Steve Thomas: Paul Signorelli, welcome back to Circulating Ideas, after a decade!
Paul Signorelli: I know so little has happened, Steve. I wish I had more to report, but I’m still where I was last time. In fact, I’ve still got the same sandwich on my desk here. Do you want part of it?.
Steve Thomas: I don’t think so. We could examine that to see if there’s any COVID cures growing on that sandwich at this point, but…
Paul Signorelli: If I had a decade old sandwich right now, it would cure something.
Steve Thomas: Well, you’ve got a new book out called Change the World Using Social Media, and we’re going to talk about that in a minute, but before we do, the last time you were on the show you were with Lori Reed. So we didn’t really get into you guys personally all that much. So can you tell the listeners how you got involved with the library field in the . First place?
Paul Signorelli: I’m a lifelong admirer and user of libraries. And I never, in my wildest dreams imagined I would have an opportunity to work in them. I had a period where I was out of work, gave myself six months, cause I was very lucky to have the resources to be able to do that. I was trying to reinvent myself from what I’d been doing into something else.
Among the dozens of things I saw and applied for was a position with San Francisco Public Library to be their first ever Director of Volunteer Services. Funniest story, Steve, I put that in and later that day I get a phone call from somebody in their HR office. “We got your application. We just have a question for you.” I said “Sure.” The question was, “Why did you wait so long to apply?” I said, “Well, frankly, I saw it this morning. I filled it out. I hopped on the bus here in town, dropped it off. And that’s how fast I responded.” She says, “it’s been out there for five or six weeks, and we’re almost at the deadline.”
I said, “Well, unless that’s an issue, I’m glad I’m in. But that’s why I just saw it.” That’s how I started. That was the foothold into getting into libraries. And also a lot of the other things that I’ve been doing, it was a magnificent change.
Steve Thomas: Great. So your book is called Change the World Using Social Media. What led you to want to write this book in the first place?
Paul Signorelli: Oh, it’s the craziest thing. I’ve been involved in two books, as you mentioned, the first one with Lori and this one. You get these emails and phone calls you never forget. In September, it must’ve been around 2017, I got an email saying, oh, we see that you’re doing a class for the American Library Association on social media, and we’re wondering if you would turn that into a book. Now you have to understand, I’ve got a lot of friends who love practical jokes, so my first reaction is, who would want to turn a class into a book cause it’s gotta be a joke. So I went online and realized, oh, this is from a real publisher. What do I do now? Did some quick research back and played it as straight as I could say, oh, I’d love to talk to you. If you want to set up an appointment, be happy to discuss the possibility of doing that book for you. That was on a Friday, the following Monday, we had a three-way conversation, the acquisitions editor Charles Harmon, who I will mention repeatedly in this conversation because he’s just a prince of an editor and just the most supportive person you could want to work with. But the three of us got into a half hour call talking about the possibility of transferring an existing course into a book.
And by the end of it, Charles had asked enough astute questions to realize that that was an okay idea for me, but if you really wanted to get my interest, we would go something broader because my interest had changed since that class first started. And that’s how the idea of doing a much broader thing on social media in terms of social change came about, it was my saying, I want to go bigger and him saying, well, how about this? You would pay me to do that? And the answer was, yes. So that’s how the book came about.
Both times, I was not trying to sell books at that point, in terms of pitching ideas. I am the worst pitcher in the whole world. I pitch dozens and dozens of things. I wrote a few unpublished novels that never got anywhere, still hold onto them, hoping for the day when they get discovered. But in both cases, people came to me and said, would you do this? And I’m thinking, you’re asking me, well, of course I would do that. So that’s how the book started.
Steve Thomas: And what was that course that you were teaching at ALA about?
Paul Signorelli: It was an introductory social media course that has evolved over the years. I do it about once or twice a year at this point. Each time, we look at the state of social media. We look at what people are doing with communications and just up our game a little bit.
