Social Networking in Rural Areas

September 25, 2009

Earlier this week I did a presentation in a more rural area of my home state related to social media.

The presentation has been done in a few other areas of the state and I felt the crowd while maybe not wholly engaged was at least somewhat listening and understanding what was being said.  That wasn’t the case in this audience of rural area dwellers.

When asking the questions about how many have MySpace or Facebook or otherwise engage in the world of social media, the hands up were fewer than expected.

The blank eyes gazing back at me when I talked about applying social media strategically in both a research and business procedure manner was shocking.

I guess what I’m trying to get at here is that we mustn’t forget that while Social Media may be old hat to geeks like me, not everyone understands it and despite the millions of Facebook users there are millions more who do not update their status and live and breathe mobile technology that keeps them connected with their social network.

Lesson learned: never anticipate that your audience knows what you are talking about and always be ready to adjust your presentations to get them to a comfortable level that allows them to get something for their time, effort and money.

Constance Ard September 25, 2009


Martindale-Hubbell Connected

September 21, 2009

After this weekend’s interest in my post about Martindale-Hubbell listings and the comment made by M-H interests I thought M-H Connected warranted a bit of attention on my part.  I had this on my radar earlier in the year while it was still a closed network in beta form but it dropped off the screen before it was opened up to the wider community.

Even during my preparation for the Kentucky Law Update 2009 CLE session I have been presenting throughout the state of Kentucky, Connected wasn’t grabbing enough attention.  In the two presentations done thus far out of about 100-125 attendees per session only one person has responded affirmatively when asked if they are a member of M-H Connected.  Thus I don’t feel guilty about not having written about this specialized networking tool.

So this morning I decided to sign-up for an account and do a test run.  The Terms of Use I am happy to say make it very clear that practicing attorneys (which I am not one of) are held to Professional Rules of Conduct.  M-H reserves the right to monitor and prevent postings in the Interactive area and my account was not immediately confirmed.

All of these are positive things when using a tool in the world of law practice.  Since I am not an attorney and I don’t fit most of the ready-made registration categories, I am glad that M-H is manually verifying my right to participate in this closed community.

The closed community aspect of M-H Connected leaves me scratching my head.  Social media is about networking.  There are many tools that have already built strong participants without closing the community.

Martindale-Hubbell Connected very succinctly defines their purpose:

Expand participants professional network.

Get “just-in-time” trusted answers.

Demonstrate thought leadership.

Social NetworkingFor those who have been using social networking tools prior to 2009, this is a bit of a reinvention of the wheel.  Sure, Connected is for legal professionals, but Linked-In offers those same 3 solutions and allows for broader networking.  If legal professionals can only benefit from the advise of other legal professionals, that’s a problem.  I don’t believe any legal professional limits their networking to those of the same likeness, otherwise they have no growth opportunities either for business partnerships, potential clients, business solutions or intellectual engagement.

Now, that being said I don’t think M-H Connected is a bad idea.  In the world of information overload sometimes, it is an advantage to seek information in a focused, selected source. Legal professionals will certainly benefit from that selectiveness offered by M-H Connected.  However, if that’s the only social media tool they are using, they will find themselves as a distinct disadvantage when applying business strategy to the Web 2.0 world of interconnectedness.

Constance Ard September 21, 2009


Weapons of Research, Where and How I Learned to Wield Them

August 30, 2009

Over the weekend, I have been busy researching for an ongoing project.  I had some time to kill yesterday afternoon while my companion was busy.  So I rolled into my favorite Louisville Free Public Library Branch, Crescent Hill, and hit the computer station.  I logged into my library account, accessed the EBSCO databases and commenced my searches.

I had no paper, I wasn’t using my computer and I didn’t even have my USB drive.  Before I headed to the library, my companion asked, how will you be able to research?  Until I logged into the databases and realized I could save items to my folders, I wasn’t sure how I would deal with this problem.  The cloud is very beneficial to mobility and research on the fly of an otherwise playful Saturday.

After we spent some time catching up on the print Harper’s and GQ and were driving back, my companion and I reflected on how we used to do research.  We were both history majors in college.  The college we attended was a small private college with a small library.  Both of us used the Interlibrary Loan services heavily.  We definitely knew our librarians by first name and ERIC was like magic.

The old way of research used specific Title/Autho/Subjects access methods.

The old way of research used specific Title/Autho/Subjects access methods.

We used a mixture of print indexes and dedicated databases.  Our library still had the card catalog, but they also had a very simple OPAC.  Our computer lab was full of AB switches and WordPerfect 4.0 was so much better than the electric typewriters.  In my theses course, my professor said there was no way the paper could be written in two nights, (draft and final due dates) but that’s exactly how I did the writing.  My dorm room was full of books, all open to the indexes and out came a great paper, lost along the way, on Women Rulers…(I can’t even remember  the title now.)

