Some Thoughts on Social Media Outreach

These days a lot of our discussion has revolved around how the pandemic affects what we do.  For example, how has going completely virtual impacted reference stats?  I’ve heard different tales from different schools.  But what I want to ask is this: how has our new-ish online world changed the social media viewing habits of our students in regard to library outreach?  In particular, has it become more difficult to reach students via Facebook and Twitter?  Just as Zoom fatigue is very real, is it now more difficult to connect with students on social media?

Here’s the latest episode that prompted this post: shortly after the NCAA announced the tournament bracket a couple weeks back, I was excited to resume what I have dubbed the Mason Megabowl Madness Challenge.  Ours is your run-of-the-mill tourney pool only distinguished by a convoluted name and an esoteric pop reference.  Typical online and social media fare, yes?  With free entry and Amazon gift cards as prizes, surely students would jump at the opportunity.  Thanks to our crack circulation team, we even plastered these flyers in the elevators.

Subtle Moriarty reference likely intentional

Sadly, participation was far below my expectations and I’m not sure precisely why.  Without presenting an extensive breakdown here, the analytics say our page views over the past year have dropped.  So, yes, fewer students were aware of the pool.  But there were still a sufficient number of eyeballs on the page, I think, that I would have predicted more entries.

Even in the best of times, reaching students via social media can be tricky—or at least reaching out with a message that’s representative of the library’s mission.  After all, we’re not TikTok.  I don’t always know how well I’m doing at it, but I’ve tried to balance our posts with a balance between informative and fun (and crafting your social media message might be a future blog post topic).  That said, perhaps I should leave open the possibility that our page views have dropped because my content is less interesting as it’s being penned by an author who also frequently needs a break from the internet. 

2020 was a time where many intentionally withdrew from social media because of political discourse exhaustion, mental well-being, or just plain feeling overwhelmed.  That there’s no going back to a pre-pandemic world is frequently said with some certitude.  So will libraries’ social media strategies need to adjust even when we return to that bygone era of face-to-face reference transactions and in-person teaching?  I don’t have a good answer yet.

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The Endless Possibilities in “No”

You can’t pour from an empty pitcher.  Of all the advice my mother gave me growing up, this is the phrase she repeated most frequently.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a part of everything, wanted to experience anything.  No opportunity past up, no adventurous road untaken.  Of course, opportunities frequently come with responsibilities and obligations. Although over-obligated teenagers have become de rigueur, I like to think I started the trend in the 90s.

I never really learned to slow down and stop accepting new opportunities.  It was only at times of great loss and disruption, that I was forced to stop saying yes and just concentrate on survival.  It was in these forced interludes that I learned the importance of my own needs.  I realized the importance of saying yes to the opportunities that fed my soul, and no to the possibilities that merely emptied me of time and passion.

Sometimes, a crisis happens and you don’t have the luxury of stopping and slowing down.  Sometimes, the entire world is turned upside down by a global pandemic and we have to concentrate on survival and existentialism simultaneously.  Sometimes “opportunities” like e-learning and working from home are foisted upon us and we are robbed of the option of saying no.

Sometimes….like now.  We are a year into the pandemic and what I’m hearing and feeling from so many colleagues after a year of isolation and stress is a significant lack of inspiration.  We dug deep at the onset and began meeting patron needs in ways we didn’t anticipate, in record time.  Strides were made every day.  It was a banner time for innovation.  But, lately, I’ve noticed a dearth in new ways to connect with students and faculty.  Enthusiasm for electronic replacements for human interaction have waned.  There is a lack of meaningful content creation. Many of the very activities that previously filled me with the most passion have me feeling the most ennui. We’ve been surviving, but there are a lot of empty pitchers at the reference desk lately.

How do we recharge when so many of us do not have the choice to cut back on any of our responsibilities? What’s the answer when saying no isn’t an option?

My answer: say no.  Just do it in a different way. Lately, I’ve been trying, “Not right now.” I’ve improved my inspiration at work by concentrating on anything but work. 

So many of the problems contributing to professional burnout have very little to do with my position, and everything to do with my outside of work hours.  For instance, my sleep patterns became erratic during the lockdown and I’ve consciously worked on establishing morning and nighttime routines to give structure to my day. No longer is the week a never-ending flow of professional and parenting responsibilities. My days have a beginning and an end.

