Infowhelm -strategies for managing your information flow

| Author: Paula | Post a comment


Citation Mitchell Kapor

image by Will Lion

Everyday we are offered an abundance of information, conveniently streamed directly to us and linking us with the wider world. Being a connected, current consumer AND contributor of the E-literate world is part of 21st Century Librarianship, but some days this information feed can feel almost overwhelmingly unmanageable.

Emailing, texting, updating, tweeting, posting, blogging, searching, downloading, streaming, some days it’s easy to wish for the old days of just chatting and reading. As a tweeter, blogger, poster, emailer and downloader I’ve come to the realisation that I need control over what I do with this information, at a time that suits me to deal with it.

The age of Information Overwhelm is the new normal.

Email can be a major stressor and distracter when there are so many others things demanding our attention.
Being connected to online library and information communities combined with our in-school communities, can sometimes make email can seem like more hassle than its worth when our students’ and teachers’ demands and needs come first.

Setting up rules, to divert emails away from your inbox and into named folders can be one way of managing what demands your attention right now, and what you can park to look over later, tomorrow or next week.
Most school IT managers can help with this, YouTube is a great self educator or an email to the online library communities would no doubt offer a flood of support and help (but more emails potentially too!).

Reading the subject line and only opening the email if there’s relevance to your library and your situation can help with the inbox cull too. Being librarians makes us personally interested in a lot of things, but professionally we need to be strong willed during those time starved days, about what we can honestly get through.

Categorizing (colour coding) those emails that we’d love to look at “on a quiet day” can be another way of prioritising what gets dealt with now, whilst being aware that those quiet days are few and far between!

Tools like give us the opportunity to read a topic thread, never miss out on a post, and access, follow or unfollow them when we choose.

Twitter’s use of #hashtags to follow news threads can sift out the should reads from the
could reads, and turning off the instant notification option of feeds like Twitter and Facebook delivered to smart phones can be a great way of clawing back control too. You can even turn off the little outlook notification that appears on the bottom of your screen when an email arrives.

I’m currently trialling following OZTLNet on Facebook and receiving their emails as a daily digest, instead of getting every post in real time, as the frequency of email delivery was too much for my current workload.

If we needed evidence of the increasing amount of information available to us this video from the 21st Century Fluency Project explains InfoWhelm and the need for Information Fluency as one of the key fluencies in the 21st Century.

As information and library professionals we need to know what’s happening, but it’s a bit like watching TV; we choose what’s best for us and fast forward through the ads and rubbish!

It’s important to find a way that works for YOU and remembering that just because we can have ubiquitous information feeds, sometimes this is not the best option. Your information stream may need to be tweaked to cope with the seasonal flurries that working in schools presents.

We teach and encourage our school communities to be discerning users of online information, but sometimes in our attempts to ensure the best experience and service for library users, we forget to regularly refill our own cup too.

A small and regular time investment in yourself professionally, has the potential to continue giving to your customers for a long time, as well as energising and invigorating your day-to-day school lives.

If in doubt remember what L’Oreal says; “Because you’re worth it!”

What other strategies do you use to manage your information streams?