Today, the research is easier and more convenient, but I wonder, if I would be as good at it as I am without the experience I had as an undergraduate.  The process was harder, my professors and librarians had clear expectations of following the process and when I spent a semester in the Master’s History program  at the University of Kentucky, I was better prepared than many of my fellow students.

Research requires awareness and intelligence.  Google and other search engines make keyword searching much easier but I think that ease causes some  loss in the research process.  Researchers rarely go beyond the first few results and the game of SEO makes it easy for the the best sources to get pushed to page to 2 or 3.

Index terms were necessary to find the relevant sections of the sources I used when a college student and I still tend to disregard books that don’t have good indexes.  Social tags are not nearly as reliable as structured taxonomies.  I know the value of expert indexing and rely upon that.  Keyword searching is easy but it only takes me so far.  EBSCO provided me the structured terms and Boolean searching I require for my current project.  I’m glad I had the research experience from college and the skills and knowledge I gained as I completed my Masters of Library Science. Without it my research process would be flawed and my projects would not be as accurate and relevant as they should be.

Today’s information users don’t always know what they are missing because they don’t understand the importance of information structure and the research process.  Information literacy is a constant battle in college and universities.  My academic library colleagues work hard to partner with professors so that these important skills can be passed on.  They use innovate methods and mediums such as Second Life to reach the student where the student lives.  The battle goes on and smart information users will arm themselves with the weapons they can learn from their librarians.  I’m glad I still have those weapons.

Constance Ard August 30, 2009


Call for Information Professionals to Take Charge

June 26, 2009

I may be misinterpreting Stephen Arnold’s words with my headline, but if you read his post here and disagree with my interpretation, the comments field is open.

As a law librarian, I took on the training of summer associates, fall associates and partners.  Their training needs were based upon the fact that they underutilized the power of the commercial databases at their disposal and didn’t use the free resources on the Internet to their greatest advantage.

Librarians are continuously learning and expanding their own knowledge base.  Partnering with vendors to maximize the powerful information collected in commercial services is just one way to win friends and influence users.

Keyword search with Google is so easy because most people are looking for those top indexed terms.  Applying the Google method of search to complex information collections does not assure accurate results.  If you are searching within a specific industry’sdata and that industry serves multiple audiences that use similar terms that talk about vastly different topics,  you will understand that search is more than keywords.

Taxonomies, language structure, database structure and more affect how information is retrieved.  The average user doesn’t think beyond their own interpretation of  a topic and may turn away frustrated or satisfied when they have no information or the wrong information.  And therein lies the danger because the average user does not recognize that the correct information is there, just beyond their keywords.

Without the education provided by information professionals the inaccuracies caused by amateur searchers could have significant impacts on business and research.  Our profession must iterate the importance of information literacy that reaches beyond keyword retrieval.  Verification of sources, currency, accuracy and complex search techniques are critical skills.  No one is better able or placed to teach those skills than librarians.

So my fellow professionals, take up the charge and continue the fight.  We must demonstrate the need, the problems caused by not meeting that need and why we are in the best position to meet the need.  Teach information literacy beyond keyword search.  Teach to cause and effect and champion yourself as the key weapon in the battle for information retrieval.


Professional Development Equals Personal Progress

April 24, 2009

Throughout my career as a librarian I have participated in professional organizations.  SLA is my professional home and I’m proud of the network of friends and colleagues I met through SLA who are such a part of my life.

Without this professional involvement, I would have suffered from a lack of engagement and challenges in my career.  My volunteer activities both with SLA and the Kentucky Library Association offered ways to develop my skills and career beyond my daily work.

I am most proud of the network I have developed through these organizations and I selfishly take pride in the accomplishments of fellow committee and board members.  Thus, I am proud to personally endorse Stacey Greenwell for the position of SLA Division Cabinet Chair-Elect.  You can read about her dedication and commitment to SLA in her own words.

My support for Stacey is based upon my knowledge of her work ethic and her commitment to the advancement of librarianship.  She is committed to sharing the successes and failures of her own innovations so that others can improve and expand for the benefit of their own libraries.  With that kind of commitment to work and a proven leadership record for SLA I know that Stacey will serve members like me well.

My career has benefited from the things I have learned through SLA .   For me to continue my personal progress  and professional development I have to invest an effort in strong leadership. Thus, I support great leaders like Stacey because they are the strength behind SLA’s success.

Constance Ard April 24, 2009

Note:  Thanks for indulging in the reading of a “me” blog post.  The next post will be back to you.


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