Special Librarians and Information Professionals Discuss Social Media, Apps and Other Tech Tools at the OLA Super Conference

By Mimi Szeto

While most librarians don’t turn to Facebook to look up murder victims and research torture stories, Astrid Lange does. Lange is a news librarian who heads the Library and Research Services at the Toronto Star. “Most users don’t know how to use privacy settings,” she told a group of information professionals last Wednesday at the OLA Super Conference 2012.

Lange was one of five speakers at “In The Now: How Special Libraries & Librarians are Using the Latest in Technology,” the pre-conference session hosted by the T-SLIS Network in Toronto. The event brought together special librarians and non-traditional information professionals to share new tools and tactics to serve their clients better. Hot topics included social media monitoring, digital devices and building library services for tech-savvy users.

Here’s a recap:

According to Astrid Lange, great resources to dig into for public information include blogs, discussion boards, and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. As well, sites like Summify, Addictomatic and Pipl are useful tools for aggregated content. Need current housing market prices? Try Craigslist, she suggested.

Sara Chi of InfoSara Consulting discussed business intelligence and social media research. She recommended Wildfire App to compare such elements as numbers of Twitter followers. Fee-based media monitoring services like Rowfeeder and Alerti offer the functionality and structure that may appeal to those who want more analysis. The most challenging thing in social media auditing right now, Chi said, was that people are asking for ROI (Return On Influence).

During the App Camp component of the session, Research Librarian at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Eileen Lewis, encouraged attendees to pull out their digital devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops—for roundtable discussions on what apps they used. Dropbox, Evernote and Flipboard proved to be popular. At one table, GoodReader was highly recommended for reading and annotating papers.

The last two presentations were case studies on building services for tech-savvy users. Vicki Whitmell, Executive Director of ITSD and Legislative Librarian at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, talked about initiatives to provide content and access to information to MPPs on their tablets and mobile devices. Among the many characteristics that make librarians special is their ability to understand content and technology and, thus, able to combine the two together.

Suzanne LeBlanc, Research Librarian at Canada Pension Plan and Investment Board, shared a funny three-part tale (or three “learning moments”) of how she brought e-books and e-book readers into the corporate library for the first time. When developing an e-books collection, consider the e-book distributors, she learned.

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