But the initial one was just based on the idea that so many librarians knew about social media, but haven’t the foggiest idea of what the different platforms were, how to use them. So the initial one was basically a baby version of social media. Here’s how you start a Twitter account. Here’s how you start a LinkedIn account and a few other things.
And as it’s evolved over the years, we’ve gotten much more complex in it about. I’ll give you the first five minutes of how to set up those accounts, but we’re really going to talk about is how are people using them today? What are the preconceptions we have and how can we really alter those to better serve the community we work in?
So it’s gotten much more beyond the idea of “here’s social media and how you use it”, to “here’s social media, and let’s put that in the background, say with those tools, what do we want to accomplish?” So the book came along just the right time. It was going to another one of those transition periods of thinking, what am I doing with social media? How can I help the learners I’m working with? And Charles offered that opportunity to really explore it in depth. As a funny part of that, we finally signed a contract toward the end of 2017. I literally started writing the first chapter on January 1st, 2018. First couple things were so easy because I was immersed in it, and I knew that as we went further into it and we get more complex and the writing process would slow down. The first couple of chapters were banged out in about six weeks.
And the deal I had with Charles was I’m not going to wait and turn out a completed manuscript. I’m going to send you stuff as soon as I get a chapter completed so that we can fine tune it as we go. And then down the road, save editing time and rewriting time. Six weeks into it, this thing you may have heard of happened in Parkland, where the students were in a classroom, and that whole thing just blew up, literally, when the survivors who were magnificent students far beyond the wisdom of the usual high school students years turn that tragedy, six weeks later into March for Our Lives with 563 simultaneous marches all over the world.
I was about in the early stages of chapter three, which I think is on Twitter. I’d have to look at the table of contents right now. I was far enough into this at that point to say, this is a different world we’re seeing here with these students. So I slowed down a little bit and started re-examining what I was doing. And that turned what was going to be a six month writing project into almost two years. There were points where Charles was just shaking his head going, are you ever going to finish? I was saying, yeah, I’m going to finish, but this got complex far beyond what I imagined. And I want to embrace that complexity because that’s going to make the book something worth reading. So that’s how it all got started. And it was a very interesting writing process.
Finally with Charles getting desperate saying, you know, we’re going to have to pull the plug on this, if you can’t finish it. And no, I understand. I just bang through that finally, but very interesting writing project and transformative for me too. I hope it is for the readers.
Steve Thomas: So for the purposes of this book and this discussion, how would you define social media?
Paul Signorelli: Social media is that beast that allows us to interact with each other in two way conversation or multiple streams of conversation. It gives us the ability to exchange ideas, hopefully at a higher level, rather than a lower level, unfortunately, as you and I both know much of what’s out there is very low level and that’s the kind of stuff we want to avoid.
But to me, it’s those two words right together, it’s social, as people communicating with each other and trying to get to the heart of whatever they’re talking about in a way that promotes positive change, hence the focus of that particular book. And then media, of course, it changes at the drop of a hat. Media, as we all know, 50, 60 years ago, it was an old photograph and a black and white TV. It is amazing. And it’s interesting to me to just see every day, every month, every year, how the whole definition of social and media evolve. That’s what’s fascinating to me that it’s not a stagnant thing at all.
Steve Thomas: It’s still changing so much that even just the publication of the book since then, I mean, I don’t think you talk about TikTok really in the book.
Paul Signorelli: TikTok was out there as I was finishing up the book, but it was not something at the point where I was finishing the book that I thought was going to tie into training, teaching and learning, which again was focused on what we were talking about in there.
Steve Thomas: Yeah. And now it’s this huge thing. It also leads to things like, even if you don’t use that particular tool, it can shift the whole industry, okay, now we’re talking about video, so we’re moving away from text and we’re now we’re doing video and maybe we can do some longer videos that are more informational, but I’ve seen some TikTok stuff that’s educational too. So there’s ways to use all this stuff.
