School librarians are sometimes lonely.
We may be the only librarian in our buildings, or even the only librarian in our districts. There’s no one with whom to share the triumphs (the kids TOTALLY saw how those two stories were related!) and frustrations (why is this book covered with snot?) of daily life in the library media center.
One of the great changes for career librarians in the last few years has been the rise of social media: sites that not only let you share your own pictures, audio, text, and other content, but let others rate, comment on, or even change your content. Static websites could provide information, but not much in the way of interaction. E-mail, e-mail lists, and online forums were the next step. Some, like the still-vigorous LM_Net, were among the first to make digital connections a reality for teacher librarians. Then came a veritable explosion of blogs, wikis, photo-sharing, podcasting, video-sharing websites, and the virtual world was changed.
Twitter is often described as a microblogging platform–a way of making tiny little 140-character blog posts, to which friends, family, and colleagues can immediately reply. I’ve written about Twitter before, when my science teacher husband showed me how NASA has been using social media to communicate with the public. Twitter’s power lies in the brevity of the posts, and the immediacy of the feedback. My husband’s metaphor for Twitter is that it’s like walking through a huge crowd–you overhear lots of conversations, and after a while, you might venture a few words yourself. Once you’ve met a few people, they introduce you to yet more. (This reminds me irresistibly of the old Faberge shampoo commercials, featuring the girls who told two friends about their marvelous hair products…”and THEY’LL tell two friends, and THEY’LL tell two friends, and so on, and so on…)
Now that I am part of a network on Twitter and other social sites like VoiceThread, Flickr, Delicious, and a few other sites, I find that without expecting to be, I’m now part of a network–a Personal Learning Network–of educators who respond to my queries; send me links to other teachers, articles and web tools; guide me to best practices in education, and occasionally even profess to be amused by my humor. I recently used Twitter, along with LM_Net, to gather ideas for a 15-minute conference with my new principal, and to follow the discussion at a conference I wasn’t able to attend in person. (This is nothing like reading summaries or blog posts after the fact–I was reading comments in real time. Pretty cool. ) I’m using a Twitter widget on my library website to keep families updated, and I’ve found some great school librarians to follow on the Twitter4Teachers wiki. I’ve met some fellow “tweachers, ” too, and contrary to public opinion about meeting “online friends,” not one of them was an axe murderer.
Thank you, PLN, I’ll never be lonely again. Now, if you could only help me with the snot-covered book…