Thing 5. Online networking: an expat’s view of Facebook & Twitter

The focus of Thing 5 is Facebook and Twitter.  Being an expat has shaped my interaction with these two platforms, both negatively and positively.

Facebook, by Christopher on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
I don’t like Facebook.  A few years ago, logging onto Facebook BEFORE BREAKFAST became the most important part of my day, and also the most painful, as I watched friends and family living their lives in familiar places and hanging out with each other. It made me so depressed. Because I missed the familiarity of home, friends and family, and I wanted to be a part of their lives, I spent longer and longer on Facebook. One day I realised this was eating away at my time and emotions to the exclusion of what mattered.  I came to my senses, deactivated my account, and made the choice to get on with expat living!

CC Open domain.
CC Open domain.
Some days the expat-adventure is jam packed with discovery and excitement, with the exotic and the oddly bizarre…


Crazy Camel, by Jeremy Vandel on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


…on others you have to dig deep to rise above it all, or you become bogged down in a desire to give it all up prematurely, wishing you could head home. Home.  After a while you have to work hard at recalling the familiar and ‘home’ becomes a blurry concept. (Ok, after 15 years at least, for me.  😀  )

At its best, expat life influences and moulds you, defines who you become – your thinking, your outlook, attitudes, worldview, toleration levels… all these are enlarged, challenged, tested and you find the need to constantly have a conversation with yourself.  This introspection is good…if you keep a sense of humour, you can find your quirky side, your weaknesses, your oddities, and hopefully begin to view yourself as others see you, and to criticise others less.


CC 0 image from Unsplash

The blinkers fall off.  For example, you gain insight as to why some don’t look you in the eye or give a firm handshake while greeting, because in some cultures a firm handshake is regarded as offensive; some consider the support of relations back home more important than spending on the latest fashion fad or fancy travel. You begin to have empathy for those who speak your language, albeit not perfectly.  You find that the way you use a word can be horribly misunderstood.  You find that some people have courtesies that must be respected and adhered to before you get on with the business at hand, and you are constantly exposed to many different possibilities on how to approach life’s complexities.

So what has all this to do with online networks and Facebook?  Fifteen years as an expat has changed me.  I’m not the person I was when we left our home country.  My online network habits will reflect that. Today I am ready to explore Facebook again. I still don’t like it, but I have subscribed again under a new email address, for professional purposes. It didn’t take them long to link me up (Facebook-style) with everyone (ever) in my life. (Creepy, how they do this.)  I hav just discovered an article that shows why Facebook can also contribute to insular approach with the latest tweak to their algorithm…to quote from it…

“…it means you’ll almost certainly see an even less diverse range of opinions and news than you already do.”

But if we are aware of this, we can help make the choice as to what we would like to see in our timeline. I took an hour to check privacy settings according to this article, and to explore the new user interface. If you want to follow me, you’re most welcome, but this is primarily an account for my librarianship interests. 😀

This time I have a career goal and I know where I’m headed. My view of the world is enlarged, so I’m going to let Facebook work for me, not against me. My interests now are libraries and their impact on society. And wonderful innovative librarians that I can learn from. And all things info!  Digital data! Techie stuff! Entrepreneurial ideas. Makerspaces. Social outreach. These will be the pages I follow. In Rudai23 Thing 5 , Bobbi Newman’s article  from a few years ago is listed, suggesting 6 Facebook pages for librarians to follow. These are still valid today, and I have chosen 4 of them to follow.  I will log onto Facebook when I have time on my hands and when the time is right, because I’m older, wiser and more at peace with myself and where I am. Admittedly, I still wish I was settled and not an expat, but until I am, I will use Facebook to reach out to connections that I can grow and learn from.

Moving on to the micro-blogging site Twitter…Twitter logo

…here is my fav!  I subscribed in 2011 and have thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

Image by Matt Hamm  CC BY-NC 2.0

My twitter

Kay Oddone’s blog entry on Twitter brings its value across, as she encourages newbies to get tweeting.  For me personally, it is the most important go-to source for professional development.  Kay mentioned ‘lurking’ on Twitter until one is confident to add your voice – that is precisely what I did.  Here is how I commented on Kay’s article:

And speaking of ‘lurking’…I lurked until I was confident enough to find my voice. Not being able to have ‘librorum’ conversations face to face, Twitter filled that gap.