Paul Signorelli: Oh, I wish I could remember her name. But about the time you talked to him about what the book was about to go into the editor’s hands and it really turned into cement rather than a bowl of jello. There was this wonderful teacher who did something that went viral on TikTok. It was about a 17 second video. She’s a ukulele teacher says I’m dealing with COVID paraphrasing here. She doesn’t much more cleverly in 17 seconds, but she’s just sweet. And she says, you know, I’ve been thinking about COVID and thought I’d write a little song that would allow me to express my feelings on this.
So here I go, she strums a couple of chords and she just lets out this screeching piercing scream. Now that’s something that I can embrace that really captures the essence of TikTok and what we’re doing and teaching, training, learning. Because just when you think you’ve got it, nailed something else comes along and you want to let it that long curdling screech that she lets out.
Steve Thomas: So w when there is these new platforms, and obviously there’s going to be new things happening all the time. Technology is always moving and shifting and changing, whether it’s Tik TOK, or even something like discord or Twitch or all these different things. How does an organization like a library figure out if this is something that’s going to be useful to them in their mission?
Paul Signorelli: The counsel I’m giving people, the councel I follow myself is find something that really appeals to you and play with it a little bit, but don’t try to try everything that comes out. Don’t try to become an expert in it. One of the big questions I think we overlook in our choice of social media platforms is if we are working for a library or working for any other organization, first question is, are our users even using that platform? There is no point in us building library training programs or training programs in any other industry for that matter around a platform where we and our colleagues in the training department may be the only people who are using it.
So the first thing I always ask, if I’m going to look at something new, is who else do I know is using that thing and how are they using it? So I start playing with things. I was very slow to coming to some platforms that I’m totally immersed in now. And there are others where they came and the day I heard about them, I just jumped into them because they made so much sense to me.
Ask yourself what it adds to your mix that you don’t already have. And then ask yourself are other people using it? If the people you want to reach are using it, then that’s a good sign that you want to at least explore it. If you’re the only one doing it, then it’s one of those things you explore on your own time to have some fun with it, put in the back of your mind that it’s a tool out there, but you don’t jump into it until you’re ready to jump into it.
I’ll look at a lot of different things that come up. I probably got into Twitter at four or five years after it started.
Steve Thomas: I found Twitter, especially useful in the earlier days of being a lot of professional development, professional networking, stuff like that. I mean, it really helped with this podcast of meeting people and finding out about people and then relaying that into a conversation at a conference.
Paul Signorelli: To this day, I still find Twitter to be one of my two or three go-to places. I’m not as active. I haven’t been as active over the last couple of months for a variety of personal reasons. But Twitter to me is one of those things I will keep going back to just because I think it’s such a useful tool. And one thing I still love is the tweet chats when they’re well moderated. I keep thinking about what was said, I go back and look at some of the resources that were mentioned as, because the people there, A) moderated well, and B) bring stuff to the table that you and I are not going to find on our own. And that’s the brilliance of doing a tweet chat. That’s what I really enjoy.
Steve Thomas: I know that this book is not exclusively written for librarians, and I think the other people can get value out of this, but do you feel like librarians should be activists and does that fit into the library’s overarching mission?
Paul Signorelli: I’m going to label myself as being way out on extreme wing of this particular topic and say, absolutely, I do see the long-term commitment to being unbiased and putting out all sides of an issues through library materials as an integral part of what we do.
And then I think there is an element of this. I think Dave Lankes is probably fully on board with this. I’ve talked to Dave a number of times, I read much of what he writes. My sense of Dave is thinking that librarianship is more than just putting out a bunch of stuff and then stepping back and letting people see it. There is an activist phase to it.
As I wrote the book, and as I continue to work with librarians and library users across the country, when I’m able to travel, which is just picking up a little bit again, the beauty of what we do in libraries is we are putting out information and we are at some level trying to make change in our community at a positive level. Even if we say we will give you all sides of an issue that we’re capable of giving you, that in itself is a statement. And we think it’s important to put information in people’s hands and foster that process of helping people make the most reasonable decision they can for themselves.
