Saturday 4 June 2022

Blogjune Day 4 - Though you're miles and miles away, I see you every day...

Today's question: How important is an online presence for an information professional?

But first! Today's song to set the tone... press play and read on.

As today is my nominated, the rules dictate that I must first answer these questions three:

1. What do I currently do for a living?

I am the Marketing Coordinator at Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres, located close to the heart of Canberra's CBD. I've been there for three months now, in a maternity leave backfill role. Like my previous communications and marketing roles, my work is primarily involved in delivering online communications, such as web content, electronic direct marketing and and social media. It's a great mix of writing, editing and proofreading, and I'm constantly learning a lot, especially when I collaborate with designers and, lately, web developers. I also find that these kinds of roles allow me to work across many sections in the organisation, as well as a cross section of the community and stakeholders, and in doing so, I build a broad understanding of what my organisation does and how people can best connect with the organisation.

2. What three words would I use to describe my role?

Connection, community, stories.

3. What is my biggest achievement to date - personal or professional?

It would have to have been in September 2006, when I made the decision to move by myself from Melbourne to Darwin, to take on my first professional role at Charles Darwin University. It was the first time that I challenged myself well and truly out of my comfort zone, having never lived away from Melbourne until that point. Had I not made that decision, and developed both professionally and personally through that experience, I might not have made other consequent decisions that have continued to create lifelong memories and professionally valuable experiences. It taught me to be comfortable taking risks, push through the challenges, and not to be discouraged by failure. It made me a better person.

And now, for the main question... the importance of online presence for information professionals.

It's interesting that I mention 2006, because it's the year that Twitter was born. When I moved to Darwin in September, the Twitterers was still a little-known entity. However, for me, it was all about the biblioblogosphere - the world of library bloggers. It was then that I encountered Libraries Interact - self-described as 'a thali of library treats', it was an online hub for library bloggers - many of whom I still connect with to this day - and some of whom are still blogging for #blogjune! For me, as a new librarian living a relatively professionally and socially isolated life in Darwin (though, to be fair, the local librarian network was incredibly active and supportive!) the biblioblogosphere was a lifeline for me to connect with librarians around Australia and the world through our blogging. So, in that context, an online presence was incredibly important!

Jump forward five years to 2011, and I took something of a hiatus from the library world online. I was frustrated with aspects of the professional sector, and was exploring new opportunities and adventures. It was strangely easy to disconnect from the library-related online channels - though I still remained socially connected through blogging (particularly a year of video-blogging around Asia!). It wasn't until 2016 that I started reconnecting with the library world, on my return to Australia after living overseas on and off for years, and found that the online library world was now all over the Twitterverse.

For me, Twitter was for connecting with the professional world, and Instagram was for connecting with my personal world. I maintained my Facebook account only to stay connected to a number of close online communities that I participate in. Twitter, in particular, was an intense channel for immersing ones self in multiple parallel and interconnecting conversations all at once - particularly in unpacking central professional principles, and challenging the status quo. I loved it, but it could also be overwhelming at times, being swept along in the virtual wave of radical ideas. When this was good, it was amazing. When it was bad - it was horrid. For me, it reached breaking point amid the height of the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, which in itself was the low point in a series of personally challenging events. I had to switch off, and whilst it was hard to resist switching off at the time, two years later I feel little FOMO or a need to really engage in this channel.

So, to answer the question - yes, information professionals need to understand how to manage an online presence. This is the world we live in, and if we are to understand this world of information-seeking behaviour, then we need to learn by doing and interacting. As a new professional, this was essential in making my mark in the professional world and connecting with my peers. But now, more than 15 years on, I'm quite happy to stand back and prioritise other aspects of my life. I do still stay connected - after all, I'm still writing here - and the thing that I 'currently do for a living' is primarily about maintaining an online presence for my organisation. But I also know when to switch off, and maintain a comfortable balance.

For the most part, I'm content (pun intended) to post semi-regularly on Instagram to remind my networks that, yes, I'm still here, life is good, and I hope that you're all doing well too. However far it seems, we'll always be together in electric dreams.

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