Share and Share Alike – Libraries are Encouraging Social Media Literacy

Since libraries are the original, classic sharers, distributors and sources of information, I am curious to look and think at how libraries, such as our own Ottawa Public Library,  and nearby Toronto’s public library use social media.


JPhoto: Inside yväskylä_library – Source:

The Ottawa Public Library (OPL) is in fact the largest bilingual library in North America with 34 branches – 33 of them physical locations with stacks of books and other items – and 1 of them virtual. Interestingly, the OPL considers its website to be a virtual branch in that it is through the website that library services can be delivered, library card holders can access their account, request holds, renew loans, search the catalogue, access databases and connect to online learning tools for technology, languages, job searchers and many more areas. Library users or customers can also ask for information or help via a centralized Information Service email address.

The OPL also has a fairly large number of bloggers who either work at or with the Library who share their insights, book recommendations or critiques, inspirational tips or informational pointers on a wide range of subjects. These blogs reflect the different communities, groups and areas of interest the library tries to serve with its lending, teaching and programming activities.

The OPL is quite active on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest where it does a good job of responding to comments and shares and of course actively encourages its followers to participate in OPL activities and to share news about the OPL to its followers networks. The stated purpose of the OPL’s social media channels is very much aligned with the learning and information sharing raison d’être of the Library, to facilitates “an environment for library staff and library users to share opinions and information about library-related subjects or issues.” And though the OPL recognizes and respects differences in opinion and holds intellectual freedom as a core value, the Library does monitor comments and will remove posts that contravene its mission, or the law. For example, posts that are obscene or racist; personal attacks, insults, or threatening language; libelous statements or plagiarized material will be removed, according to the OPL’s social media policy and the poster of these unacceptable contributions will be barred.

Similarly, the Toronto Public Library also states that its use of online and social media channels is to extend the Library’s welcoming and supportive service environment online in a way that is consistent with its mission, services and values. The TPL clearly states that it uses social media to promote its services and reputation as an institution as well as to deliver library services and information, while encouraging and promoting accessibility and inclusivity.  The TPL is active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, You Tube, Flickr and has a number of blogs by its librarians on a variety of subject areas ranging from health and wellness, to personal finance to history and geneaology. Many of these subject areas are aimed at specific groups served by the Library such as parents of pre-school children, newcomers to Canada, teens or French-speakers.

Other libraries across Canada and North America have understandably embraced the information-sharing, community-building and service-delivery potential of social media and have, often with small budgets and teams done a good job in adapting to the changing communications media landscape by not only actively participating in the social media and on-line worlds but also by providing their customers and communities with online learning resources, learning tools and training sessions so those they serve can participate in this growing dimension.


Photo: Source: Public Policy Institute of California

In this way, libraries are working to ensure their communities are not lost or disadvantaged by being stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Blog Post 6 COM0011– Rachael Duplisea

My Boots are Too Sexy for Me!

My Boots are Too Sexy for Me!

(Read on for promotional offer contained herein.)

Lacking in inspiration about anything new say about my ventures into social media, it dawned on me that social media is a powerful and practical channel to connect to various networks for a seemingly infinite slew of reasons. And with the fall weather upon us and the need to update my wardrobe I identified a gap in my closet in the shape of way too sexy (2 other s—-y words could also apply here) calf-hugging black boots that I wasn’t wearing but nor was I able to justify replacing. Until, the moment I came upon them the perfect pair – suede, wedge heel, size 6, perfect fit and 25% off!

similar new wedges

So I had to act, immediately. The purchase altered the situation in my closet and urged me to find a way to download the too sexy boots – size 6 too of course – in a timely fashion.  But none of the friends or acquaintances I could think of who might appreciate and wear these saucy, sleek and shiny vinyl leg tubes with chrome stiletto heels had the same size foot. And Kijiji seems so impersonal for footwear I have worn twice. (I remember one time by friend Jack called them F—k-me boots! Believe me, they are nice but they make an impact and have a presence you’ve got to be comfortable and cool with.)


