Online Presence, a.k.a. You 2.0

First Post by Annie Pho, a new member of the HLS editorial team!

Stuff about me: I’m in my second semester of SLIS at Indiana University-Indianapolis. I currently work on the digital library team at IUPUI (my university library). My interests are the digital preservation of culture, art librarianship and how these two intersect. My dream job would be an art librarian but I’m finding myself being drawn more towards the digital library realm. I write on my blog at and I’m on Twitter (@catladylib). 

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?

30 replies

  1. The Web Design class in the Drexel MLS program has students designing an e-portfolio with the goal of putting it on a resume and showing your talents off to prospective employers. And you learn to hand-code the whole thing in XHTML and CSS! This was such a valuable assignment for me. I need to do some updating of my e-portfolio as I am graduating soon, but I think this should be pushed in library school as a required activity.


    • Hey Lindsay,

      I’m at Drexel as well. I really enjoyed Info 552 and learned a lot. I am taking Social Media Design with Prof. Morris right now. It is, by far, the best class I’ve taken at Drexel. Lots of fun, incredibly thought-provoking and Prof. Morris shares some valuable information. I’d highly recommend it if you have a chance.

      For the main project, you have the option of redesigning your e-portfolio too.


  2. Welcome, Annie! Thanks for this!
    I don’t think my program really says, “hey! go make yourself findable online!” although we were just having this conversation in one of my classes the other day and someone mentioned an article that said if Google doesn’t know who you are, you are nobody 😦

    My school has a good online presence and online interaction with us (the students). They use Facebook and Twitter to publicize events and share news. Of course usually they are also emailing this out, too. It is their way of “reaching” us. Of course this doesn’t mean that they’re telling us to go be present, but maybe it means that lots of students already are and that’s how they can reach us.

    I’m looking for jobs right now and when I see a person’s name on the job posting or email (library director, library HR person, branch manager, etc), I Google them. It’s a way for me to get to know someone a little better before I (potentially) interview with them.


  3. Thanks Lindsay for sharing. I think its FABULOUS you are learning HTML and CSS coding in school. It should be a must have for all MLS programs. @ Heidi- LinkedIn is another great resource to use when looking up library contacts. I find that sometimes my network of folks are connected to the institutions/people. As with the Google…finding yourself thingy…LOL… That’s another great conversation piece.


  4. Even more important, IMHO, than having an online presence so that people can find you is having an online presence so people find the RIGHT you.

    You want your professional (and maybe a little personal) info to get pushed to the top of a search result. This is especially true if, like Annie, you share a name with others. (Me? I sadly share my name with a LOT of other people, including an actor, a blues singer, and a fighter pilot… all people much cooler than me!)

    But I think we should be clear about one thing: just having an online presence will not necessarily improve you chances at getting a job, at least not all that much, in my experience. I’ve served on a number of search committees and while, yes, I did Google every candidate, it was really just so I could get an idea of their personality before the interview. Everything I needed to know was on their resume.

    Now if I had found some negative material, that would have been another story. I guess what I’m really trying to say is: unless you are applying for a job that requires Web 2.0-ness, it’s OK if you don’t have an online presence… just don’t have a negative one. =)


    • I think the other good part about just being online is being engaged with what is going on in the field. The professional journals do provide some context but I think the blogosphere is incredibly dynamic and it’s great to take part in the discourse that happens there. While no, having online presence doesn’t guarantee you a job, it can help connect people and stay engaged.


  5. I recently decided that it’s time to kick start my own library-friendly online presence, so I’m thrilled that you are writing about this and sharing so many great ideas. I would love to develop an e-portfolio, but I don’t believe my school provides support for this in the way that Drexel does. Is anyone running a portfolio through their blog instead?

    My school markets itself to students through social media and recommends student self-promotion, but I haven’t seen them take the next step – encouragement or support for students to market themselves through social media.