Speaking of structure, I’ve developed a work schedule that does not involve complete access to me and my time.  Previously, I was desperate to work whenever I could.  Fitting tasks in between e-learning activities, and emails in between laundry loads.  The result was I was always working, always stressed, and not particularly productive.  Now I have designated periods of the day when I am working.  If a task comes through outside of those times, it can wait.  My days are a little longer now, and sometimes you’ll get an email from me in the middle of the night, but I’m saner. By forcing myself to not worry about work constantly, I’m better able to accomplish tasks when I sit down to do them.

I’m also taking my vacation time.  I’m not going anywhere.  But I put my out of office message on and I “step” out of the office.  I go roller skating.  I do spring cleaning. I’m more present for my kids.  I read for pleasure.  And sometimes, I even get inspired.

These strategies are not a magic fix.  They haven’t made my days less full, in fact, my days are often longer.  My obligations and responsibilities haven’t changed, but my mindset has altered.  When I stopped thinking about work all the time, I was able to start getting work done. These tips are not cutting edge, many of them have been touted since the 90s when I was that over-scheduled teenager.  But sometimes the words we’ve been told over and over are just what we need to hear.

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Questions with Puron: Featured RIPS Member – Christine Ryan

Compiled by: Sarah Kammer

Questions with Puron is a social media series launched by the RIPS PR & Recruitment Committee to highlight the diverse views and professional strategies of the constituents of the Research Instruction and Patron Services Special Interest Section (RIPS-SIS). Twice per month, our beloved penguin mascot poses a series of questions to one of the many librarians who make up RIPS. In March, Puron talked with Christine Ryan, Environmental Law Librarian and Associate Professor of Law at Vermont Law School.


Puron: What environmental law issue would you say most concerns penguins today and what resources do you recommend for researching?

Christine: Puron, I would say that the biggest threat to penguins today is climate change. And we humans need to do more for you! There is so much relevant information available!  I’d like to focus a bit and tell you about Environmental Law Research Sources, a database of free environmental resources/websites, selected by me in consultation with Vermont Law School environmental faculty and students. Specifically two categories: Climate Change and Oceans/Marine Law seem most relevant for you. In each category you’ll find a list of carefully selected websites, brief descriptions, and, of course, links to each site.

Puron: What’s something interesting about your work that most people outside your field wouldn’t know?

Christine: There is great variety in the work law librarians do. My position, for example, includes providing reference service, collection development, faculty liaison work, and instruction through my own credit courses and one-time guest lectures – all traditional law librarian functions. I also serve on the law school’s Curriculum and Student Services Committees, and am the faculty advisor to the Animal Law Society. I’m an Academic Advisor, a faculty supervisor for environmental internships, and serve as an employment reference for numerous students.  These responsibilities have developed over the years. I guess I’d summarize by saying that the role of law librarians is continually changing with the times and is getting better all the time!

Puron: What do you love about being a law librarian?

Christine: I love playing a part in enabling young people to pursue careers that will make a difference in the world. Our alums work in a variety of settings, including environmental non-profits, state and federal environmental agencies, such as (you, Puron, will be interested in knowing) NOAA, and in other government positions such as Senior Policy Advisor for Energy and Environment for a U.S. Senator. I, like most academic law librarians, feel gratified knowing our students are leaving law school with strong research skills.

Puron: What is your dream vacation destination for when it is safe to travel again?  

Christine: Edinburgh in quiet, grey November, every November!  In what other city would someone stumble upon the University Law Library (and be graciously invited in) while searching for an art gallery?  Or be welcomed into the National Library, given a Reader’s Card, and head up to MSS and Special Collections to examine and photograph a document retrieved just for you, from 1500, signed by your favorite king? Or be allowed into the gorgeous 1632 Parliament Square buildings, now housing Civil Courts and, after expressing interest, be handed one of those intriguing horsehair wigs by an amiable barrister?  And what better way to end the day than by enjoying a pint at the Jolly Judge pub?

Puron: What’s a recent photo that makes you smile?  

Even Vermont Senators can become fashion trend-setters!
Even Vermont Senators can be fashion trend-setters!

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Christine. If you would like to hear from more members, join the conversation on our Twitter RIPS-SIS (@RIPS_SIS) or connect with us on Facebook facebook.com/PuronRIPS/. The PR & Recruitment Committee will also be reaching out to select members for participation in this series. If you would like to be featured, or want to recommend someone, please email Emma Wood at emma.wood@umassd.edu.

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Interested in Connecting with RIPS-SIS Scholars? Check out the updated My Communities Page and Publication Resource

Guest Post by Kathleen Darvil

The RIPS-SIS Scholarship Committee has been busy this year working on ways to support your writing and scholarship.  We’d like to share with RIPS and AALL members two resources: the revitalized My Communities page and the updated publication resource.


