Tweeting Libraries

Many librarians remain unfamiliar with the concepts and practices inherent in what we know as Library 2.0. I suggest free social software is the place to start if you want to get savvy regarding technological tools that aid library success. You might have a look at this list by a site called Accelerated Bachelor Degree. the list is almost exactly what the URL suggests–100 ways a library can use Twitter to push its brand and get hyperconnected with its community.

The recommendations in this list are very brief and come without elaboration. Yet, while I would not suggest that a librarian who is new to Twitter should use it to become instantly adept at Twitter’s numerous useful applications in the library, it is certainly a useful listing of Twitter presences to check out as you get started. Following are several excerpts from an essay I recently wrote on the use of cloud computing in libraries. Highlighted here are some of the most useful applications of Twitter for librarians.

The Skokie Public Library uses its free Twitter account to communicate on a daily basis with its community. Twitter is advantageous to libraries in a number of ways, not the least of which being a means of performing reference. Twitter acts as an SMS service, as users from anywhere can easily direct a short question to SPL’s Twitter page and expect a prompt response from a professional reference librarian. Furthermore, a Twitter user does not have to direct his question solely to his own library’s Twitter account. The user has access to every library using Twitter for purposes of reference, giving him an entire network of reference professionals to locate information on even the most daunting queries.

Twitter is especially useful to libraries as it can be used to serve several functions beyond reference. For one thing, libraries can use Twitter to push programs and services to the tweeting community. In this way, Twitter functions as a means of free advertising for new acquisitions, book clubs, children’s and adult programming, special events, and other forms of community outreach. Librarians can also use Twitter to link to other sites. The Ela Area Public Library can use its Twitter page to link to larger advertisements on the library’s main website, directing users to fast information about forthcoming events and other library news. The Madison Public Library regularly links to photos on its Flickr site to showcase construction progress at several of its smaller branches. In this way, users can stay mindful of what is going on with their local libraries while getting a sense of involvement.

Another function of Twitter is brand monitoring. As practiced on sites like Twitter, Yelp, and Technorati, brand monitoring is a smart and practical use of cloud technology for libraries. The Skokie Public Library has a very active usership where Twitter is concerned. Librarians not only market events and programs, but they are also able to monitor conversations among users to analyze what the community is saying about the library. Conversations among library users may include praise for a service or event, criticism for a change in floor plan, or simply a tweet about a favorite chair or quiet corner of the library.



Notes on the iPad

Trying to gain a clear view of the iPad’s applications in the workplace, particularly in the library. How can, say, the roaming reference librarian benefit from Apple’s new device? How can library staff use iPad to access electronic content?

This post on Thomas Brevik’s Library 1.5 blog offers some perspective.

Today I read this article in Fortune. Will the iPad indeed render libraries obsolete? Huh? Certainly, it behooves librarians and information specialists to always observe and analyze emergent and growing trends and production in electronic communication and information tools and their potential utility in the library. Yet the library has grown to be far more than a print-based literature source and, with some possible exceptions, may be well beyond the reach of those dreaded electronics magnates.

The library as an institution is a community-centered space for all manner of activity. Print materials? Of course. And the more a library has, the more successful and more heavily-utilized it will be. Usually. But libraries continue to grow and adapt. They are recreating their physical places in the community and establishing their presence in the cyber community. Libraries are becoming superconnected and hyperlocal. They provide links among people. And people, not technology, define the library’s relevance.

Big Day for Cloud Computing

Google has upgraded its functionality to allow users to upload any file type to Google Docs without converting. Any file, including Microsoft Office files, up to 250 MB can now be stored in the Google cloud. Read more at and get detailed uploading instructions at We’ll have more to say about Google Docs as time and testing give us a clearer picture.

Brand Monitoring: Twitter

For several weeks, I’ve been monitoring Twitter feeds from Madison, Washington D.C., and Skokie public libraries. I chose to watch three tweeting libraries, rather than one, in order to get a broader view of conversations regarding libraries in different parts of the country. Madison Public Library (@madisonlibrary) is using Twitter to advertise programs, events, and additions to the library’s services. It also gives notices of tech problems, such as wifi outages, and keeps users abreast of branch construction progress via links to the library Flickr page. There are only occasional transactions between the librarians and other Twitter users who have reference questions, and the turnover is under 24 hours. I posted a reference question to see what kind of answer Iwould get. The response was as-expected and posted the same day.

This week the DC Public Library (@dcpl) was listed as the 12th most popular library on Twitter. This is surprising as librarians there only tweet every 2-3 days. They are using Twitter for the same reasons as MPL. Some users mention the library in tweets, making comments and suggestions (i.e., nici browsing @dcpl (new site looks good, btw!) for some new comics to read. wish there were more ex machina titles. but walking dead ftw.). another user wrote the following tweet: cransell I wish being a subscriber got you free access to the Washington Post’s archives, at least I have a @DCPL library card!

More impressive is the activity found on the Skokie Public Library (@skokielibrary) page. While the other two libraries were themselves responsible for the vast majority of activity on their Twitter pages, SPL and its users are constantly engaged in conversation, be it reference questions, praise for library services, or library updates regarding services and events. In  the last week, a number of followers posted links to a letter in the Skokie Pioneer written by a grateful Utahn who recently patronized the library. Followers of @skokielibrary will occasionally tweet about recent experiences in the library, sharing comments about what they particularly enjoy about the library (i.e., staff members, accommodations in the library space, collections, etc.).

It’s clear that these lines of communication can benefit the library and its community in many ways, not the least of which are the means of convenient reference and user access to scheduled events. Librarians enjoy, among other perks, a quick, free medium to push events and services while easily monitoring what people are currently saying about the library and its services.

Talking In Class

I recently read a blog post by Purdue eTech (Purdue Emerging Technologies), a group at Purdue University that “researches and investigates new technology trends for teaching and learning.” The post includes some key statistics from an interesting ECAR study of students at a number of universities around the country regarding their use of technology both in and outside the classroom.

As one who was guilty of regularly texting during classtime, I was not so surprised as the blog’s author about the high number of students who use cell phones in class for “non-class activities” (read: “screwing around”). I do have to wonder whether phones could be used in the classroom for positive educational and instructional reasons. Certainly, there may be apps for smartphones that instructors could use to help share information and resources, but many students don’t have those types of phones and many still have no interest in smartphone technology. The author suggests a smartphone requirement. But I don’t know how many schools/programs/student councils would go for that. Some schools are giving students laptops and iPhones as part of admission, but these are not always the average state-funded universities at the mercy of ever-tightening budgets.

Also unsurprising to me was the preference of (older) students to keep cell phones and mobile devices from the classroom altogether. Some more fastidious students are annoyed by others who are always tweeting or facebooking or texting during lecture. And then there are the instructors themselves. As the study suggests, many instructors may not be altogether familiar with available technologies or may have no interest in learning. Some old dogs just don’t care to learn new tricks but will be happy to let the younger faculty employ technology as they find it useful. Are we missing an opportunity here? Some would clearly say no. Some others are surely investigating the possibilities.