Libraries and Twitter

I learned this semester that getting involved with social media is inevitable. Maybe I already knew that, as I already have a Facebook account. What I didn’t know is that social media is also useful tool, and every service can provide new ways of learning.  I opened in the last three months more accounts than ever, and spend hours reading, uploading, and sharing information in Flickr, WordPress, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and, just recently, Twitter.

As a student of library and information science, I’m curious about how libraries use Twitter. I know they do, and I’m even following some of them, but I think it would be interesting to analyze and compare the different ways  in which they take advantage of this microblogging service.

Before doing that, I did some research on the basics of twitter in libraries.

So what is Twitter?

According to Wikipedia, Twitter is “an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as ‘tweets’.”

How many people use Twitter?

The Twitter Blog reports that 140 million active users send over 340 million tweets a day.

How many libraries use Twitter?

It’s hard to say but certainly a lot, and more every day. A couple of lists of libraries using Twitter are here and here.

Why are libraries using Twitter?

Basically, because they can, it’s free and it’s a great tool. Some other reasons are that it brings the library to the users in a different way, opens new channels, and it’s easy to use.

How are libraries using Twitter?

Lindy Brown categorized the way libraries use twitter and came up with this list:

  • For library announcements
  • To post news such as special events, holiday hours, exhibits, new book arrivals
  • Updated resources or reminders of important resources, instruction sessions and new reference services
  • Using Twitter as another communication tool with patrons/clients
  • As a reference service
  • As a way to keep in touch with librarian friends and colleagues as well as a way to collaborate on projects
  • As a way to stay on top of the latest technologies
  • For customer service
  • To send alerts about requested materials
  • As a short newsletter
  • As a public relations/marketing tool
  • As a way to get and share information about conferences and other professional development opportunities (i.e., registration deadlines, speakers, accommodation information, webinars)
  • Cataloging and tagging
  • Internal updates
  • For networking with other librarians, libraries, and library-affiliated organizations
  • For building the brand

Are there any rules for using twitter in libraries?

Sarah Milstein compiled a short list of rules of Twittiquette:

  • Do fill in your account’s Settings with the name of your institution and its URL. Then use the 160-character Bio field to give the name and title of the employee or employees who post to the account.
  • Do treat Twitter as a conversation rather than a broadcast medium.
  • Do search Twitter daily for mentions of your institution.
  • Do follow everyone who follows you.
  • Do post approximately once a day, or up to as many as five or six times a day.
  • Do sometimes ask questions and solicit feedback.

Gerry McKiernan decided to go beyond that and published a list of “100 ways to use Twitter in your library“, which could also be called “Everything you need to tweet, and more”.

Finally, some people, like tech columnist David Pogue, think that rules for using Twitter  “are just knowier-than-thou garbage”. He recommends experimentation, adaptation to the circumstances, and only one rule: “Don’t tweet about what you’re doing right now.

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