There is an interesting discussion thread about some institutions blocking social media communication for their staff. This started off as a short reply but has mutated into comment on broader related issues which may be worth a quick squiz. Museum Australia’s adoption of Ning as a communication platform caused initial problems as our Sophos anti-virus screening software identified the site as being for ‘dating purposes’ and blocked access. Ning has now been added to the safe list – although it is likely that only a few ‘trusted’ staff users with bona fide professional interests will access the site.
The issue of whether GLAM sector institutions enable, and encourage, staff to use a broad range of social media platforms in pursuit of extending work-related professional dialogue, and the dissemination of information, is wrapped up in broader organisational issues rooted in ‘workplace culture’. Museums and libraries are no different from businesses or schools that are either ‘open and responsive to change’ or comfortable with traditional, ‘tried and tested forms of producing the goods’. The State Library of Queensland for example, positively advocates the use of social media and has funded staff participation, and set an across the board expectation that, library staff pursue the European ‘Licence 2 Test Drive’ course. Time has been set aside for this self-directed staff professional development within work time. This laudable pioneering spirit is also found at the Powerhouse Museum, Museum Victoria and several other state museums and libraries.
We certainly live in interesting (and rapidly changing) times. There is a loud and significant clarion call from Commonwealth and State governments to digitise collections to enable free public access to our cultural assets. As Senator Kate Lundy stated in her address at the GLAM-Wiki conference in Canberra in August, this is the
'default position of the government’.
This implies the GLAM sector adopting a spirit of openness, sharing and connectedness. Other inducements to participate in an open access, communication revolution include: the Government 2.0 Taskforce initiative, the Government Information Licensing Framework (GILF) and the need to respond, in this state, to the
Queensland 2020:Ideas to Action
in order to facilitate
'universal access to our arts and cultural assets’.
Back at 'Reality Ranch’
many GLAM sector institutions are contending with multiple challenges, not least of which are retaining staff during financially challenging times and maintaining traditional visiting audience numbers. Developing a policy for the use of social media (or helping to reduce your institution’s carbon footprint) may be mere peripheral points on the strategic planning radar. Other contributory forces which contribute to a state of partial inertia (in terms of the adoption of social media and digitisation strategies) lay with curatorial staff and the IT staff responsible for internet security. There are naturally honourable exceptions to this generalisation; this observation is far from being a slight on their good work. However, curators and IT gurus have reasons for maintaining the ‘status quo’; changing the role of curatorial expert to facilitator can be challenging for some (and anecdotally, liberating for others). Responding to public comments made after uploading digitised photographs of collections onto FLICKR or Wikimedia Commons is a tremendous form of social engagement for example, but this is thought to be time-consuming by sceptical staff. Raising the defensive internet screening barriers even higher is also an understandable response from people responsible for protecting the integrity of the data held on servers, which are subject to attack by a minority of the public with malevolent intent.
My personal view is that it is prudent to develop an understanding of the reasons why some GLAM sector institutions are not moving forward in embracing social media strategies at the pace advocates would like, and external government directives demand. There needs to be a better understanding of institutional workplace culture and any arterial blockages to progress before a remedial stent is applied. Resolutions to 'clear the barricades' include the social media pioneers demonstrating to others in the GLAM sector the pathways they chose, illustrating how the views of sceptics were won over and internal incumbrances overcome. A large dollop of assertive leadership and having 'champions for the cause' in high places are essential. The benefits of engaging in opening up public access to collections and interacting with the public using various forms of social media has to be seen to outweigh the reasons for ‘defending the fort’. To that end there are some great ideas being shared around through CAN and I hope, in time, through MANEXUS.
SLQ Licence 2 Test Drive:
Senator Kate Lundy’s GLAM WIKI conference address
Collections Australia Network Outreach
The painting of 'Early Pioneers' was sourced from a school's learning resource in America and may be subject to copyright.