June 16th, 2011

Embedded Librarianship Via Twitter

A long time ago (May 2008) in a .blogspot far away when I was a brand new librarian, I opined about the Medical Library Association (MLA)

We promote anytime/anywhere access to information and resources in the most efficient way possible for our users, and I want to be part of whatever it takes to do the same for our own organization plus encourage this vital sense of community. I have other online community friends of 8+ years I have never met yet we’re closer than family. My dear mentor has given me everything with a fellowship for my education and has asked for nothing. The time for me to give back and have the most effective and lasting impact is now. Highly ambitious words for a 3-week-old, I know, but it’s a vision I have and can’t let die.

The medical library field has made a lot of progress with involvement on Twitter and other social media channels since then. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has had a social media directory since April 2010. Yeah!

Consider a sampling of my blog history directly related to librarians’ involvement in social media, particularly Twitter:

  1. A tweet for change: #PubMed (January 2009 – a call for sharing medical librarian-related input using that hashtag before spammers took over, wondering in April 2010 if it should again be a feedback tool, but now everyone uses it.)
  2. ACRL 2009 – Social Networking Literacy Competencies for Librarians (March 2009 – including Librarians who are social networking-literate must be able to apply their current skills and curiosity to emerging and evolving resources)
  3. Crashing the #hcsm party (November 2009, another shoutout to engaged medical librarians involved in non-medlib hashtag chat)
  4. Health Literacy and Twitter Synergy: #healthlit (October 2010, cover of the first organized health literacy chat and firehose experience that the CDC Health Out Loud blog noted. This is a great example of how helpful embedded librarianship can be for audiences on Twitter.)

Michelle Kraft elaborated well with What is the Purpose of an Association? upon the original MLA Connections post MLA’s Future.

One possibility may be encouraging involvement in hashtag chats. They are a valuable health information service and advocacy/outreach tool that medical  librarians who are already active social media users should be participating in now. Anecdotally I think I see this happening more. Why limit participation to the already active? Because 38% of the MLA 2011 attendees who used the #mlanet11 hashtag on Twitter only did so once for the free drink coupon. You can’t fully engage as a one tweet wonder – it takes time, perseverance, and showing what you know and have to offer to build relationships, trust and connections in both online and other communities.

I was rather surprised by yesterday’s guest #hcsmca (Canadian twist on #hcsm above) post of Get out from behind the stacks: sharing health information with online communities. I see very engaged Canadian medical librarians doing quite well for themselves and their organizations on Twitter while encouraging their colleagues’ participation, particularly with @giustini‘s HLWiki Canada Social media for information professionals resources and I plan to attend @danhooker‘s Practicing Social Media in Health and Healthcare webcast Thursday June 15th at 1pm Pacific time.

How does the online medical library community connect with one another to learn? Ages ago I took over management of the Group Tweet account @medlibs when hashtags were much more cumbersome to find and follow than they are now.  When there is a reciprocal following relationship (if you do not clearly indicate in your profile or by your tweets that you are a student or library-related type, I don’t follow back) a direct message sent to the account is then sent as a tweet to all followers. @medlibs  is still a good way to share one message with over 1,300 interested parties and avoids spam but hashtags are a way for everyone to participate whether or not they are medical librarians. Is it time for the widespread promotion of #medlibs as an international community? Something else?

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