Hiya, Ey up, Where y’at, or How to talk to expats – Expat life part 2

Language is a beautiful thing but it does have its quirks. I spent 20-odd years in the States then moved over here. I am undeniably American in culture, outlook and of course accent (we’ll get to this later). Traveling and living abroad is great because it broadens your perspective and has changed my viewpoints on various issues. However there are some points I’ve observed about interacting with locals and what I try to do myself in terms of welcoming and feeling welcomed. I’ve framed some of these below through the common questions I get asked. Obviously the big disclaimer to this post is that *these are my own views and opinions and do not necessarily represent views and opinions of other expats.*

“Are you [insert nationality here]?”
Some people get offended if you get their nationality wrong. I have been guilty of this myself, and have been on the receiving end as well. However I find it hilarious when people think I’m Canadian or Irish (both true examples). Even if you’re 99% sure, the better path is to just ask…

“Where are you from?”
Don’t guess, just ask!

“What do you think about Trump/Obama/other political figure?”
This can go either way so tread carefully! I used to not get asked this very often. However the past six months of this crazy US election season, I’ve seen a massive upswing as EVERYONE is now asking me about politics. I don’t mind and see it as an opportunity to share what’s actually going on in my country beyond the news bites. The main thing is ask with an open mind and view to opening a dialogue.

“Don’t you miss home?”
This question is problematic on so many levels for me. My only response options being, No, I’m a heartless automaton that doesn’t miss home, or, HECK YES I MISS HOME! DAFTEST QUESTION EVER. Instead I suggest asking…

“What do you miss about home?”
Rather than feeling homesick, this then gives me the opportunity to tell you about all the awesome stuff about my country like Southern hospitality, crawfish boils, stable weather day to day, jambalaya, iced tea, college sports, Thanksgiving…

“What was the biggest difference or the hardest thing to adjust to when you arrived?”
This is a good one. The expat can voice an opinion/beef and the questioner learns something new about both countries.

“Do you get to go back?”
Another that can go either way, depending on how close your next trip home is.

“Your accent hasn’t changed much.”
I usually say something like, give it another 20 years, then it might. I spent the first 21 years of my life in the US, so of course I sound American and that doesn’t change with a plane ride! However my family says my accent has changed and it definitely gets thicker when I go home. So check back with me on this one in say, another 15 years.

Agree? Disagree? Let’s start a conversation in the comments.

Next week, my expat wannabe stand-up routine.

Library Advocacy Unshushed MOOC wrap up

I recently completed another MOOC (massive, open online course) entitled ‘Library Advocacy: Unshushed’. It was run by the University of Toronto Faculty of Information on the EdX platform. While targeted at information professionals it really addressed basic principles of successful advocacy that would be applicable in other sectors. The quality of the material was good and was supported by research. Numerous experts from library world and beyond also had slots where they weighed in and gave practical advice.

The course ran over five weeks but I think it took me about twice as long to complete all the material. Content covered included defining advocacy, perceptions and reality of libraries today, and planning and implementing an advocacy plan.

Here are some of the main points I’ve taken away from the Mooc and that I actually remembered several weeks after finishing without looking at my notes.

  • Tell stories – people resonate with and remember stories much more than data and statistics. Libraries have so many great stories to tell so we need to share them in our advocacy and use stats to support when needed.
  • Craft your message – what are you trying to get across to decision makers? It needs to be concise, memorable and relevant to your audience. Think elevator speech.
  • Link your advocacy to wider institutional goals – The course repeatedly underlined the fact that your message and advocacy goals need to be explicitly linked to your wider institution’s goals, objectives and/or strategy. This makes sense because why would leaders pay attention or allocate funds if what you want to do doesn’t align with their goals? This approach also gets away from simplistic “save the library” type appeals which, let’s face it, probably translate to “save our jobs”.
  • Plan who to target with your advocacy – the course distinguished between decision makers (those who actually make the decisions), influencers (people who have influence with the decision makers) and stakeholders (people who have an interest in the outcome but not necessarily a decision maker). Successful advocates need to build relationships of trust and credibility with all three.
  • Advocacy is a responsibility for everyone, not just the chief librarian or head of department.

Some other points taken from my notes:

  • Defining advocacy – it is rooted in relationships of credibility, understanding and trust. It’s a long term commitment and requires communication, passion and courage.
  • Avoid jargon in your message, speak in terms your audience will be familiar with, and link back to wider institutional goals.
  • Essential concepts to tell decision makers in your communications- 1) What libraries and librarians do that’s valuable, 2) Why it matters in terms of their values and priorities, 3) Why it’s urgent.
  • Position your library as a ‘value add’ by thinking about how you can solve the problems of your community/institution.

For more information on this Mooc, here’s a link to the EdX page.

The Twitter hashtag for the ‘live’ portion of the course was #la101x

A look at digital communications

I recently attended a brilliant workshop put on by UKeiG (UK eInformation Group, a special interest group of CILIP). The course was on digital communications and was run by Ned Potter. I knew Ned’s work from his excellent blog and Twitter, and thought the material would be applicable to my current work, so I asked to go.

The day course covered the principles of digital communications and a plethora of tools and apps. There was also space for feedback and to hear from course participants about their experiences. I wanted to highlight a few points I found most interesting and useful.

  • One my favourite tools was Padlet. It is described as ‘paper for the web’ and is essentially a virtual pin/notice board where anyone with the URL can post. Ned recommended it for interaction and getting online feedback, with the obvious library application being using it in library inductions. We used it in the session to give feedback (less scary than putting your hand up!) and then Ned could respond in real time. It was also neat to see what everyone had written and I could see it being useful in this respect for collaboration and team projects.
  • I got intrigued by a use of QR codes to promote e-books. A QR code is a “quick response” bar code that takes you directly to a website when you scan it with your smartphone (rather than having to type in the URL or Google it). The idea suggested was to use QR codes to link the physical and the virtual by putting a ‘faux’ book or place marker on the shelf where the e-book would be and have a QR code on it which then directed the user to the e-book. The only drawback is that you need a QR code reader app on your mobile for it to work. I’ll be looking into this one for our library so stay tuned.
  • Video is increasingly how people learn nowadays, according to Ned. Long handouts and wordy power points just aren’t as interesting. Enter video and the good thing is that now you don’t have to have specialist equipment or hire someone to create a great video for you because there are a number of free/cheap apps available. A few that were recommended were Videoscribe (creates whiteboard videos by animating your raw material), Adobe Voice (like a cross between slideshow and video) and PowToon (cross between Videoscribe and Adobe Voice). Ned also was singing the praises of YouTube as a way to amplify the reach of your videos. An example of videos in libraries was shared by a participant from a university library. They created a Vine (very short looping video platform) to quickly show how to use their photocopiers and put a QR code linking to the video on the photocopier.
Photo credit- Tom (Flickr CC-A license).

Augmented reality… (Photo credit- Tom, Flickr CC license).

  • Probably the segment with the biggest cool factor was augmented reality (AR). AR is when you view a real object using a smartphone or tablet which then adds ‘layers’ of information or interactivity onto the experience. AR is still in the pioneering stages, but there a lot of potential applications for teaching and learning. For example, an augmented reality app was recently launched at the College for users of our recording studios.
  • One final point about social media, Ned proposed that interactivity is the key way to grow your following. ‘Engagement’ is one of those buzzwords floating around university/library/project land now. I don’t know whether this is part of seeing how big an impact (another buzzword for you) you’re having or maybe it’s just valuable because it’s starting a dialogue with your community. Either way it’s something to think about and I’ve been experimenting with asking more questions in my work and personal social media outputs.