Our My Communities Page

Are you looking to connect with other writers? If so, you should join the  RIPS Scholarship My Communities page.  You can connect with like-minded RIPS members in creating scholarship; post a discussion calling for collaborators, ask for feedback on your draft, or offer to review the work of your peers. Get alerts (and give alerts!) for writing events put on by RIPS and sister committees ALL-SIS, PEGA-SIS Beer & Edits, and other AALL sections. Use the resources in the Library to generate ideas and find scholarship about scholarship – we have a variety of how-to’s and guidelines generated by librarians and other experts. Make sure to fill out the Report Your Scholarship form in the Library so the RIPS Publications and Recruitment Committee can publicize your works to RIPS and the entire AALL community. To join, go to aallnet.org, click on Communities, search for “RIPS Scholarship Community, and click on “Join Community”.  We know writing is important to you – whether it’s for your personal growth, professional development, or both – but did you know your writing is also important to us as well? Share your thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Spread knowledge. 

Updated Publication Resources


If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing your name in print or if your job requires publishing, RIPS-SIS maintains two resources to help you during the publication process.  The first is the RIPS-SIS Publication Resource Spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet lists over forty journals that focus on law librarianship, librarianship, legal writing, and law schools.  The spreadsheet also contains information on whether the journal is peer-reviewed, whether the journal has article length requirements, what style manual the journal uses, and the journal’s website and contact information.  Second is the Publication Resource Handout, a concise document that lists publishers who focus on academic institutions, information science, and libraries.  The document divides the publishers into eight broad categories and then lists the publishers along with their website information and publishing focus.  You can find both resources on the RIPS-SIS website at https://www.aallnet.org/ripssis/resources-publications/reports-toolkits-whitepapers/.

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Summer associate preparation

It’s March, and time to start preparing for the 2021 summer associates. Two years ago, this involved setting up training in each office, scheduling library orientation, as well as changes in the administrative assistant responsibilities. Last year, everything was virtual. Is 2021 going to be different from 2020?

As in past years, most of our summer associates will start on the same day. There are always some who start at a later date. This year, we will be doing training for all summer associates with one session for each service, i.e. one firmwide training session/service, and not individual office sessions. With one exception, all of our CALR services have transitioned to one firmwide rep, rather than having specific people assigned to specific offices. So, having a firmwide online training session makes a lot of sense. And, it’s a lot easier than having to schedule multiple sessions for each service.

Orientation will probably also be one large firmwide meeting with the library department, followed by breakout rooms or separate sessions for individual offices. That’s not much different from past years – it’s just online for everyone, rather than for those not in a specific office (i.e. videoconferencing from one office).

I don’t know yet whether the entire summer will be virtual or if some of it will be in-person. I think it will be a hybrid. Virtual but with the ability to be in the office if desired, or needed for a specific event. Our offices are open to those who want to come in, but no one is required to be in the office.

So, how is a summer associate to prepare? First, attend all CALR training sessions that you can while in law school. No one wants to be the one person who ran up a really large online research bill because of sloppy research techniques. Some vendors will allow summer associates to use their school credentials while working for the law firm. Frequently, academic access varies from specific firm access, but there’s quite a bit of overlap for the basic primary law research. And be prepared for a question that doesn’t have a clear cut answer. Be able to take the research and make some inferences based on the specific fact situation.

Second, attend all training sessions at the firm. Yes, you know how to use the CALR systems. But our reps know the ins and outs of our contracts, and can give you specific guidance on what you can access. And they are highly trained in COST-EFFECTIVE research, and have plenty of tips for you. Yes, almost everything is flat-rate, but we want to know what the client is costing us, whether it goes on the bill or not. And, we have regular research assistance times for each service, time set aside for questions from our firm. Take advantage of it – they won’t give you the answer, just guidance on how to get to the answer.

Attend the orientation even if you never plan to be in the office or touch a book. (Yes, most of our offices still have books.) Get to know the researchers, especially those in your specific office. We have insights into the attorneys, as well as knowing who to go to for non-research related questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can ask the researchers [almost] anything. But you should also ask the assigning attorney questions about projects. For example, can you do online research, and, if so, what billing number should be used, is there a preference for one system over another, etc. The research staff is available to help you, and we want to make you look good. I’ve never had an attorney be concerned that a summer associate was asking for help from the library, but I have had attorneys be concerned that a summer associate NEVER contacted the library during the entire summer. Our attorneys know we provide value, and they take full advantage of that fact, so summer associates should as well.

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