So, I have decided to put out a virtual free-for-the-taking sign to the special, select group of people who are in my COM0011-Introduction to Social Media class of Algonquin College, Fall 2015 to see if there is anyone in this exclusive group with whom I feel a certain kinship who would be interested in giving these remarkable boots a good step up and out in the world. Hey, not only will I be experimenting with the concept of a promo give-away (forget the fact that I am not really promoting anything) but I may actually have a chance to connect in person with one of my fellow students and be forever linked by a pair of boots.

Should anyone be interested in adopting these boots and guaranteeing them a new lease on life, please contact me at or comment on my post indicating your interest – and your shoe size or the size of the person to whom you would like to give the boots. I really like the idea of the person who would wear these boots trying them on, it harks back to the fairy tale of Cinderella and brings a timeless quality to this story and transaction. So let’s do that. Do get in touch.


  • Rachael Duplisea


Another title for this blog post could

have been:

These Boots are Made for Giving Away!

Social – or is it Anti-social – Media? A Bit of a Rant

(Warning: the following may contain a whining tone that may not be appreciated by all readers.)

This post has been bubbling for a long while, festering might be a better word, in fact and the term “post” might be replaced by “rant” or “complaint”.

Anything that takes me away from my life is not social. It eats up my time away from the people and activities that I love: my children, my husband, my friends, my inner nature; nature, yoga, hiking, reading, Netflix.

It’s not that I spend that much time socializing or living through social media. “There’s the rub,” as William Shakespeare wrote. And now to quote the title of a novel by Milan Kundera, for me, “Life is Elsewhere.”


Photo Source:

Social media for me is work. Similarly, for me my computer is mainly a work tool and not a portal to fun and games, as it seems to be for my children. It used to surprise me how as little ones they would come around and look over my shoulder when I was working at my laptop, as if were a television or a floor model wireless radio in the 1930s when everyone would sit around it to listen.


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I know I am not the first person to raise these gripes and concerns. Likely too, many of those who share my complaints and like me feel they have had to be pulled kicking and screaming into the social media dimension also share my demographic status. I am on the cusp between the Baby Boom generation and Generation X, born just two years after the brilliant Canadian author and artist Douglas Coupland who wrote the zeitgeist-defining Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture was born.  Which means I remember seeing real hippies in their natural environment of a university campus in the late the Sixties. I remember 8-track tapes, hand-writing university essays, typewriters and life before email and the Internet.  That’s the technology. Socially, I remember pen-pals and writing lots of letters to friends and family. In my neighbourhood, we didn’t lock doors. If you didn’t find your friends already out on the street, or in the playground you would go knock on their door. Otherwise it was the phone and as a teen and tween we were scolded if we tied up the phone line for too long.Gen X cover

Photo Source:

However, I do admit that there are some many social upsides to social media. It is fabulous how my retired school-teacher and book-club friend can connect with thousands of people who read and comment on her literate and fashionable blog Highheels in the Wilderness. It is marvellous how quickly, easily, cheaply and widely we can correspond with people all across the world, with images, video and translation apps at the click of a finger making even language barriers almost disappear.  I expect I will be happy, when I am retired, to have social media to help me connect to an audience beyond my real-life social and professional circle. But currently I feel I can only invest the time and energy to social media for immediate and mainly professional purposes. And it frightens to me to think how much we may also be losing to the addictive power of social media networks and the technology that enables them.

With so many connections possible quickly and easily via social media networks, the quality of these connections often seems to lose out to the quantity. How deep or real are connections made after a quick read and comment with someone we have not and probably will never meet? And should we call those relationships?

