Dramatic statement? Maybe. But a must-read article in May’s issue of American Libraries, “Will Social Media Activism Reverse the Fortunes of Besieged Libraries” started me thinking about all the ways social media has made the invisible “visible” and how that visibility saves education in more ways than one.
Certainly, social media activism can be credited for preserving library positions and teaching positions. Prior to the use of social media tools, cuts were local news, but it was hard to get the news out even within the locality, much less beyond it. Now, for example, protests to cuts to L.A. teaching positions can be followed via Facebook, and the Spokane Moms can rally legislators to save library positions via Twitter.
The ability of these tools to quickly mobilize the public is powerful. And because everything is “public” it’s easier to hold local school boards, tax entities, library boards, etc. accountable. And all of those entities are suddenly realizing (sometimes in painful ways) what a public world this now is. This democratizing force of social media is without parallel.
However, not only does using social media allow information about budget cuts(or additions) to be easily shared, it also allows us to share the story of what we do with a larger public, allowing them an “insider’s” view. What better way to counter negative stories about education or about libraries than to read the constant stream of positive stories, cutting edge ideas, and mindful discussions about the directions of our profession?
This can provide as much advocacy for the profession as do Facebook campaigns to save positions, because it provides more of a bedrock understanding in the public arena and helps us build connections with our patrons/parents/students. Being more public about what we do connects us as partners in education and librarianship, rather than as just adjuncts or worse, adversaries.
When teachers or librarians or administrators wonder why they should be using social media, this visibility is a very significant reason. If we want to change perceptions of our profession, we start with telling our story, over and over again, from one community to another, around the world. That is how change happens.