Instant Ideas and Collaboration

#uklibchat & #SLAtalk summary – Beyond Borders: Connect and Collaborate Internationally

Thank you so much to those of you who participated in our first joint Twitter chat with #SLAtalk on Tuesday. We think  our experiment went very well and led to a really lively discussion and a chance to network with overseas colleagues. We’d love to hear your feedback though of course!

We’ve summarised the discussion below, but the archive of all the tweets from the session can be found in this Google Drive spreadsheet. Alternatively, for those of you who prefer the Storify format, the tweets from the first hour of the session have been Storified on the SLA blog.

The first four questions had been set in advance by the SLA team, and questions 5-8 were posed by participants through our open agenda document

1. What tools or technologies do you use to assist you in today’s global workplace? Describe a success story and share the impact of the project.

Lots of tools were shared by participants, which fell broadly into a couple of categories:

  • Online translation tools for informal/quick translations – including Babelfish, Google Translate, and Leo (German-English)
  • Time zone tools – Time.istimeanddate.com, and setting up multiple clocks in your desktop in Windows (In Windows 7 this is under Control Panel > Clock, Language & Region > Add clocks for multiple time zones)
  • Currency converters – oanda.com and xe.com, and also searching Google e.g. searching “gbp 60.00 usd” to get answer. ($98.42)
  • Video and telephone – GoToMeeting conference calls, Google Hangouts, Skype
  • Collaboration and networking tools – Google groups, Google Drive,  Dropbox (downsides – blocked at many institutions – DM @LibrarySherpa for some ways round this!), blogs, Twitter, Facebook
  • News – Newseum

2. Have you successfully performed research using another country’s resources or researched in another language?

Lots of you have! Examples included:

  • Library catalogues – e.g. Library of Congress, WorldCat, KVK
  • Translation/transliteration tools – Yandex for Russian translation and Kurrentschrift.net for deciphering German script
  • jobs resources from India, Ireland, UK, Australia and South Africa
  • researching Chinese Records Management Law, using Chinese Gov Websites
  • Subject specific glossaries
  • Google site search (site:) to find embedded PDFs on foreign site with info I needed that was hard to find
  • Used @ResearchGate to ask an academic in Spain about an article of theirs requested – and found an ILL on there too
  • SLA’s transportation div list  to help find US transport policies
  • IFLA Facebook group
  • getting translation help from a local professor for a Saudi equine legal question

3. Share a challenge caused by working beyond your own borders, and how you overcame it.

Common challenges included:

  • language barriers – can be overcome by finding common ground such as pidgin French or Spanish. Difficulty understanding accents were overcome by listening more carefully and using visual clues. Email or other text can be easier to understand than spoken word.
  • time differences – SLA committees often span 15-hour differences in time zones. Use Doodle to find a time that works best and take great notes for those who cannot be there. Use email, forums, Google Drive etc. so that people don’t need to be all in one place at one time.
  • communication – simple things you’d usually mention in passing get missed because you don’t think of it in formal meetings!
  • culture clash – “I learned (the hard way!) that conference customs are different in UK than in US. I made apologies, then adjusted.” Try to avoid using slang or other cultural terms which may not be well understood outside of your country.

4. What skills do you think make you more successful in working and collaborating in a multinational environment? How can you better network beyond your borders?

  • sensitivity and openness knowing you’re dealing with different language & culture (even between US & Canada!)
  • staying dedicated and open to embracing differences. Collaboration can convert differences into strengths!
  • curiosity to learn new things.
  • networking professionally through an association (e.g. SLA and IFLA) or through more informal networks such as #uklibchat.
  • going outside your comfort zone and networking with a wide variety of people – not being afraid to approach people
  • several people recommended going to international conferences, or a national conference that’s not in your country

5. How does your own culture affect how you work and communicate?

This is quite a tricky question to answer, and we also discussed what could be meant by ‘culture’.

  • In UK and US we need to work harder to see international context. Need to be aware that most media is English-language centric.
  • Living and working with non-English-speakers means a sense of empathy for those facing a language barrier, and a greater awareness of differences
  • Countries don’t define cultures
  • Digital divide and other differences in tech – it can be easy to forget how privileged we are
  • Social media cultures – barriers between those on social media and those not, and also each media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) has its own culture
  • Differences in organisational structures – e.g. Finland have pretty flat organizational hierarchies, so not afraid to talk to anybody because of their status
  • Cultural differences in communication exemplified?!

6. What are some ways to get involved in the international library/information community?

Lots of ideas were suggested (and many had come up elsewhere in the chat)

  • through our own companies – colleagues, exchange programmes, interns from foreign countries
  • join organizations that are international in scope and get involved – volunteer for active roles within the organisation
  • conferences
  • social media – chats like this one, blogs, feeds
  • mentors
  • exchange during studies – Erasmus can fund CPD trips to Europe for those in HE
  • When you are travelling, try to have local colleagues take you out – send some emails/get in touch on social media in advance and see if anyone wants to hang out! 

7. Which professional groups have a good international mix of members?

Library groups:

  • IATUL (for academic/research STEM community)
  • SLA – Although @SLAhq has many US members, they embrace the international community. 2014 President @KatefromUK is UK-based.
  • IFLA – IFLA New Professionals group on Facebook: on.fb.me/1iwzfil
  • SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals)
  • “Librarians without Borders”
  • Hashtag based communities such as #kidlit, #libraryschool tend to be international as well as of course #uklibchat

Groups from other professions that we might be able to learn from:

  • @85Broads
  • @womenintech
  • IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police)
  • IAWP (International Association of Women Police)
  • International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals
  • SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)
  • SSP (Society for Scholarly Publishing)
  • @APRA_HQ
  • The Wikipedia community

8. If you’ve visited a library or library organisation overseas, what were the differences that you noticed?(Particularly interested in non us/uk libraries)

Several people had visited libraries overseas, including:

  • State library in Melbourne – a really buzzing place. Felt like a real hub for studies, and very open.
  • Hong Kong public libraries were very well used. Students would queue up for study spaces
  • Latvian libraries – a blog post by Ned Potter talks about what we can learn from them
  • Toronto’s Lilian H. Smith Library – gorgeous statues at entrance and a well attended Teen reading group going on
  • Libraries in the UK and in Santiago, Chile \- aside from the language (signs, etc.), there was no appreciable differences.



One comment on “#uklibchat & #SLAtalk summary – Beyond Borders: Connect and Collaborate Internationally

  1. Pingback: #uklibchat is 5! | #uklibchat

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This entry was posted on December 5, 2013 by in Discussion Summaries and tagged , , , , .


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