It has often taken me out of my isolated expat situation and is probably why I’m hooked! However, I’m constantly challenged to do, and to know, more by fellow professionals via Twitter, and always amazed at how much I discover each time I’m on the app. 🙂

It has been nothing but a positive experience for me. Yes, I made the odd mishap initially, by getting involved in political debates, and venting, but you learn fast. Within Kay’s article there was a link to some great ideas to tweet about, by George Couros, as well as a list of what NOT to tweet about.  (Remember the debacle with the unfortunate tweet by a PR Exec in 2013?)

Twitter chats are fun and really get you thinking. Remember, tweets are public and you are held accountable for what you say. I often worry that what I say is unimportant, or silly, but someone, somewhere in the world, is always kind, appreciative and encouraging. I follow and learn from librarians globally. Here are 9 of many accounts I recommend:  Liz McGettican, LWB_Online, Michelle Luhtala, Jan Holmquist, Sally Pewhairangi, Lyndelle Gunton, Gwyneth Jones, Bobbi Newman and my personal favourite, International Librarians Network. Look at their accounts and who they follow, to get ideas to build your own PLN (personal learning network).

In my opinion, with both Facebook and Twitter, you need to be yourself (be authentic), but act professionally if you want to be viewed as a professional. I know librarians can really let their hair down…(buns loose)… :p  but if you post a pic of yourself with that interesting cocktail, try to avoid the Miley-Cyrus-style hang out.  🙂

Miley Cyrus tongue out

Miley Cyrus by Paul Vera-Broadbent  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Show your interests and interact with others as soon as you feel confident to do so. They will appreciate it. In fact, most people are very helpful and kind. Share your knowledge, show your skills; pass on interesting news and links you find; investigate the things you have not heard of before, and encourage and engage others. Your followers will grow and mutual learning takes place.

The world of Twitter is exciting and vibrant. I’ve just read an article that reveals Twitter will soon be rolling out an update to include emoticon stickers for photos, making it even more fun to connect to people and to collaborate.


Emoticons by Becky McCray


Thanks for visiting my blog.  Please feel free to leave a message.

 rose_06   Clipart from


Thing 4: Pssst! It’s that ‘G’ word…

Google logo for blogs

Google logo for blogs, by SEO on Flickr, under a creative commons (BY-SA 2.0) licence.


As librarians we’re into communication and collaboration, the topic of Thing 4.  Google is the focus of this topic, but in my opinion, as educators and librarians, we are obliged to know the benefits of the commonly used communication/collaboration applications out there.   In this way we will be able to speak about them with authority, and assist others when the need arises, to make a choice or to set up their accounts.

From personal experience, making use of different services, if possible, makes for more efficient working environments.  Cloud computing has been a favourite of mine over the past 5 years, as it has kept me sane. Seriously.


Flickr photo Descending Clouds, by Gary Hayes, under creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence. 

I understand that there are people asking valid privacy questions regarding the ‘cloud’, but after spending years backing up stuff, first on floppy disks, then on CDs, then external hard drives and memory sticks, and backups of backups, it’s such a relief to pop a doc into a folder on your desktop and to know that it’s taken care of – probably for good. It’ll be there whenever and where-ever needed! (Unless of course, a disaster strikes at the location of the storage warehouse, but hey, it’s their job to make backups, right?) :p  Yes, I know, I know…it’s right and proper to still keep a backup yourself. 🙂

Not having to remember what to back up, or having to lug those devices around and, most of all, not having to guard them so that they don’t get damaged, is such a bonus. When my hard drive went on my laptop a few years ago, I lost a couple of unimportant documents and a few of our latest photos, but nothing serious.  My habit of placing everything in a cloud drive paid off.  When the new drive was installed, it was merely a case of carry on as before, after installing the desktop folders which sync automatically.

I use cloud services from Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive and Flickr. Oh and iCloud, since I’m an avid Apple fan.  Because of my love-hate relationship with Google, I purposely avoided Gmail and Google Drive, until a few months ago when I began as an intern librarian at an international school. School-wide they used Google Education Apps – everyone communicated and collaborated (with parents too) using Google tools.  I saw the benefits first hand and realised that vast amounts of time and paper were saved while increasing cooperation and efficiency.  At the time I proposed to learn more about Google’s capabilities, but it didn’t happen then.  After 4 months at the school I sought out an internship at a different library.  What I did do though was to follow a few very talented and skilled people on Twitter, who are Google certified teachers, to be able to learn from them. Here are two: Alice Keeler and Catlin Tucker.

