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Robin Hastings talks social

We're picking up where we left off on Wednesday in our Info Pro-file with Robin Hastings, blogger for A Passion for 'Puters. We learn her perspective on social libraries, why the industry should sit up and take notice, and how they compare to user-centered libraries. Robin also reveals her favorite blogs, what she likes to read, and whether she's a Mac or PC.
JK: How important do you think the trend towards social libraries is?

RH: Very. I think it is at least as important as the trend towards adding telephone lines to libraries was in the past. This -- the social networks and social tools of Web 2.0 -- is how our users communicate with each other. We need to allow them to use those same tools to communicate with us.

We need to be comfortable with the tools even so that we can communicate with each other within the library world. Most of the contacts I made at Internet Librarian this year are still carrying on the conversations from the conference -- via FriendFeed or Twitter. Without the ability to use these forms of communication, libraries will be left out of the conversation altogether.

JK: What are some challenges you see information professionals facing when they try to implement social libraries?

RH: I hate to say it, but the biggest challenge I see is IT. Many information technology departments have a real fear of opening up their systems to allow Facebook traffic or comments on a blog or IM ports. Many of the questions I see involve folks asking how to convince their IT departments to let them use these methods of communication.

Another challenge I see is the "buy-in" problem -- how to get administration to agree to allow something as difficult to control as a Facebook page for a library. That is starting to get better -- so many libraries are on Facebook now, with no adverse effects, that it's becoming a bit easier to talk administration into doing it, but there are still holdouts!

JK: Are the traditional library software vendors keeping pace with information professionals' needs, or are professionals forced to go to the Web 2.0 world to go social?

RH: Absolutely not. Traditional library software vendors are WAY behind the curve. The advent of open source solutions for things like library automation software with built-in RSS capabilities and with interfaces that are so much more easily modifiable than the ones that "traditional" vendors offer is an excellent start.

JK: Do you see a day when libraries are completely digital?

RH: That's a hard one. As a die-hard paperback book reader (despite all my techy toys, an e-book reader is not something that I own), I have a hard time envisioning a world that has no paper books in it. I'd love to see all *information* become digital -- searchability, indexing and all the good things that come from digital data are a definite benefit to digital information, but when I like to curl up with a book, I prefer it to be soft and in paper.

JK: What's the difference between user-centered and social libraries?

RH: Ohhh! Excellent question -- and one that is near and dear to my heart. There are a lot of libraries who start up accounts on Twitter or Facebook and then just let them slowly die. Those might be social libraries -- they have social accounts and all -- but they aren't user-centered libraries.

As I've said before, this is where our users are -- for many of us. For those of us who don't have users in the social spaces, though, it is a waste of time and effort to be in those spaces. In that case, the library will be completely user-centered by *not* doing any social networking.

For those who do have patrons in the social networks, user-centered libraries find out how they use those networks, what they are looking for from those networks and provide it. The big point being that user-centered libraries discover what their users want -- usually by directly asking them -- and then provide it.

A social library that is not user-centered (and I don't think these terms are in any way exclusive) doesn't know how its patrons are using the tools, they just go out there and do what they think the user might want.

JK: What do you like to read, for entertainment and professionally?

RH: For entertainment, I like trashy romance novels. Or historical/scientific non-fiction. One of the two. For professional purposes, I read books full of code that have names like Visual Design Fundamentals and Agile Web Development With Rails and Practical Networking.

I've been reading the Head First series - right now I'm in the middle of Head First PMP (Project Management Professional) and loving it!

JK: If you could recommend one career-oriented book and one technology-oriented book for librarians, what would they be?

RH: This question is harder to answer than I thought it would be. I think I'm going to answer it in the next question. While I love books, for "keeping up" kind of materials, you really can't beat blogs.

JK: What are your favorite blogs and Web sites?

RH: Personally, I couldn't work without the Read/Write/Web blog. Lots of great information on the Web 2.0 scene and new tool reviews and thought-provoking posts about the concepts of the read/write/web.

That would be my choice for the technology-oriented "book" in the question about book recommendations above, too. Technology moves so fast, it's difficult to keep up using print materials!

As for career-oriented blogs -- I love both Tame The Web by Michael Stephens and the Travelin' Librarian blog -- that last one is by Michael Sauers, the Technology Innovation Librarian of the state of Nebraska Library Commission.

They keep up with both the tech part of libraries and the innovative stuff that folks do in libraries. For library news, I go to LISNews which gives me all the library news I might ever need.

JK: How do you get your new everyday (online, TV, newspaper, blogs, RSS, Twitter, etc.)

RH: My local newspaper doesn't have an RSS feed (bad, bad newspaper ...), but they do e-mail out their headlines each day, so I get my local news through e-mail and TV. The rest of my news pretty much comes to me via FriendFeed, Twitter or a "CNN Breaking News Alert" text message on my phone.

JK: Are you a Mac or a PC?

RH: PC -- with a bit of a Linux bent.

JK: I understand you're a World of Warcraft junkie, and I've noticed a few other bloggers in the library space share your passion. Does World of Warcraft have any connection or use to special libraries in the public sector?

RH: I belong to a guild in World of Warcraft (and a guild is just a kind of group of folks who help each other out and hang out together) that is for librarians and library workers only.

Michael Porter (wow -- there are a lot of Michaels in librarianship!) started the guild and we use it to hang out with people "in world" who understand when we gripe about some library-related thing that happened during the day.

At my library, we've been trying to get Blizzard (the company that created the game) to give us some kind of special dispensation to play WoW in a sort of LAN party -- after hours we'd open up our Public Computer Center and let anyone with an account play together.

I don't think we've gotten a response back yet, but this would be a great program -- something that we could use to get people in the door and aware of the services that the library offers!

JK: Do you have any productivity tips to get more out of each day?

RH: I'm a fan (if not a perfect follower) of the GTD method. David Allen wrote a book a few years ago called Getting Things Done that took the geek world by storm. It's basically a productivity book that seems to work well with the way that techie folks think.

There are a million blogs out there (my favorite is that can explain the system and give you tips on how to customize it for you, but it has helped me focus on what needs to be done next and has improved my ability to, amazingly enough, get things done.

JK: If you had more time in the day, what would you like to do more of?

RH: Read. As it is now, I spend so much time writing, working and getting presentations put together that all my free time is devoted to spending quality time with my son and my significant other. I don't get nearly enough time to just sit down and read.

I'm hoping as my son goes from early teen to mid-teen, that he'll be willing to spend as much time sitting reading with me as he does playing WoW with me, but I'm not holding my breath on that one.
Thanks again for sharing, Robin!

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