As libraries are developing ways to use Web 2.0 for outreach and advocacy purposes, future librarians are (or should be) doing the same for themselves. Building an online presence is fairly easy, and many people already have one, whether they are aware of it or not. However, using this to our advantage is not something that is being taught in all library school programs. None of my professors have told us that potential employers might Google us, but it’s a truth. I stumbled across this advice from the ALA’s Get a Job website on how to prepare for an academic interview, and one of the main points is to be “Google-able”. If that’s not enough proof, my friend and fellow classmate, who has been on a search committee for an academic librarian position, can attest to the fact that these committee’s do look up candidates to see if they can dig more information.
Keeping that in mind, it’s important for students to understand that as creepy as the internet can be, it can really help give other people some idea of who you are and what you’re interested in. Being stalk-able, I mean findable is a good thing. Maintaining virtual presence shows engagement in the field and that you’re thoughtful. Not to mention, you can show off your awesome web design skills, knowledge of social media/ability to network, projects that you’ve done, and more, just by posting it online. Even just posting comments on other library blogs or using social networking sites (I like the premise of Linked In, even though I need to work on my profile) can make you visible. This article from American Libraries Magazine has a ton of great advice for students on how to promote themselves using Web 2.0.
On the other hand, the need for privacy is another issue. As a student, it’s sometimes hard to separate the private and the professional. What I share on my Facebook page isn’t necessarily the same as what I share on my blog. That doesn’t mean I’m two different people, but I am becoming more aware of what I share about myself online. Another issue that I have with my own virtual presence is that there is someone else with the same name as me. It’s amazing what a simple search of my name revealed: another Annie with a budding career as a shoe designer! This means I had better start working on an online librarian version of myself, otherwise people might get confused.
There are countless reasons why you want to be findable on the internet. All MLIS programs should really be stressing the importance of social media and how to use it; but using Web 2.0 isn’t really a secret, it’s like another tool that can be used to help you. It doesn’t cost much to be a somebody on the Internet and the benefits are potentially boundless.
What do you guys think? Do your programs teach the importance of online presence?