And that is a double-edged sword, of course, somebody who’s very conservative will have one set of needs that we need to meet, somebody who is very liberal, have a different set of needs. And our thing is not to say, we prefer this over that, even though we know, and we need to acknowledge where our own political beliefs are, but the beauty of what we do is that we reach those different groups.
John Chrastka, I think it was, from EveryLibrary, told a story a few years ago about somebody who was in the library and had put out a variety of books on a variety of different viewpoints on a particular topic. And for that particular community, most people were on one side of the issue. So the display of books suddenly became very unbalanced because all the ones that represented that particular viewpoint were out of the library off the shelf, leaving the impression that the library was only promoting one point of view. So somebody that John knew contacted him. So I’ve got a terrible problem. I’m being accused of being biased on the materials I put out. And it’s because of this. He described what I just described to you. And John’s answer was the most simple and lovely answer, which is tell people that. When they start complaining, tell them that that’s why it’s going, and it’s a good sign of how the community works. The librarian who approached John, did that and it defused the situation. I think it’s a lovely description of what we do. We are activists, whether we want to admit it or not in libraries and far beyond.
Steve Thomas: Yeah. We make choices. Sometimes not making a choice is making a choice. What we have in our collections is a choice. Some people can call it, I don’t call it censorship, but I know some people would call it censorship, but you have to make choices. Even if your goal would be to completely objectively do whatever, number one, we can’t be objective because we’re not objective creatures. But even if that was your goal, we don’t have unlimited budget, and you don’t have unlimited space. You have to decide what can fit on your shelves, and it’s also going to be different no matter where you are, because you have to know your community. So you want to reflect your community, and not exclusively to where they don’t get other ideas coming in. But generally, if they want to read mysteries, you want to have mysteries on the shelf. If they cook a lot, you to have a lot of cookbooks. There’s lots of things where you have to just pay attention to what’s going on around you.
Paul Signorelli: I totally agree with that. And we’re never going to win because people who are hardcore at one point of view and do not want to hear anything else, if they perceive that the library or any other institution is leaning a particular way, they’re going to be vocal about it. And we just have to be a big boys and big girls and say, I understand what you’re saying. Here’s what we’re trying to do. We will order more copies of what you want because that’s our responsibility. We’re listening to you, and I think that’s part of the communication thing. We just have to keep showing people. We are listening. We’ll do our best to meet those needs, but we’re not perfect. And bear with us.
Steve Thomas: I am very much in team “libraries are not neutral.” Yeah.
Paul Signorelli: It’s a lovely idea that there could be anything in our particular time period that would be neutral. That’s not an idea I subscribe to.
Steve Thomas: Social media, Facebook mostly, and then Instagram and Twitter after that, they encourage and reward engagement. And of course the best engagement, the most engagement you’re going to get is harmful and negative because nothing gets people riled up and they want to keep fighting back and forth. So how can libraries or other institutions who are using social media or even individuals avoid that trap while at the same time using those algorithms for good?
Paul Signorelli: One thing is at that moment when you’re most feeling beleaguered and you are most under attack, you do the counterintuitive thing of stepping back and taking a breath before you respond. I think that’s a very important part of this. Social media by its nature demands that we respond immediately, and we all have kind of gotten that expectation. If we put something out and somebody doesn’t respond in five or 10 seconds, we want to start taunting them saying, “oh, you’re afraid of me, you’re chicken, you don’t want to do anything?” And you have to fight that urge to get in there.
