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I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I really wrestle with the legitimacy of Twitter as a resource that provides any real content. It feels like a text-messaged blog (which it is, of course) that deserves the oft-joked idea that people just use it to tweet their inane goings-on all throughout the day. But over the last year, it seems like every library conference I’ve attended, or online technology webinar I view while working at the library seems to mention the way libraries are using Twitter to connect to their patrons. Last semester I was finally forced to sign up for a Twitter account for a class, and well, I still didn’t find it very useful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite, I love technology. I just feel like Twitter is defined by its limitations (cue arguments from the billions of avid users). Having said that, I read this weeks readings with an open mind, and have to admit I was intrigued with the way libraries were using Twitter.
It was interesting to read the Twittering Library Wiki and the fifteen some odd prominent library uses for Twitter. “Twitter is becoming very popular with libraries as they seek to connect with and expand their customer base,” the Wiki quotes from a School Library Journal article, while providing a pro list that outweighs the cons. I definitely can understand the possibilities of using it for advertising library programs and events, especially when email already feels like snail mail, but it’s hard to feel like it how well it would translate. Hmmm… Twitter users are certainly a diverse group, so maybe it would work? With the way Twitter creates a social chain reaction, it would be a way to have one person tell the next, and the next.
Twitter as a reference tool? I’ve seen this mentioned a lot. I really was skeptical about this when I first heard of it, and I’ve yet to meet any reference librarians using it, but what the heck? Reference librarians definitely need to do something to reach out to patrons, because they’re increasingly feeling like a dying resource replaced by Google. Perhaps Twitter is a way to create a reference interview that’s more comfortable for users used to the relative anonymity of social networking. The old stereotype of the stuffy intimidating reference librarian seems to live on, despite the fact that most reference librarians, in my experience, are some of the most approachable people eager to lend a hand (considering I do some time on the reference desk myself, I may be biased).
I was surprised to see “cataloging” on the list of prominent library uses. It was really interesting to read about Waubonsee Community College Library incorporating a Twitter link into their Marc records to enable patrons to login to their Twitter account and send a direct link to the catalog record. Waubonsee also found ways to incorporate Twitter into their Sirsi ILS system for alerts. Does this mean you could have Twittered overdue notices? Could you Twitter someone when they have a hold available? Now that would be pretty cool.
Twitter is here to stay, no matter how people like me are initially skeptical. Libraries have always been creative with the way they use technology, and Twitter is no exception (I love libraries!). Besides, Librarians would never use Twitter to post anything inane, right?
Twittering Libraries Wiki