Twitter for Librarians: The Ultimate Guide

Posted on 05.27.2008

What is Twitter?

Twitter is a tool that allows users to send instant messages and to social network via short messages, also known as micro-blogs. Users can create Twitter messages, more commonly called tweets, through their Twitter pages, IMs, Facebook accounts, emails or text messages from their mobile phones. Other users can subscribe to your Twitter profile and likewise, you can subscribe to theirs. For many, it's a great way to stay in touch with friends, family and even complete strangers over the Web.

Yet the question remains as to how this technology is relevant in a more professional setting, like say, a library or school. While its popularity initially originated from those who are particularly tech savvy and who may not reflect the average Web user, today the site boasts hundreds of thousands of users and not all of the accounts are just for personal use. Businesses can use the service to send updates on meetings and services, and companies can announce the latest developments in software. Recently, many libraries across the nation have begun adopting Twitter as a means to keep on the cutting edge of new technology as well as keep patrons informed and interested in library services.

Not sure Twitter has a place in your library? Here are all the resources you'll need to make an informed decision on whether or not to become part of the growing number of Twitter users.

Ways To Use Twitter

Don't think Twitter has a place in your library? Give these suggestions a try and maybe you'll change your mind.

  • Keeping in touch with librarian friends and colleagues. Find out what other schools and libraries are doing around the world. Twitter makes it easier to keep up with what others are up to and to share and collaborate on projects.
  • Stay on top of the latest technologies. Even if you don't think Twitter has any applications that will work for you at the moment that doesn't mean it won't in the future. Staying on top of the latest technologies will give you a leg up and may make it easier in the long run to adapt them to your own purposes.
  • Read the latest news. Many major news sites, like CNN and the BBC, have Twitter feeds. This makes it easy to just quickly check to keep up with news and find the latest information, a particularly relevant application for libraries.
  • Get information on conferences. Some geekier conferences of interest to librarians have Twitter feeds that will allow you to keep up with registration deadlines, speakers and accommodations without having to visit the site itself all the time.
  • Have Q and A sessions. Thinking of making some changes to your library website or changing policies? You can get suggestions and opinions from patrons quickly and easily through Twitter. This can work with any kind of question and answer type situation and the possible uses are quite broad.
  • Learn more about colleagues. Not sure about the new guy? See if he has a Twitter feed and read more about his life. Who knows, maybe you have more in common than you think. You could also do the same thing for authors, artists and writers you like as well if they have Twitter accounts.
  • Use it as a notepad. Jot down great ideas anywhere through your Twitter account. If you're on your computer you can use it there, but Twitter is also accessible via a mobile device, making it easy to transfer the name of a book you saw on TV and to-dos for work to yourself.
  • Share references. Library patrons can get online help from librarians through a Twitter account. Patrons can send messages asking about specific materials and staff can get back to them when they have information. You could also use if for your own personal information sharing with friends and colleagues.
  • Announce library programs. Launching a new software or having a book sale? Let the students and public know about it through your Twitter feed. It's a simple and easy way to get information out about any library.
  • Update patrons on new materials. Got exciting new resources? Let those in your area know about them through a Twitter feed. Some libraries already using Twitter send out updates when they get in new books, though for larger libraries this might be impractical.
  • Send alerts about requested materials. Patrons who have a Twitter account could opt to receive notices that their materials have arrived at the library via Twitter rather than on the phone or in the mail. Some people may prefer this method and it's one simple way Twitter can be used in place of existing technologies.

Guides

Learn to use Twitter effectively with some help from these guides.

Studies and Articles

Read up on libraries that are implementing Twitter and others who are considering ways to do the same.

  • Twitter and the Missouri River Regional Library: See how one library is choosing to implement Twitter into its online offerings.
  • Twitter Update or How I Was Able to Exploit the Latest Social Networking Site Without Really Trying: Does your library use RSS feeds to share information? This librarian discusses how easy it is to transfer these to Twitter.
  • Library 2.0: Discuss the latest issues in library technology on this great site. Forums are set up to share ideas about Second Life, Twitter, and loads of other Web 2.0 applications.
  • Reference Services and Twitter: This blog is dedicated to using new technologies to spread reference information, and this posting is no exception. Read about the bloggers thoughts on using Twitter in libraries.
  • Library Twitter?: Not everyone initially sees a way Twitter could be useful, but this article discusses a couple of ways that Twitter could save libraries money and be a valuable tool.
  • Learn More: Twitter: This library blog offers informative posts about how to use new and emerging technologies. This particular article can give you the basics on how Twitter may be applied to library use.

Tools and Add-ons

Twitter is a versatile tool and can be subjected to a lot of customization. Check out these tools to see if you can streamline your Twitter experience.

  • TwitterMap: Locate your Twitter on a map and see where your subscribers are located with this great visual tool for Twitter.
  • Twitterholic: Want to know who's the biggest champ in the Twitterverse? This site tracks new and popular users to show the feeds with the most subscribers and updates.
  • Twitter Search: Browse through thousands of Twitter posts to find information with this great, Google-based search tool.
  • Twitter via Facebook: Have a Facebook account for yourself or your library? You can use it to send out tweets quickly and easily with this portal. You can also join the group Librarians Who Twitter.
  • 8 Awesome Firefox Plug-Ins for Twitter: These plugins are a must for any dedicated Twitter user as they'll keep you updated and make it easy for you to create new tweets. For more options, visit the Mozilla website.
  • All Twitter Tools and Mashups: Take your pick of dozens of tools and mashups for Twitter on this great list from Frantic Industries.
  • Top 10 Twitter Apps: Learn about the most popular Twitter applications and see if any appeal to you or seem useful for library purposes.

Libraries Using Twitter

Your library could be the next to join this growing list of libraries with Twitter accounts.

While not all people are in consensus that Twitter is a valuable tool for educational applications, the reality is that many libraries and their librarians are getting involved and the interest is growing. Since it's a free service, there's no harm in trying it out. It may prove more useful to you than you thought.