Google searches.You get a result for a name (in this case, just me), with partial postcode and town in 2002 (an out-of-date address for that year), and a long list of people I've never heard of allegedly living with me. Who are they? It was a tiny house! Everyone who ever lived in the house? The street? The whole company of saints? Apparently you can get yourself removed from this site, so that's on my "to do" list now. I also found something nice, a "thank you" on the website of Cymdeithas Melinau Cymru (The Welsh Mills Society), which I'd never seen before, which was lovely.

I treat all online communication as potentially open to the world. As I'm a bit late to all of this I haven't got as much to consider as some! I have never had a blog before; I do have a Twitter account, which is not locked down, and I'm happy to be followed by colleagues and anyone else. It's a mixture of personal and professional. I also have a Facebook account -  more privacy settings on that but I don't post much on it and there is nothing there which couldn't be read by anyone (not posted by me, anyway!) - and I'm registered with Plaxo (which I never remember to look at). I try to treat email in a fairly cautious way, as it only takes one click for someone to forward electronic communications far beyond their intended audience. If I really needed somewhere to express things I didn't want particular people to read, I would dig out my fountain pen and ink, revive my old diary, and use that - cold revenge is safer! Seriously, no potential employer is going to be thrilled to read lots of negative or incoherent stuff, so if you are job-hunting, tread carefully in the Web 2.0 world.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Thing 2 : meeting the neighbours

Thing 2 in the CPD23 things programme is "investigate other blogs", find some of interest, follow, comment and generally get used to how the whole thing works and find out who else is taking part. There are so many! I'm sure I've missed many that are relevant to me and hope to stumble across them via tags - or serendipity - which come to think of it is probably how our catalogue works too.

I've found four colleagues from my own workplace so far, including a cataloguing colleague's blog darksideofthecatalogue, and Notes from the basement (featuring our special collections where I spend some of my time with the rare books), and lots of people who are already Twitter contacts, but I'm also hoping to reach out a bit and find the ones I don't already know in real life or online.

As my career, if that's what it is, has been quite diverse, I have a fairly wide range of points of interest (cataloguing, subject librarianship, public libraries, special collections, rare books, Welsh). I've found some blog names I like, e.g. ones with literary or cultural references such as Palely loitering and Libraries gave us power. I'm looking forward to following Adventures of a Welsh Librarian, from the National Library of Wales (one of the many places I've been associated with!) : it's a partly bilingual blog, too, which I also considered doing although I think for the purposes of CPD23 I will stick to English as there don't seem to be many Welsh-speaking participants. This may change later on once I have a better feel for how I might use the blog in future. Name and appearance make a big difference, sort of "kerb appeal" for blogs : I need to work out how everyone else is doing all the clever things which make their blogs look so professional, and I still need to come up with a better name for my own.   And finally, a trivial fact : a lot of people called Helen work in libraries!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Thing 1 : CPD 23 things

Having signed up for CPD23, I have spent quite a lot of today dithering about how to go about "Thing 1". The blog's name will probably change, as I hope will its appearance, but in the end I thought I had better just get started and refine the details later! I'm looking forward to CPD23, and hoping that it will help me not to get left behind in the rapidly changing library landscape. Librarians of my generation have had to adapt to enormous change - I sometimes think that it has been our equivalent of living through the Industrial Revolution - and yet we will still need to keep up and remain employable for many years to come. I'm hoping that the blog may be an aid to professional reflection, perhaps in a more manageable form than annual appraisals, and I'm also hoping that writing things down in front of witnesses might be a useful discipline.

I've had what one of my interviewers in my current post described as "a chequered career" - "no, no, you have broad experience", said another senior ex-librarian - progressing from special to academic to public to special to public to academic library. I now work part time at Cardiff University in a hybrid role, which is roughly two thirds cataloguing and one third subject liaison for the School of Welsh.