I remember the day my husband came home and told me we had received orders from the Navy and we were moving to Okinawa. My immediate thought was not one of adventure or exotic travel, but “Aw, man. I’ll never get a job there!”
The job prospects were slim. Though there are libraries on each of the bases, the jobs most available are Library Technician positions. Unfortunately, there is a hiring freeze for GS jobs preventing qualified applicants from stepping into full librarian positions. What was I to do until I got a job? How could I keep my newly minted librarian skills fresh? How could I do all this in a foreign country so far away from the library community I knew and respected? Enter Internet.Upon arrival in Okinawa, the first thing I set up in our house was the Internet. I knew that I would need it to make the transition smooth and as pain-free as possible. Now that I have lived here for four months, I have a pretty good handle on the virtual tools that are helping me stay connected to the library world.
Email: This one is a no-brainer, but it has been very helpful for me to create a professional email address. I used Google for my professional email address because it is easy to remember and I like to use the tools they offer for organizing my inbox. Not only can I star important emails, I can label emails so if I need to see all the emails about one subject (for example: job application correspondence), I can do so with the click of a button.
RSS Reader: I enjoy reading blogs written by librarians and organizations within the library community. One way to save some time is to employ an RSS reader so you can subscribe to blogs (and other websites) and have them in one place, sort of like email. I use Google Reader because it is easy to use and I can just check it after I am done checking my email. There are many great RSS readers out there; try one today!
Social Media: Though there are many networking opportunities on Linked-In, the social media sites I visit most often are Facebook and Twitter. My friends from library school often link to great articles in which I am interested on Facebook and librarians I admire post thought-provoking links on Twitter. Using social media helps make the 15 hour time difference less noticeable and keeps me abreast of what my peers are talking about.
Skype: I love Skype. I would like to write love letters to Skype. Skype gives me two options to call home: video (my computer to someone else’s computer and traditional phone (my computer to someone’s phone). Both operate using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). The video calling is free but calling from my computer to a phone costs very little: less than $10/month for unlimited calling from Japan to the US. I love that I am able to call my family and friends any time our time zones align. When I am closer to moving back to the United States I am sure it will be useful for job interviews too!
Textfree: Textfree is a free app by Pinger that gives you an US phone number and allows you to send text messages via the internet for FREE! Though I can call my family through Skype, my friends all prefer to text. Textfree allows me to text them any time I want (provided I have internet service available through my 3G or a wireless connection.) It has been great for feeling connected to the people I am used to talking with every day.
Digital versions of periodicals: The mail takes forever to get here. When I get a magazine or professional publication, it is usually two to four months after its publication date. Luckily, many publications offer a digital edition so I can have the information in a timely manner.
In general, I can’t imagine life without the Internet. Now that I live so far away, I really can’t imagine life without it. I don’t have television in a language I understand (except for the Armed Forces Network, but that is a different post altogether!) so Internet (Yes, we are on a first name basis.) is my main source of information and entertainment.
What virtual tools do you recommend I try? Did you live overseas before the Internet was as widely available? How did you get by?!