I believe the crux of the issue really is time. With digital memory, space, length and word-count virtually limitless, the new hard limit is time. The time we have to read, to consider, to respond to, and to cultivate those connections is at a real premium. And I believe really is most valuable currency in the social media economy and where we risk paying the greatest price by spending so much time on our devices that little is left to cultivate human contact in real time and real life. Much of our human interaction is being outsourced to or because of technology and the effect of this, what author Craig Lambert calls Shadow Work is stealing our time, jobs and shortchanging our person-to-person interactions. As I said above, I am very conscious of the fact that the more time I must spend on a device, the less time I am getting fresh air and exercise, enjoying the natural world and changing seasons and interacting face-to-face with not only my loved ones but other people in the community.

I sometimes feel that we are being forced to see and experience everything on a screen or via media as if a horrible sci-fi prophecy has come to pass. With the advent of this powerful, multipliable way of communicating with others, it seems that everything has become marketing, sales and self-promotion and because the technology can count nearly everything, we risk falling for the fallacy that everything can be measured and valued with numbers. And if a number can’t be assigned their must not be worth there. It brings to mind the old saying, about knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Studies have shown very real negative impacts of too much social media and technology-mediated activities: screen time interfering with the ability to sleep, for example, and the dramatic finding that people who spend much time on social media, gazing at Facebook in particular, are left feeling sad, lonely and down on themselves.

Digital analyst Brian Solis writes that too high a degree of social connectivity can lead to a net result of  “social and emotional bankruptcy.”

Blogger and internet marketing specialist Tommy Landry points out that social media facilitates an amplification of ignorance and the an intensification of the phenomenon of all talk no action.

Time is the new space, it seems. To some extent, each of us is caught up in an accelerating technology-driven changing world. I recently heard about a fascinating art project by artist, anthropologist and computer scientist Jonathan Harris on CBC Radio’s Spark program recently called the Network Effect Network Effect  which suggests that our online connections are creating a sense of disconnection and alienation. CBC labels the project “a powerful critique of the limitations of constant immersion online, and a reminder of the time and space we need in this digital age.”

How real and important are your social media connections to you? Or are you like me and not quite there yet? Bear with me as I try to get real and stay real with social media.

P.S. Thanks for reading if you stuck it out this far in a too long post.


Chaos or Control – Get Smart with Social Media

By Rachael Duplisea

Max and 99 on shoephones

Get Smart was my favorite TV show when I watched reruns in the 1970s of the hilarious spy spoof produced from 1965 to 1970. Agent 99 was one of my first heroines and like everyone I couldn’t help but like inept Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, whose mastery of gadgets rivals my own with technology.  As little control as he managed to exert, Max was an agent of Control*, fighting the evil agents of Kaos and winning somehow in the most silly and hilarious ways.

Photo Source:

Agent 86 Maxwell Smart

As I adapt to the Web 2.0 and social media specifically, I realize that control is a key issue that we all struggle with to some extent; likely more so if you are old enough to have watched Get Smart in the Seventies and if a facility with techno-gadgetry is not in your DNA.

Photo Source:

The strength and beauty of social media is its interactivity and the fact that user-generated content is encouraged and users can engage with other users. Folks can find an audience, get feedback, respond kaos_logoto feedback (as Rob reminds us to do), include others in the conversation and build “relationships.” (Can’t seem to drop the quotation marks on this one yet.) But with that interactivity, that potential snowballing conversational effect, especially if you are working on the communications and media relations for an institution or project, the multi-directional, interactive, conversational dynamic is one of the key factors that engenders a loss of control. Not only are all of the comments and messages visible to anyone, from all sides, they can multiply very quickly and on numerous channels and many networks – chaos!

Photo KAOS logo credit Source:

Logo credit: Simon McKenzie

The professional communications team needs to have the resources to monitor and respond to all of the comments and feedback, correct misinformation, cultivate relationships, trust and credibility for the organization in order to keep on top of what is being communicated left, right and centre. The necessary resources include the technological mastery to follow and engage quickly and the messaging savvy and sensibility to appropriately and effectively engage and interact. Sought is the perfect marriage of the medium and the message; the elusive alloy that allies and aligns form and content in a quicksilver changing environment of chatter, substantial and less so.

