Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Learning Email

So it's 4:10 on a Thursday afternoon and I've finally cleared my email inbox for the day, 20 minutes before hometime. Before I started working in a library I never associated email with work. Somehow I managed to avoid work email for a fair chunk of my life, working as an ESL teacher. That was all about face-to-face communication, and it's still what I prefer. However. Reality got in the way and now half of my work team is distributed over 5 states, and email is the normal mode of communication.

Emailing for work involves treading carefully and thinking about your message from the point of view of the receiver. I've made mistakes in the past, gotten into trouble because of poor email etiquette, but it's something that has to be learned and after that there are no more excuses! Some things to avoid, especially when emailing busy people in Con's post here.

I'm very happy if I can deal with all of my emails in a day, sort them into their correct folders and have an empty inbox ready for the new day. It happens... occasionally.

I remember being a university student in 1994 and thinking that email was so clunky! There were 2 computers in the campus library that were dedicated to email (black screen, green letters - remember?), and about 12 computers for searching the databases. Using them for browsing the internet was frowned upon. It was funny, but the only other people I knew then who used email were my fellow students and my lecturers, who checked it occasionally. What do you write in an email to people you see everyday? And frustrating to que at the email computers to check your inbox and find nothing!

Now of course there's no need to check your inbox to see if there's anything new - your mobile will just tell you. When cloud-based email came along I was keen to get onboard, as I spent a lot of my twenties travelling and keeping in touch with friends and family by email. Picture the travellers' internet cafe. I transitioned through a couple of creatively named hotmail addresses before getting into Gmail early and was able to choose to use my own simple name (with no numbers!) By the end of my second degree I was happily emailing attachments to myself as a way of saving them in the cloud.

Thinking about email on the go in a work context, I could access my work emails through webmail from home, but I don't want to...

At our library we use automated email messages to communicate with patrons about items due, holds available and I also use it a fair bit for reference work, as many of our students are studying online, externally. They definitely appreciate being contacted by email for these purposes. The mobile library site we're developing at the moment will make it super-easy for students to contact a librarian via email - we'll have a menu tab for the purpose that will link right into their mobile email account. This is a really exciting development for us!

OK, I'm off to check out the Mailbox app, as suggested by Bailey's Bus.