A great rule of thumb that I learned many years ago, and I wish I could tell you who taught me this, but it was when I was still at San Francisco Public Library, so this is a good 15 or more years ago. The guidance was when you were about to respond to something, especially on social media, but anywhere, before you respond, you ask yourself if that ends up on the front page of my hometown newspaper tomorrow, would I be okay with that? And if your answer is no, then you stop and you rethink what you’re going to do. That’s a hard lesson that most people have not yet learned. I say most people just off the top of my head. I don’t have research to prove that, but I would say that the average person wants to respond right away and then dust off their hands, and say, “See, I told you,” which is the worst thing you can do because then you’re stuck with it. There was no way ever to retract something. Even if you immediately delete your tweet or you do anything to take it off any other platform you put it on, somebody will have copied it and will keep putting it out there. So the answer here is be a little patient, be a little circumspect and take that time that our particular time period doesn’t encourage us to take.
When you take that step back, then you can start being more mature in this and you can respond to a more reasonable way. The whole thing of how do you deal with this and how do we bring social media up to a higher level that, and reach its potential on a positive way?
Part of it is taking time, not taking it personally, no matter how personal it obviously is or how personal it feels. And only putting that stuff out there that we can live with and be proud of and comfortable with. That’s a big step for a lot of people. I’m not perfect at it. I try to be, and I try to follow that advice when I’ve get most angry and want to respond to are saying, you know, it’s time to take a walk.
I had a boss when I was working in museums many, many years ago, who was just the nicest guy, really bright guy. This was a small town museum and in Monterey, California here, right on the coast, beautiful little place. But my boss Tom, faced a lot of controversy for the kind of shows you would bring in.
And one day, we had the most lovely conversation where I said, Tom, how do you deal with that pressure? He says, “you know, on a bad day, I’ll just leave my office for a few minutes, go out into the galleries and look at some of the art on the walls. And I come back feeling better”. I said, “Tom, what do you do on a not so easy day like that?”
And again, talking about the geography of Monterey, where you have the main street Alvarado Street, which is about five or six blocks long, he’d say, “I’ll go out of the building for 15 or 20 minutes, walk up and down Alvarado Street and I’ll come back in. At that point, I wasn’t going to give up because I really wanted to get to the heart of it, “so, Tom, all those days, when just everything is awful and you feel like people are calling for your resignation and you really don’t want to be there anymore, then how do you deal with it?” And Tom was not going to be daunted his answer without a thought was, “oh, on those days, I just walk to Salinas,” which of course is about 20 or 30 miles away. This is the kind of guy I want to emulate throughout my career. This is what we need to do on social media. On those bad days, we just turn off Twitter, we turn off Facebook, and we walk to Salinas where the equivalent in our own community. That’s who we have to be.
The basic thing we’re talking about here, Steve, is the idea that we cannot let social media control us. It is a tool. It’s not the guiding light and when it is directing us, we need to take a deep breath and step back from it.
There are great people that I admire who talk about taking social media fasts. There’s one guy, who’s a professor here at one of the schools in San Francisco who half a decade or more ago was talking one day at a presentation I went to, about how you deal with social media and how you pull back. And he was doing an experiment with some of his social media students. The challenge was go as long as you can turning everything off and let’s see how far that can go. I think he was leading a semester long social media class. And as he was doing a presentation on that to a bunch of us over at the San Francisco Public Library, he asked us, so how long do you think the shortest period was for the person that could stay off the least period of time? And how long do you think passed for the longest person in that particular experiment?
None of us got it right. The shortest was two or three hours for somebody. Which was kind of astonishing to a lot of us. And the longest was about three days. This professor obviously had great relationships with his students, had an open door to them, so he could see what was going on over those three or four days when this whole experiment played out. People would come in and say, I don’t know what to do without my social media. I come on the bus going across San Francisco and I’m not sure what to do. And then the guy said, why don’t you look out the window and see what’s out there as you’re going by, oh, okay. We get so immersed in this. We think that we’re away from it for a few hours, the world we won’t know about it.
Well, I got news for you, folks, if the world ends you’re going to know about it. It’s going to be the last thought you have, and you don’t need to worry about that, but it was a brilliant experiment. It has guided me and my own use of social media. I do try at least a half a day a week. I’ll go to bed on Saturday night as late as I can push the envelope, but I’ll try not to turn on anything until midday, like noon or later on a Sunday.
