MacCall's last question gave me pause. We were at the end of my last online lecture for his health librarianship class, and I'd been answering questions on a wide variety of topics having to do with academic medical libraries in particular, and librarianship in general. I think this was the sixth one of these I've done using Wimba -- the students and I can hear each other, they can see my powerpoint, we can do chat, we just can't see each other. A little awkward at first, but I've become quite comfortable with it, and the students are great.
MacCall does an excellent job of incorporating the various "new tools" into his courses. The students all keep blogs, they use del.icio.us to track the stuff they're reading. He doesn't "teach" the tools -- he just makes sure that everybody uses them.
We were just about at the end of our allotted time, and I asked if he had a last question. It turned out to be, "What social networking or web 2.0 tools do you use in your non-work life?"
"Non-work life"? That's not a clear concept for me anymore. It was many years ago that I realized I no longer thought of my life as being divided between "work" and "non-work" in anything like the traditional sense. The boundaries are porous.
I don't mean to imply that I am "always working". I've said before that I probably don't put in more hours per week than a good library director did twenty-five years ago. It's just that those hours are spread across the 24/7 continuum in a less structured way. Case in point -- Mr. Tomcat was in town the last couple of days for a meeting at EBSCO. He stopped by the library on Tuesday for a tour, and Lynn and I had dinner with him last night. Conversation topics ranged easily across issues related to journal licensing, the value of archived backfiles, the economic challenges of open access, the new Fishman acoustic guitar amp, changes to the setlist for the May Pigs gig, and what fun it would be to get his daughter together with Josie. Was this my work life or my non-work life?
Take any typical day when I'm not traveling. I'm up before 6:00, writing in my journal. Some of that writing is very personal and some of it is planning for the things I'm going to be doing that day. I'll take a break and catch up on email, most of which (although not all) is work-related. Maybe I'll write a blog post, which may or may not have to do with libraries. I'll spend most of the day at the university, although depending on what's going on I may have errands to run or other obligations that intrude. I don't keep regular office hours. In the evening, I may spend more time working on projects, catching up with email -- or not. The technology gives me the flexibility to tend to things when it is convenient for me. I'm not locked into an artificial time schedule. My "worklife" and "non-worklife" flow easily into one another. The range of topics on my blog is a reflection of that.
Still, I could see what MacCall was driving at. The irony for me as someone who believes strongly in the importance of all of these social networking tools and, in particular, their application to library practice, is that I'm not a very sociable guy myself. Never have been. I've got minimal profiles on facebook, myspace and linkedin, and I'll generally accept friend requests for these. But I've never asked anybody to be a friend on any of them and I hardly use them for communicating with anybody. I've only posted two or three pictures to Flickr and it's highly unlikely that I'll ever send anything to YouTube. I have no interest in exploring Second Life. I use IM extensively at work and with a couple of friend/colleagues outside the library, but that's it. I don't have a blackberry or other smart phone. (I do have three iPods --four if you count the dead one -- and I'm pretty intrigued by the iPhone, but I don't have one yet).
My online life is simply a reflection of the rest of my life. The social networking tools haven't had much impact on me because I've never been that interested in doing a lot of social networking, whether online or in person.
From a professional standpoint, I think it is critically important to understand all of these tools, how they work and how they might be used to advantage. But personally? I'm just as happy sitting up in my study with my guitar, a couple of good books, a hardbound journal, and a really nice fountain pen.