An introvert by nature, I am not intimately familiar with many social networking tools. In fact, the word “networking” sometimes makes my skin crawl. I have the sort of low-grade social anxiety that means I don’t go out to bars or parties or anywhere that I don’t have an errand to run, because I find it stressful. I will readily admit the importance of social networking in general, both online and offline, but I am very bad at it.
The internet is an incredibly useful tool for people like me, who understand the value of social networking but find themselves plagued by dry mouth, shaky hands, and absent brain when it comes to the face-to-face thing. It gives us the opportunity to consider what we want to say before we blurt it out, and it removes the physical entity of the other person, which can help with the anxiety. I’ve heard some extroverts complain about how hard it is to communicate with others online, but I have found it to be a godsend.
Libraries can use this to their advantage – “this” being the newfound freedom of introverts and the socially anxious. For instance, virtual reference can remove the “gosh, I think this is a stupid question and I don’t want the librarian to think I’m stupid” barrier (that’s a working name). By taking advantage of internet-based services, including social networking sites, libraries can make themselves more available and attractive to a largely ignored part of the patron base.
With this availability comes its less-acknowledged but equally-important sibling, interaction. Interaction is a cornerstone of Web 2.0, and libraries could really stand to benefit from it. Despite Web 2.0 technologies gaining ground every day, there is still a dominant “if you build it, they will come” mentality about web presence. But in order to really succeed and engage the target audience, libraries will need to interact with their patrons and stakeholders. This seems like common sense, but it doesn’t always survive the translation from brick-and-mortar to online. Librarians give strength to libraries, and social media tools allow them to reach out to their patrons more than ever.
As for the online communities part of this week’s lecture – what a coincidence! Moments before I opened the link to this week’s lecture, I signed up for an account on Ravelry. As an avid knitter, I felt it was my time to join this particular community. I may have painted myself as socially avoidant, but when it comes to things I enjoy doing, I am quite happy to explore new avenues. This goes double for areas where I have the opportunity to help other people with my existing knowledge. Are your purl stitches sagging? Can’t find the right side of your work? Finding yourself with too many stitches on your needles? Afraid to tangle with the octopus-like snarl of double pointed needles? Overwhelmed by abundant acronyms like M1, YO, DH, DPN and LYS? I can help you! And I love helping. Even in person, the urge to assist can overpower the tendency to keep distant.
As soon as I signed up, I got a message in my on-site inbox with a ton of useful links – including a Ravelry wiki! How cool is that? (That was rhetorical; I think it’s very cool.) And their search engine has me salivating – it combines search and browse on one page, with accessible filters that are applied as soon as you select them. This is so sleek. I know I’m supposed to be joining the community part of things, but I am having some serious difficulty dragging myself away from the free patterns.
There are a number of knitting groups in the Ottawa area, but I’m going to get a bit more familiar with the site before I join any of them. I may keep you updated in future posts, though! For now, I’ve joined the new users group and posted an introductory message. The posts I’m seeing in the forums are generally quite civil, despite all the warnings in the rules about playing nice with others – maybe they’ve had serious issues in the past. There’s something it’s easy to forget about Web 2.0 and other interactive technologies – people cannot be counted on to be polite or kind.