So now I’ve just outed myself. Anybody that wants to say something mean about me and not have me respond immediately, you do that between about midnight on a Saturday night, Pacific time, mind you, and assume I’m not going to see it till noon or later there are exceptions, but that’s a minimum I try to do just to take a breather and be able to look out in my backyard and look at the trees and the plants, listen to the birds. Look at the people I’m around, have brunch with somebody without looking down at a tablet or a phone. And it’s wonderful.
You know, really COVID killed that because Saturday’s now -outing myself and my schedule here and I hope people don’t take advantage of this but -Saturdays, since COVID started a small group of us that used to meet at a diner here in San Francisco, we went online with our brunches. So we do virtual brunches from our own homes. And then there’s a friend of mine, in Washington, DC that I just adore, and as COVID got worse and worse, we started doing Saturday evening things.
So now my Saturdays in a very lovely way, I’ll run out and get something at a local restaurant so that we don’t have to cook. We just bring the food back. And then we log on with this group and we have brunch together for a couple of hours and we have about a three hour break. My wife and I are then in the afternoon and early evening on another two or three hour conversation, but it’s not this terrible stereotypical thing of people saying, oh, I spent all my time online. It’s just, that’s the tool. But the way we carry on the conversation is what you and I are doing now. I’m assuming the viewers don’t know that you and I can see each other because we’re using zoom for the recording. But I don’t think you’re thinking about the fact you’re on zoom right now.
You’re thinking about the fact we’re having a conversation and that’s how it is with my friends and I, when we do those kind of Saturday long conversations, it doesn’t matter what the setting is. We still engage at a very human level and have the kind of conversations we were having face to face, which takes me full circle to something I believed for a long time.
And I think we’re just beginning to catch up with it. People have ignored the idea that the concept of face-to-face has changed radically, given the introduction of Google Meet. Skype changed the world for a lot of us. When we realized you could have that level of engagement, it took a lot of practice, mind you, when you could get that level of engagement online, it just changed the whole thing. So now when I’m talking about face-to-face, it’s like face-to-face physically and face-to-face online. To me, there’s very little difference when the conversations go with the level, you and I are doing this now where we can see each other. It does to me, as I look at the screen and block out everything in my peripheral vision, I’m with you, Steve. And that’s something a lot of us don’t realize that’s a massive, wonderful tool if you recognize that and take full advantage of the possibilities there.
You have to ask yourself for those of us that have gotten comfortable with this level of online interaction, what would you rather do have the kind of conversation you and I are having where we don’t have to wear a mask, we’re comfortable, we can see and hear each other and the level of conversation for better or for worse is what it always was.
Would you rather have that or would you rather be wearing masks and garbage bags over your body and spray Lysol on yourself every five seconds. I would love to think there’s going to be a time and I’m sure at some point COVID will somehow get under control. We will be back to what I hope will be a new and better normal, rather than just trying to go back to what we had before.
But this is part of our transition period. And for those that are totally frozen by it, that’s a tragedy. That is a tragedy to me that rivals the massive loss of life that we have seen in this, because it’s a massive loss of social interaction. That’s the heart of what we do.
For those of us who’ve made the transition, and like I said, it was pretty easy for me because much of my work had taken me down that path. I just needed to upgrade some of the stuff at home, get a better microphone, get a ring light so it didn’t look like I was Count Dracula with my face in darkness, pentagram on the wall behind me because the light was a strange pattern we need to adapt and work with it. Goes back to what some of my greatest mentors have said, you know, technology is doing what it’s supposed to do when you are no longer cognizant of the technology and you’re doing what you were meant to do. You and I having a conversation, we’re not thinking about the fact that we are on Zoom or Google Meet or whatever we ended up using here.