Complete control in communications, like perfection in marriage, or in a person or an employee, is not truly possible (outgoing Prime Minister Harper has perhaps learned this lesson). Nonetheless, it is necessary to determine what you can control or influence – and how; what you can’t and how to best prepare for crises or control potential damage as the messages, information and impressions make their way through the various public and media networks. Most importantly, a measure of control and success can be achieved by keep your eye on the desired outcome and objective and learn to plan, strategize, manoeuver the levers, and master the tools and technology that will enable you to accomplish the set objective and prove that you have that you have accomplished the desired result.


Source for image of Chief:

Source for Harper image:

So maintain sufficient control to achieve success in a noisy freeway network of ideas and information and stave off Kaos. And avoid being a control freak like Steven Harper or Max’s boss Chief in Get Smart showed, even in the days before social media, the Cone of Silence didn’t work.

Photo Source:

Copyright: Time-Life/HBO

*There was no logo for Control, the good-guy organization in Get Smart, a definite weakness in terms of their branding another funny bit of irony from the show given that Kaos did.

Libraries Fit for the Digital Age

To paraphrase Charles Darwin, rather than join the chorus misquoting him, on his concept of the survival of the fittest:

It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best adapt to change,

Darwin misquote

Public libraries across Canada and much of the world are heeding that advice and reinventing the institution with showcase central branches that are monuments to the public library mission and services that meet the needs and often exceed the expectations of the public they exist to serve.

October is Library Month in Canada. I love libraries! So this seems a fitting occasion to highlight the abundance of services provided by public libraries across the country and to underline the important role public libraries play in our communities to make learning and information available to everyone through welcoming, accessible public places and digital services.

photo credit:

Far from going the way of the dodo, libraries are proving that their mission to encourage lifelong learning, support an informed citizenry, facilitate public engagement, stimulate imagination and productivity is more crucial than ever before given the information and technology revolution that is in full swing.

A recent study by the esteemed Pew Research Centre, conducted south of the border but surely applicable to Canada, shows that Americans remain steady in their beliefs that libraries are important to their community, their family and themselves. Large majorities of Americans see libraries as part of the educational ecosystem and as resources for promoting digital and information literacy. In Canada, as in the USA, public libraries still occupy a prominent spot in people’s minds as a place to go. They also serve as inclusive community hubs that offer learning and literacy programs for immigrants, job seekers, seniors, children, parents, youth, minority or cultural groups and entrepreneurs.

Of darwin08course libraries are changing with the times and technology. According to Darwin, they have to.

photo credit:

Not surprisingly, libraries have had to beef up their digital resources and systems and provide these increasingly in a mobile friendly fashion. The Pew Study linked to above reports that half of those who used a public library website last year accessed it using a mobile device.With regard to the holdings on their shelves, there is some suggestion from people surveyed that libraries should reduce the amount of physical space for books in favour of digital forms and multi-use spaces. Libraries are providing ever more books and audiovisual items electronically but interestingly there is no suggestion for reducing the physical footprint of libraries.

So libraries are important places, virtual and real, where people can not only find information and inspiration. They provide the expert help to find the best, most valid and credible information, by the selections that make up the library collection and, of course by the guidance of an information scientist, also known as a librarian. The comprehensive Pew study found that 65% of people surveyed say  libraries provide valuable help for people deciding what information they can trust. The public and aspect of the service provided by libraries is obvious in the finding that Americans note libraries are an important resource for finding health information. 73% of people surveyed aged 16 and over say libraries contribute to people finding the health information they need, no doubt a particularly acute need in the United States which does not have universal publicly funded healthcare.

