Expand Your Network Online
Learning how to find great information sources will go a long way towards making you a better student and LIS professional. Here’s how!
Several iSchool articles, including lists of the best blogs to follow for MLIS and MARA students as well as an article on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook accounts to follow, are meant to be springboards for your own exploration of LIS professional opportunities.
Expanding Your Online Universe One Link at a Time
Today we share a bit of the process on how, exactly, one goes about finding interesting people and places online. One basic approach is two-pronged, i.e., to start with your existing web – the people and places you already connect with online. So let’s begin with the iSchool’s Twitter profile.
Click on “Following” at the top of its feed to reveal what Twitter accounts @SJSUiSchool follows, or, to think of it another way, what Twitter accounts @SJSUiSchool finds interesting and relevant, or, what Twitter accounts you might find interesting and relevant. Repeat with any and all accounts that you love. Or that make you think. Or laugh. Or that Twitter “suggests” for you. Follow those that look promising (you can always unfollow if you change your mind!).
While you’re finding new accounts, look at their profiles. Chances are that if someone writes anywhere online, they’ve included a link. Check out their blog/website/etc. Does what they write interest you? Excellent – you have another link to add to your Feedly account (you set one up right? It really makes all this reading easier). Think of it like a snowball: you start small and pick up more and more data as you roll around the web. This trick works all over the Twittersphere, and it also works on LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, and other social media sites.
Let’s look at LinkedIn for a minute. Go to one of your LinkedIn connection’s profile pages. Scroll down your connection’s profile to see what groups he or she is a member of. Do any look new and interesting? Ask to join! You then have the opportunity to connect with people who have similar interests to you, and you may also find that many groups have active discussion boards and job posting pages. Those are a great source of authors, posters, commenters, and sites that might be worth paying attention to.
Or Going the “Cool Curated Stuff” Route
So that’s one way – using your existing network and expanding upon it. The second prong of this approach is to use tools such as Alltop.com. Alltop is great for providing you with a list of the top information sources for whatever topic you are wondering about. They say their purpose is “to help you answer the question, ‘What’s happening?’ in ‘all the topics’ that interest you.” For instance, if you search for “libraries” you can click to see information sources not only for libraries, but also for literature, nonprofit, and writing. The landing page of their Children’s Literature category gives users a list of the most popular stories as well as nearly 30 places to find such information; those worldwide sources range from personal websites and blogs to NPR and the Washington Post.
Widening Your Information & Ideas Universe Matters
This snowballing or web-growing or information-gathering task is pretty much never done. Searching behavior ebbs and flows – some weeks we actively look for new sources, but other times we just try to keep up on all the reading (which is also never done!). But it’s worth thinking about and periodically actively looking to expand the scope of the content you consume.
Why does finding great information sources matter? Well, it’s important that LIS professionals (and MLIS students!) be able to find the best sources, since, after all, we’re trying to be information professionals here. Whether it’s for a library patron, an employer, a freelance contract, or ourselves, we are responsible for curating sources, finding facts, and analyzing results. At the very least, that paper is not going to research itself, nor will the food in the fridge find its own great recipes. So besides taking INFO 244, which we highly recommend, looking for and evaluating information sources in low-stress situations will ultimately make you a better searcher. And that will make you a better student and professional.
Do you have any tips for navigating the interwebs? Any nifty tools that help you curate your reading list? Please share in the comments!