We had a normal for awhile, and then COVID hit, and so we were thinking about creating a new normal, and then there was going to be a new and better normal. And finally, we got to the point of saying, let us look for something that builds off of this and stop trying to go back, but create some hybrids that work for all of us. And for me, the real visionary people that I’ve admired and worked around in these last, what is it now about 20 months close to that? That has inspired me a lot. You know me well enough to know I’m not one that sits back and goes, “I’ve always done it this way, so let’s keep doing it.” It’s like, oh, I did that yesterday. Let’s do something different tomorrow. And let’s see if we can do it more creatively and better.
So it’s been a period of growth for a lot of us, but my heart aches for those people that have not been able to do that. And still even at this point are saying, we just want to go back to normal because frankly, so many of us, when we’re honest, say to each other normal before COVID was not all that great. We had a lot of social issues we were struggling with.
There were a lot of teaching, training, and learning issues that we were struggling with. And I think this has given us a good opportunity. And for those of us who want to grasp it and ride those white waters, knowing you’re going to fall out of the boat occasionally, but somebody will throw you a life raft, it’s been a very stimulating period.
Steve Thomas: In a lot of the chapters, you use stories to emphasize the points that you’re making. I was just curious of how you went about gathering those stories.
Paul Signorelli: Lots and lots of interviews. And it goes back to when Lori and I wrote the first book that you alluded to a little earlier. I realized early on that I did not want to do tape recordings and spend hours and hours of transcription. Fortunately, technology caught up to my desire at the time we did that first book a decade ago. So in this one, it was the same process. I would set up interviews with people.
We would use typed chat. So there was no opportunity for the interviewees to make comments “off the record” verbally and say, “oh, I didn’t mean to say that.” The process would be that we’d set up a shared document. I would type in a question. While they were answering, I’d be looking at their answer, reviewing previous answers, and I’ll tell you that the process was just fabulous because while they were thinking through what they wanted to say and coming across exactly the way they want it to come across, I could go back and see those nuggets, that in a spoken interview, into a tape recorder, you never have the chance to go back to unless you do a follow-up interview.
So while they’re doing their next answer, I could go back and see gaps in what they had. And we would circle back and where it got really fun, because it was typed chat, which produced the transcript immediately was I would refer them back to a previous paragraph and say, I’m going to drop a follow-up question in there, go back up there, and it gave us a narrative flow that is not natural to the spoken process that you and I are doing for this interview. That was a great eye-opener. Lori and I developed that for ourselves when we did the first book, and I took it to quantum leaps for the second book.
So the interviews were always been an hour max. I would have some set questions and I was always happiest when we would go off track and I’d set aside the set questions and explore what they were saying and what they wanted to get across.
Steve Thomas: Before we get to our last question about the book, I wanted to make a quick diversion over and ask you about the other podcast that you do regularly, T is for Training, which is hosted by Maurice Coleman, who has been on this show a couple of times as well. I guess two part question: what do you hope listeners get out of that show and what do you get out of that show?
Paul Signorelli: I hope listeners get stimulated by the themes that we’re exploring and want to try to incorporate some of those themes into their own work.
We’re all trainers on that show and trainers want to have transformation. If you do a training and nothing changes, in a way, that’s the hugest failure. With a conversation like that, you want transformation that leads to something positive, and I think oftentimes we do get to that point.
What I want to get out of it is I enjoy the comradery of the people who come and go on that show. There’s obviously a core group of us. I really do think, Steve, that you need to start carving out your Thursday evening.to be part of a regular conversation there because you would just fit right in and we could do some more crossovers with what you to do over here, but personally, what I get out of it, this stimulation of colleagues who are thoughtful and funny and irreverent and make me think, and look at things differently than I would without them.
It’s Thursdays 9:00 Eastern, 6:00, I want to say Western, but that isn’t the right time. We have our own Western timezone… Pacific. That was a term I wanted! Even I can do that! Pacific time, folks, it’s every other week. And thank you for asking about it because it is lovely.