So, if it sounds like I’m selling something…I am – the Cloud! Not necessarily only Google.  Although Thing 4 focuses on the Google ecosystem (as I’ve heard it referred to) and make no mistake, it is impressive, personally I favour MS Office and its related apps. Here’s a shout-out to  OneNote logoMS OneNote…a note-taking, collaborative app that I have used for years (sadly not to its fullest potential); I use it all the time, across all my devices with great success.  I’ve heard it said that Google’s equivalent, Google Keep, is not quite up to the same standard.

Flickr photo shared by Microbiologybytes, under creative commons (BY-SA 2.0) licence.

Consequently, when I looked at Thing 4, my initial reaction was “Oh no, why the emphasis on Google!”

Oh no

Flickr photo, ‘Oh no’, by Courtney McGough, under creative commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence.  

However, I explored and worked through the tasks.  Reclaiming my Gmail account, setting up two-step authentication, checking the privacy settings, and setting up a profile took the greater part of 2 hours since it was all new to me.  But admittedly, once that’s done the hard part is over. I am really impressed with the functionality of Gmail. 🙂 It is a great email app.  Exploring the tools took another hour, after which I chose a few that I would use regularly, to link to my account:

  • Google translate: living in a country where Arabic is the first language, I often have to translate something, and this works really well for me. We’ve been expats for so long, I sometimes need Google translate to find words in my other mother tongue, Afrikaans. (I grew up speaking English to my mom and Afrikaans most often to my dad and other relatives.)
  • Google calendar: is really efficient, and just recently became even more so with this feature.
  • Google maps: saves my life regularly on the roads here in Doha, with infrastructure development taking place on an ongoing basis. Now that I have set up my Google account I can personalize the map app.
  • G+: a social app, similar to Facebook. Google-plus-iconSince I’ve only just set up my profile, I can’t comment on it, but it is nice to know of another manner in which like-minded professionals can connect and communicate around similar interests. I’m not on Facebook because I choose not to be at the present time, due to time constraints, but G+ appears to be more focused towards interests. I chose to follow an animal lovers group and a Smartphone Photography group for now. Will aim to search for Rudai23, and a couple of library accounts soon. A G+ account is also needed to be able to communicate using…
  • Google Hangouts: Hangouts_IconGoogle’s chat function, either via messenger or video.  I’ve seen it used in a conference setting and it worked well.  Yesterday, I tried a hangout with my daughter in Australia.  After initial PC sound battles, it was quite effective.  Google hangouts allows up to 10 people simultaneously on video chats and many more on messenger.
  • Google Drive: offers an impressive 15 GB cloud storage to subscribers.  It is shared across Drive, Gmail and Google Photos, a mobile feature that some like and others are sceptical of. According to Rudaí23 writer, Stephanie Ronan, Google Photos organises, categorises and even animates some images. Not sure I’ll be testing this photo app, though, as I’m happy with Flickr.

This last week I experienced the joy of using the cloud. I had a large volume of library signs and a Powerpoint presentation to deliver to the library where I volunteer.  I had designed these documents at home. Instead of emailing them, I was able to download them from my cloud storage, onto the desktop at work.  Here I could edit them, resize them for printing, and collaborate with fellow librarians on their design.  This method minimizes the correspondence by email.  We all know that emailing large attachments can be problematic, so downloading from the cloud is truly the way to go.  Sharing a link to the document by email or messenger is also a way to share, and this is used especially when you are not personally going to be at the point of download.

As an example, here is a link to the reading badges on my Google drive, for Grade 5s, that I created using online SaaS, for a school’s reading ‘Across the Genres’ programme.  (If you’re a teacher and you’d like to use these, they can be downloaded with my compliments. 🙂 )

That’s my take on thing 4’s communication and collaboration tools.

Till next time, and thanks for reading this far. 😀

Thing 3 – personal BRANDing…

When I opened a Twitter account specifically for my library career in 2012, I had no idea what an important role it would play in building my knowledge and connecting me to the library world. At any rate, that is a story for another time. At the time, I needed a user name for my Twitter account, and not being very creative with such things, LibSandy was born.