    • You could certainly make an e-portfolio through a blog. WordPress is very easy to use and is free if you don’t want to do too much customization. Heidi (who commented above) has a wordpress site that is very much an e-portfolio as well as a blog. I also use wordpress for something similar, though haven’t really spent much time customizing it yet.


  6. Great article! I’ve been contemplating creating an e-portfolio, and have been bookmarking other librarians’ or library student portfolios that I like. I use LinkedIn quite frequently, and continue to add to my connections. I also have a blog, but it doesn’t have my real name, so it wouldn’t come up in a search.

    I’m in my second semester of library school, and am still taking the “core” courses, and so far, I have not heard anyone emphasizing the importance of librarians having an online presence.


  7. I’m almost positive we’ve had people tell us at school (SLAIS @ UBC in Vancouver) about making sure we’ve got some sort of online presence, but on further reflection I realized those people telling us this stuff are the people who are out there in the world, not our profs. So yeah, it does seem to be a bit of a hole in the academy.

    Although having said that, SLAIS students all had to do projects for our intro to Info Technology course in our first semesters, including blogging on a library subject and creating an html website from scratch. Those were online and I suppose if someone didn’t have much of a webpresence beforehand maybe they would help? (Since a lot of the handmade websites looked like they came from 1998, I’d hope they wouldn’t be the only thing findable about some of my classmates who are a lot smarter than their design skills might make them appear.)

    I’ve been pretty good about creating a presence but it’s the kind of thing that might turn an employer off if they dig too much. I’m personally okay with that, and I almost feel there’s too much emphasis on making sure you’re putting a “professional” face on things. I calved off a more professional blog (about what I’m reading and library school and whatever) from my personal blog, but they’re both very findable. And I cuss almost as much in my book reviews as I do in talking about baseball or weather.

    For me the possible loss of employment prospects from someone googling me and finding out I have opinions (and occasionally publish stories about roadside hobosex) is a small price to pay to be able to live the way I want both digitally and in real life. I’d rather my online persona match the actual me more than match some “ideal hirable young librarian” I’d constantly have to be pretending to be.


  8. I completed my MLIS last December (albeit north of the border than many, if not all, of you) and I can say that my program didn’t advocate an online presence. Now that I think of it, they don’t promote themselves very well online, so perhaps that is telling.

    I know my school does have courses available wherein professors require some blogging, and it does have one elective on social software (which I wanted to take, but couldn’t make it fit into my schedule); however, I got the impression that the program is weak on the tech side in general.

    I’m working part-time as a reference assistant in an academic library, while hunting for full-time work. I struggle with this online presence thing. As a thirty-something, I haven’t been as immersed in social media as most LIS students who are at least 10 years younger. Plus, I’m a fiercely private person. LinkedIn I have no problem with—technically, it’s a Googlable version of your resume/CV. Recently I joined Twitter and have created a Blogger account, which features my resume, a list of the LIS courses I took, etc. I’m hesitant to blog—I don’t want to blog just for the sake of it; this will result in passionless posts, which I think are more harmful than having no online presence

    On the other hand, I know plenty of people without an online presence and they’ve found jobs. I think that at the end of the day, as long as your networking, proven customer service, and cover letter/CV writing skills are excellent, you have a lot going for you. So while I continue to waffle on the online presence thing, what I do strongly believe is this: Your swanky and shiny website may impress SOME of the committee members googling you, but your people skills and life experiences are going to land you the job.

    Hmm, perhaps I have a blog post on my hands…


  9. Hello catlady. I stumbled upon your post via twitter. I’ve been thinking that one idea to “craft” one’s online presence is to create a web landing page (like or where you can add a portfolio and links to social network sites/pics/posts/blogs/resume and point prospective employers to that webpage specifically. In a way, it gives you control over (at least) some of the data out there about you. I work in post-sec now in administration but I’m going back to school to do an MA in Communication and am totally interested in this topic of online identity. Look forward to reading yr posts.


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