Twitter – timewaster or useful library tool?

Twitter has gotten a lot of attention in the media and among library folk interested in “web 2.0” tools. Much of the attention in the media has been negative, focusing on the vast numbers of tweets on the mundane aspects of people’s everyday lives. However, many librarians feel this could be a useful tool in providing services to users who are becoming increasingly fluent in the use of social networking tools.  Here is my Twitter experience.

I signed up for a Twitter account last spring for a library school class on web tools, not really knowing much about the service. During class, I mainly used it to contact my classmates and keep up with the instructor’s announcements on the class feed. However, once class ended I decided to explore the possibilities that Twitter opens for librarians and library service. My first foray into library tweeting was at the ALA 2009 Annual conference in Chicago. For class, I had protected my Twitter feed so my updates did not show up in the public timeline. However, I realized if I wanted to be part of the public conversation about the conference I needed to open my feed to the public.

Since I didn’t have a web-enabled mobile phone and did not bring my laptop, I attempted tweeting from my Kindle. It was an interesting experiment, but I don’t recommend it. I felt a little silly whipping out the Kindle in the middle of sessions so I tried to remember interesting quotes and post them later. This didn’t always work out. Plus, typing text into the Kindle is an arduous process, so it didn’t encourage a high volume of tweets. The web browser is very primitive and it was difficult to check for replies and search for the conference hashtag (#ala2009) so I didn’t see some replies to things I had said until I got back to CA!

However, despite these challenges I was impressed by the way that Twitter can add value to the conference experience. I got to hear about sessions that I wasn’t able to attend, found some new people in the library field to follow, and even got some new followers myself! A couple of my tweets were included in Library Journal’s roundups of the top tweets during the conference, which made me feel like a real part of the library community on Twitter.

Since the semester started and I began working on my e-Portfolio, I haven’t had time to do a lot of tweeting but I’ve kept an eye on what people are saying. I found more librarians to follow due to the “Follow Friday” tradition, in which people post the names of some of the people they follow to recommend them to others. Librarians have their own hashtag for this: #followalibrarian.

I’d like to explore more ways to use Twitter as a librarian. I know some libraries are using it to announce events and to provide reference service. For now, I’ve been following librarians and occasionally retweeting stories I find interesting. Sometimes I provide updates on my e-Portfolio progress or interesting things I’m reading for class. Sometimes I just post what I’m thinking. I’m still trying to figure out what I want my Twitter feed to be, so bear with me if my updates don’t have a coherent theme yet. If you want to know what I’m tweeting, my twitter name is agrundmann, and the latest tweet is posted in the sidebar on this page.

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