Steve Thomas: So the last thing I wanted to ask about the book, it’s called Change the World Using Social Media. If a library is not really involved with social media much at all, how can they get started to change the world?
Paul Signorelli: Anybody, libraries, librarians, anybody outside that industry that wants to use social media effectively, and they have in mind the goal of making social change needs to start small. You ask two or three basic questions. Where’s our audience? Is our audience on Twitter? Is it on Facebook? Is there a TikTok? And you start there, you do not put yourself on a platform that nobody else is using, because then you’re just howling at the moon when the moon is not even visible in the sky.
So first find out where people are. Second thing is get comfortable with it. Third thing is understand that there will be belly flops. You know, you’re not going to run into this and just do a beautiful swan dive off a 10 foot tall, 10 meter up in the air diving board into the waters. There will be those painful times when you really did something that embarrasses you.
And at that moment, embrace it and say, okay, I didn’t mean to do that. I’m really sorry. I offended somebody with this. I’m learning from this. And you move on and don’t let people drag you down. There was a mantra that somebody years ago among my colleagues said, which is fail to learn. And I love the double-edged sword of that: one side of it has fail to learn, meaning of course you don’t learn anything and that’s not what you want. But the more important part of that is when you fail, you learn from that. And that’s the important thing in social media. When something goes wonky, acknowledge it, apologize for it if that’s necessary and move on and don’t let people drag you down.
Steve Thomas: You know, we were talking about how to get started, but knowing when to get out too, because you’re not recommending people go set up MySpace and Friendster pages and stuff now, because that’s not the thing. And ALA was on Second Life way past the time you needed to be on there. Cause it’s like, nobody’s on, what are you doing over there?
Paul Signorelli: A couple of years ago, an organization I’m part of with ostensively, some of the top trainers in our industry. They did a big thing where they were going to be talking about technology that they’re using with social media, and so I went to that because I was all ears. I was in the middle of writing the book and one of the presentations was on the value of Second Life. This is only two or three years ago. Oh, wait a minute. Second Life came and went almost a decade ago, and you’re proposing to your group of people that they look at that? There may be something going on there, but I’ll tell you, folks, we’re way down the road from that right now.
And there are much better things that are offshoots of Second Life that we should be looking at. We need to be malleable. Those things that are working for us and putting us in touch with our audiences, because that’s where they are. That’s where we start to focus on.
We need to be aware of the new things coming up. I will disparage until the cows come home, certain platforms out there that I just don’t see a use for it because they don’t add anything for what I do and the people I serve. But the minute my perceptions change, I’ll do a 180 degree turn and jump into that when I realize that gets me toward a goal, that’s good for me and the people I serve.
Steve Thomas: And that’s what it’s all about is the people that we serve. So, Paul, thank you so much for coming back on the show. If listeners want to follow up with you, how can they get in touch with you? Are you on social media, Paul?
Paul Signorelli: You know, I’ve heard of it. I’m very active on Facebook. I’m very active on Twitter and I’m very active in LinkedIn. I will play with other things as time allows. Easiest thing is just put my name into Google and add San Francisco. I come up pretty regularly and easily there. And again, the email address, if anybody wants to reach me directly is firstname.lastname@example.org and your midterm exam is figured out how to spell “Signorelli” which, by the way, the answer key S I G N O R E L L I, which you knew that because you saw the promo for this from Steve. So thank you, Steve. Wonderful to be with you.
Steve Thomas: Look at the show title. Has Paul’s name right there.
Paul Signorelli: Oh my God. I’m going to be up in lights again.
Steve Thomas: Alright, thanks so much, Paul. And the book is called Change the World Using Social Media.
Paul Signorelli: Yeah. It’s out of Rowan & Littlefield, and I hope you support it. A lot of heart went into that. And as you said, Steve, the stories in there are really, it’s not me. It’s the stories I managed to capture and put into that book that are the heart of that book.
Steve Thomas: All right. Well, thanks, Paul.
Paul Signorelli: You’re welcome.