Beyond traditional literacy training, libraries are taking on the task of teaching people to master the information technology, how to protect their privacy and security online, and help them manage and filter the masses of information available. Increasingly, libraries are enhancing all of their offerings to ensure their relevance in the digital age and upgrade their ability to fulfill their mission as public resources for lifelong learning, catalysts for community connection and incubators for innovation and creativity.

Many cities in Canada, as in others around the world, are investing in monumental central branches to showcase the best of the collections and services and to raise the bar higher for the library’s role as a community hub for creation, connection and education. New features at new major libraries include creative maker spaces, tech and media labs, innovation hubs for entrepreneurs, meeting, study and leisure spaces, free WiFi, exterior public grounds and gardens, in addition to a range of learning programs.


A recent example is Halifax, which opened a brand new central library in December 2014. which showcases a wonderful, whimsical, intriguing public art mural that evokes the abundance and diversity of the library’s offerings, within its modern, green design, award-winning architecture and multi-use spaces including study pods, a performance area, meeting rooms, a café, local history displays and more. The new Halifax Central Library branch has attracted nearly 2 million visitors in its first year, more than double what was forecast and has become a civic landmark and destination for the entire city.

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In 2012 Toronto completed a major renovation of the downtown Toronto Reference Library, successfully accomplishing the stated goal of recreating the library as “Toronto’s foremost public centre for lifelong learning, the exchange of ideas and community engagement.” The upgrade revitalized and improved the library with an expanded and newly designed façade, entrance, exhibition galleries, special collections rotunda, better research and study areas and of course technology innovations. The Toronto Reference Library includes access to full text databases, newcomer information services, delivery to homebound individuals, an art exhibit space, a piano practice room, impressive special collections as well as programs for children, youth and adults.

Vancouver was a pioneer, in 1995, when it opened a spectacular central branch further to huge public enthusiasm for the project which includes in the imposing yet welcoming city block complex an office tower,  retail and restaurants, underground parking and a rooftop garden designed by the famous Vancouver-based landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander.

hydrotech_Vancouver_Publi Inside VPL Central Branch

photo credits: and

Coming up is a new central library for Calgary, due to open in 2018; promising to be “a multi-faceted family destination and gathering place with a physical collection of approximately 600,000 books and specially designed space for programs and technology.”

Here in the capital, Ottawa, is working on a new central library to replace the main downtown branch with expertly designed spaces and services to meet the growing information, connection and learning needs of Ottawans. Envisioned as a “downtown community-based creative learning library with roles both as a downtown branch and a city-wide service,” the project is in its early stages but it is hoped that construction can begin in 2018.

So take advantage of Library Month and check out one or more of the 34 branches of the Ottawa Public Library. Chances are good you will find a service that you didn’t know existed. For example, did you know you can stream music, movies and TV shows for free? Or that you can drop off your old batteries to get recycled at most branches? Maybe you weren’t aware that you can access free business services, where a specialist will meet with you one-on-one? And of course there is WiFi in all branches and easy efficient online access to library services.  I recommend a visit in person if you haven’t been lately. I believe that an accessible, open, welcoming place where people can live life in public and be pulled in my the stacks, displays and spaces. In my view, the virtual can never entirely replace the physical presence of people gathering in real time and space.

Enjoy Library Month!

  • By Rachael Duplisea

Election chills and thrills delivered via social media

The chill has arrived. I can feel it as a cool wind reminds my skin basking in the brilliant sun that I should take a sweater. I can smell it in the drying, curling leaves. I can see it in the stark contrast between sun and shade as the sun’s angle becomes more acute, forecasting shorter days and a seemingly faster spinning of the planet.  How Canadian of me to open by talking about the weather, n’est-ce pas? (Nothing but sun in the forecast for the week ahead; what a gorgeous start to fall!)

Fall path turning left vertical

Also in the air this fall is the federal election  ̶  one of the most interesting and perhaps most important in a generation given that three viable national parties could mean a vote splitting and the formation of a government that is the choice of barely one third of voters.