Later, I opened a Pinterest account; then Instagram caught my attention, and with each one I had a feeling that I should stick with the same handle. When a Hotmail account became so ‘yesterday’, I chose as near to the same user name as was allowed for my new email account.

All the ‘LibSandy’ business  was because I did not relish being ‘out there’ in my own name. I could be invisible and interact incognito. Fast forward 5 years – I hear how vital it is to be recognisable and visible for career purposes. Dilemma! I’m visible as LibSandy, not as Sandra Brandt.  Enter LinkedIn and!  I only recently opened an page in my name, which now appears on my Twitter bio. On the other hand, my LinkedIn profile (several years old already) displays my Twitter user name. After reading the requirements for ‘Thing 3’ I realise that somehow I must make ‘LibSandy’ more visible on my LinkedIn account, so that people can connect the two. The launch of this blog will no doubt help the visibility factor, as well as connect a name to the handle. 🙂

This visibility has me in a quandary.  Ideally I would just like to be part of the team, getting on with the job.  Not out there and in your face. (I’m one of those individuals – a mix of introvert and extrovert, with neither coming to the fore.)


Mona Lisa – from Pixabay under Creative Commons Zero licence

Hopefully, after this, all talk of names, brands and identities will be done. 🙂

However, while we’re on the subject of personal brands…why is it so important?  In her article on building a personal brand, Megan Dalla-Camina states that,  what we are known for is as much about how we do what we do, as it is about what we actually do (italics mine).  As librarians we can identify with this. We are aware that we are subject to a code of ethics, of professional behaviour.  Our social media presence, websites and blogs also need to portray this to reinforce our brand, and to contribute to our trustworthiness.

social media

Social Media (from Pixabay under Creative Commons Zero licence)

Another reason is given by the Forbes’ article (I love their daily quotes… :p)  The Definitive Guide to Building Your Personal Brand by Jason DeMers…he says it’s important to think of your own bigger goals.  None of us are able to tell the future, and the paths we may take.  What if that path leads to really great opportunities – to leadership positions, or to starting your own business?


 Innovation  (from Pixabay under Creative Commons Zero licence)

 How beleivable will you be?  Will you attract investment, either to yourself as an employee, or to your own start-up venture?  Megan Dalla-Camina points out that we ALL have a brand, and yet many of us are unaware that we even have one!

Brand (from Pixabay under Creative Commons Zero licence)
So, what is your brand?

Do you know yourself well enough to recognise how you come across to others in your day to day dealings with them, virtual or otherwise?

 I noticed this tweet this morning…

There is loads of advice online, on creating your own brand – the crux of the matter is: know yourself, be true to yourself. Know  your goals. Begin there.

Perhaps we’d all like to go along with this advice…

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”

– Dr. Seuss

… but it does make us vulnerable. 🙂 As long as the ‘saying what you feel’ part is done in a professional manner and with a thought for others, this may be good advice for branding and for people to get to know the real you.

On a personal level, my short term goal is to complete a decent number of internship hours – my brand plays a role there – to be recognised as trustworthy and responsible.  A medium-term goal is to secure a library job, hopefully as a new expat in Australia. In this regard I’m hoping my brand will be recognisable, portraying an up-to-date, professional, service-oriented librarian.  Lastly, my long-term goal is to keep working as an Information Professional well beyond normal retirement years.  Realistically, my age will work against me, but I am trusting my brand to carry me forward into a possible infopreneurial venture that will allow me to continue earning my keep, God willing.


Desk  (from Pixabay under Creative Commons Zero licence)

 Branding is hard work; it demands constant mindfulness and continual review as it “shifts and matures” (Reinhold, in Build your Brand) throughout your career. And it needs to be ever present, without being offensive. There are many who say that the effort is worth the reward.

Thanks for spending (virtual) time with me. Hope your day is great.



23 Things: Thing 1 and Thing 2

Last year I read about ’23 things’ for PD, but was too busy to find out more. When I saw it mentioned by someone just recently, it reminded me to explore the topic. At the same time, I was contemplating blogging again, and so, much to my surprise I found that the programme I was looking at, Rudaí 23, began with registering a blog and writing your first post. The original ’23 things’ began in 2006, and is no longer monitored, although it is still being used and adapted globally, according to the original creator, Helene Blowers.

