The first Twitter-based UK Library Chat, or #uklibchat, took place this week. The idea is based on other Twitter Chats such as #journchat, and of course, the successful American #libchat.
Participants are provided with a series of questions by a team of moderators, often grouped around a single theme, and answers are linked together through use of the hashtag. The result is a faced paced, quick moving conversation with a wide range of like-minded people. The discussion ends with a call for ideas for the next #uklibchat, enabling participants to put forward issues they want to discuss.
Coming to the UK
"Hello everyone - welcome to the first #uklibchat!"
American #libchat has proved highly successful, and has been the subject of envy for many UK based library and information professionals unable to listen in or participate due to the time differences. The #uklibchat team has therefore brought the concept to the UK from 6-8pm every other Thursday.
The theme of the first #uklibchat was structured around student and university LIS activism. But everyone within - or interested in - the information profession was encouraged to participate. The questions ranged from current issues of concern in the library sector to barriers preventing involvement with library activism. However these questions soon became markers in a large and free flowing conversation as one participant noted, "I feel like these Qs are naturally evolving from the chat, it's great!
The benefits of getting involved
"#uklibchat is why I love Twitter. Can step up, collaborate and talk to loads of people quickly!"
The first #uklibchat received some great feedback from its participants, but what exactly are the benefits? UK Library Chat enables an instant connection with others to discuss issues. The level of engagement is decided by the participant; it is possible to step back and drink in the wide range of ideas put forward, or to throw yourself in and contribute your own views. Through contribution it is possible to bounce ideas off others in the profession, strengthening your own position and make new connections.
"Suggest an informal exchange scheme between sectors - people pair up and explore idea of day-long job swaps or shadowing. #uklibchat"
Some of the discussion in this week's #uklibchat included a proposal for an LIS student unconference, new ideas for library campaigns, calls for academic/public library solidarity, and tips for overcoming the barriers of volunteering. All of these were made possible due to the instant connections and collaboration Twitter provides. The full conversation can be viewed in the #uklibchat archive: http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/uklibchat.
How do I get involved?
"Found out about new #uklibchat happening on 7/7 at 6pm must log in and listen in."
#uklibchat takes place fortnightly on a Thursday from 6-8pm, UK time (BST/GMT). If you do not wish to contribute, and would rather follow the conversation, you can do so by searching for #uklibchat on search.twitter.com, or use an external website such as Twitterfall. However, contribution is highly recommended if you want to gain the most from the experience. The agenda is distributed prior to the chat in an open document format for anyone to add to, enabling participants to shape the discussion. You will need a Twitter account (it is free!) and the use of a desktop client such as HootSuite or TweetDeck is recommended to help you keep track of the conversation.
Beyond that, all that is needed is an opinion!
Samuel Wiggins is currently studying for his MA Librarianship at the University of Sheffield. Upon graduation he will take up the position of Information Officer for a London law firm. His interests include legal information and 'big picture' library ideas. Sam is on Twitter @LibWig, and runs a blog at libwig.wordpress.com.