Collection of election signs

Clearly, I am interested in the politics of my country, having chosen this topic for my first post. I am also a proud and concerned Canadian. But even if my Canadian citizenship weren’t a key aspect of my identity, I believe it is important to stay informed on issues that affect my country, province, city, and community and the people I share these with. With more people using social media to get their news,  there is an opportunity for more people to get engaged in the democratic process and there is an opportunity for social media to make it easier for people to be better informed. I also think it is important for people to make an informed decision and participate in our democratic process by voting. There are many additional ways citizens can, should and do participate in their democracy, but I believe that voting is a potent and meaningful one. We have the government and the democracy that we deserve. (Not sure who to attribute that quote to but it is apt.) There is much at stake, as evidenced by incidents in the past of voter suppression and fraudulent activities which Elections Canada is warning people to be wary of now.  This election is a dramatic opportunity to show the power and importance of the vote because the competition is so close and the options as stark as sunlight and shadow.

ABC in Peace SignSince before the election was called on August 2, many Canadians who were not amenable to the continuation of the right-wing Conservative Harper government were considering voting strategically, i.e. ABC or Anything But Conservative.

This approach is valid and relevant will become that much more concrete as election day looms; especially in swing ridings where the Conservative candidate appeals to only a third or less of voters and there are many.

People will be swayed by the fear of instability and the desire to avoid a short-lived minority government whose defeat would lead to another expensive, disruptive election a few of months down the road. Many people are just starting to pay attention, two weeks before election day, to lean towards the party they think can lead a stable government and they can be comfortable with. I expect some people will vote conservative for this reason, but I think many others will vote strategically for the candidate most likely to win over the Conservative candidate. Before the election was called it appeared the majority of Canadians wanted a coalition NDP-Liberal- government.

But much can change in an election campaign, as is often said; especially this one being the longest campaign in Canadian history.

Riding by riding polls will be of huge interest for many as they trying to decide on their vote. Sadly though, accurate polling information may be hard to acquire. There are already many polls and surveys

and there will no doubt be more, along with nifty polling prediction and reporting apps.

But the polls have to be taken with a grain of salt, not because the pollsters lack expertise or ethics, but because polling is getting harder and harder to do accurately. Understandably, people are not necessarily willing to disclose their voting intentions to phone pollsters, and survey samples are increasingly less representative given the move away, especially with younger voters, from landlines (associated with an address in an electoral district) to mobile phones.

Social media has a huge role to play in this election on many levels. It is the first time I have followed candidates and parties on Twitter, for example, and the first time I have sussed out so much of my information from social media. I have found it interesting to be able to quickly and easily find information from the sources I respect and to find avenues to dig deeper and look wider,  to sign a petition, for example, or share an item or link with my Facebook or Twitter followers,  who are neither homogenous nor numerous. Of course I must be careful not to spend too much time following my curiosity too far through the rabbit warren of links and shares; and even more importantly, I know I run the risk of reading and conversing too much within my own echo bubble of preferred interests and like-minded thinkers/spouters. Academics have rightfully fretted that the rise of social media could increase fragmentation and reduce social coherence in Western democracies. The situation, as they say, is fluid.

I do try to ensure some kind of breadth and balance in my news intake by following professional media organizations such as the Huffington Post, Maclean’s, CBC Radio and The Globe and Mail which are committed to providing fair and unbiased reporting. The jury is still out on whether or not social media is improving either the quality or the quantity of people’s engagement in the process or their understanding of the issues but obviously social media`s channels are full and frenetic with political communications and playing a big role in this election; a role that we may only be able to gauge properly after October 19.

What about you? Has social media made you any more interested in this election campaign that previous ones? Have you gotten more of your news and information via social media lately than in the past? Do you feel any better informed about federal issues that in the past or even earlier in the campaign?  Do you plan to vote? Strategically?  If you’ve already decided, you can vote in the advance polls over the Thanksgiving weekend. 4ways_e