I decided to begin the Rudaí 23 online course with the start of this blog. I’m looking forward to seeing how much of the course will be new to me, and how I fare on completing the tasks. As required, I will be blogging my experiences through each ‘thing’, so here’s hoping visitors to my blog will be patient with me while I complete the programme. 🙂

So, to Thing 1, which requires the registration of a blog. This is it, done ‘n dusted! I chose WordPress, because I already had an account there and was accustomed to it. However, after not blogging for several months, I initially battled with the ‘dashboard’. Or was it just too late at night?!

Thing 2 is the writing of the first post – also done. I actually began blogging in 2010, recording my experiences (periodically) while I was studying. I never advertised that blog; it became more of a journal for private use. I felt insecure with putting myself ‘out there’ and making myself vulnerable. I am very self-critical…not a good trait when it leads to a demand within to strive for perfection – an impossibility that we often choose to place upon ourselves. The last entry from that blog site is dated January 2015. So much has happened since then; perhaps it warrants a catch up post on this blog at some point.

I still feel uncomfortable with being visible… I find writing each post really stressful, knowing that people may be reading what I have written. I wonder if the grammar is correct, if the word choice could improve, and whether I have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s. In her article about a list of blogging rules for The Muse website, Lily Herman states that it is best to be yourself…to show your own identity.

Well, I’ve chosen to squash my fear in order to write, drumming up the courage to submit an article for the International Librarian’s Network and to begin this blog.  I’ve heard it said, over and over, that to be visible, and blogging, is good for a career. And since a career is what I want in the next few decades, I will do what I can to build on it. You see, there is no such thing as ‘retirement’ for me, and I prefer it that way. 🙂

Librarian meme

The desirable length of a blog entry is another story…an interesting link from Rudaí23, pointed to this infographic…

Social Media Length Infographic. From, via Sumall

It is suggested that blog entries are more often read when they are 1,600 words in length. Not sure I’ll make that with each entry, but I guess it depends on the personal passion-level of the topic. On the other hand, Lily Herman also reckons that posts of 500 to 700 words are better (Woohoo!) than longer ones, unless the latter are very well written.

Here’s my challenge, to anyone out there who may be starting the Rudaí23 programme – let’s connect and follow each other, and let’s Tweet about it on #2016Rudai23. Here’s to blogging! *raises glass* Cheers!

On to Thing 3. Till next time.


Time to face my fear and … blog!

Having been inspired by some wonderful bloggers (Kay Oddone, Ceridwyn Bloxham, Cherie Basile and Katie Davis), I have begun again, this ‘Blog June’, to pick up the pen, face my fear (of being out there) and write. Thank you my virtual friends. 🙂

Girl writing in a diary, by Viktor Hanacek, from Picjumbo

I’d also like to give a shout-out to some blogs I have regularly visited over the last few years for their value to the librarian profession … Theunquietlibrarian, Stephen’s Lighthouse, The International Librarians Network .

This is a new blog in a new season (for me); a time to reflect on, and record, my thoughts, discoveries and experiences as I traverse the information-highway-cum-datasphere. I won’t blog daily, perhaps not even weekly, but will aspire to a few posts monthly. Admittedly, the portability of blogging sites today facilitates a catch-up at any time, but that’s just it…time, that all important commodity. In my opinion, minutes are getting shorter, and time is speeding up. Really, where have those long, leisurely Jane Austen afternoons gone?

Jane Austen med
Flickr image: Regency three 2008, by Owen Benson under creative commons (BY-NC) licence 2.0

Because I have not yet ‘landed’ (i.e. I’ve not yet set my feet upon terra firma for the final time)…

Flying over Doha (598x800) - Copy
Flickr image: Flying over Doha by DesertSandz on creative commons (BY-NC-ND) lic 2.0 

…some entries will no doubt cover daily experiences (or frustrations) as an expat here in the Middle East, dotted with the unique experience of trying to secure an Australian entry visa (migrant). I’m hoping to also write about my experiences if and when I land up in Brisbane (or elsewhere), and about the intricacies of trying to find work in the latter years.

I will be honoured if you would pay a virtual visit to my posts. When you do, feel free to leave a calling card by way of comments.

calling card
Flickr image: Peony calling card by Sarah Parrot,on CC (BY-NC-ND) licence 2.0