I can’t believe I am using Twitter. Well, actually I can. Deep down inside I kind of wanted to use it, yet at the same time couldn’t get over what a stupid concept it was, “Communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing? In 140 characters or less” (Twitter, 2009). Who really wants to know about my every life move? Do others really care or need to know what I am doing every minute of my day? Now that I have a class assignment where I have to use a blog to talk about Web 2.0, I have to experiment with Web 2.0 tools, right? So this is why I justified signing up for Twitter. In my first two days, I have been doing some investigating, mainly of all the features and customizations available. And as I see many of the posts, they aren’t necessarily as much about telling others on ones whereabouts, as they are passing along interesting or useful pieces of information. BING! Light bulb moment. I am a librarian, and my job is to help people find information and enrich them with knowledge. Twitter, and other Web 2.0 tools, when used in a different light, are not tools to let others know my every movement and whereabouts, but a technology that allows me to share information all the time. I can learn about others’ research, interesting pieces of news and advances in industries I may have never known about. Web 2.0 is an opportunity to enrich my own knowledge, and then pass it on to others. So as I Twitter away, and let everyone know of what paper or work I am working on, or how I am feeling at any given time, if I stumble upon something interesting, I will be sure to pass it along.
So, besides passing on information to others, Twitter can be useful for organizations, particularly libraries. More and more libraries are using social networking tools to get the word out about their services, current events, and library updates.
For a specific library to look at utilizing Twitter as a Web 2.0 tool, I originally decided to focus on a Special Library. However, there are many other libraries out there using Twitter on their main website, and even more have added it as an additional feature of their blog. But, for this example, I chose to look at the Lunar and Planetary Institute‘s Library on Twitter. However, this is posing quite the challenge. I am following the Lunar and Planet Institute on my Twitter feed, but when I go to their website, there is absolutely NOTHING that says they are available via Twitter. The link provided from their Twitter feed goes here, their ‘What’s New‘ page, but there is nothing mentioning a Twitter page. The only way I was able to find this library on Twitter was by browsing other people’s Twitter followers. So, anyways, this is a bad example to talk about libraries using Twitter, but a good example to demonstrate the need for user notification. Users cannot utilize these social networking, Web 2.0 tools, without knowing about them. This site does use other Web 2.0 tools, such as RSS feeds though, so it does have some other things going for it.
So, let’s try another example: The Cleveland Public Library (CPL). This library is a “Star Library” based on their index of public library service, according to Library Journal, and it is evident from their website. Only five libraries nation wide have this honour, so they must be doing something right! The CPL is on Twitter, and this time I was actually able to find this from their website. Navigation to the tool was relatively easy, although it did take a bit of poking around. I had to click and go back a few times, but I found under the “services” link of their main library homepage, a link to all the services offered by the library; one of which is their “Twitter: Featured events” link. This tool allows library users to stay current on events happening at the library through their Twitter accounts. Not only is this a great way to get the word out to patrons about what is happening in their library, but it is also a good way for the library to track how many people are using social networking tools, and how many people are using the library’s social networking tools. This tool would be great for someone just getting into the Web 2.0 swing of things, it is easy to follow, and you most definitely do not need to be a brain scientist to use Twitter. Now, I am unsure if you need to be a member of Twitter in order to visit other people’s Twitter pages, but if you do, signing up takes less than five minutes, and is incredibly easy. It seems only fitting for the CPL to be using Twitter, as it is utilizing numerous other Web 2.0 technologies. The site has RSS feeds (which are very easy to notice when you enter the homepage), a special event e-mail list-serve, Google gadgets, a NetNotice reminder service, online homework help, online chat-based reference services, bookmarking links to Delicious and Digg, a mobile version of their page, and the list goes on. The only things this library does not seem to have is a blog or a wiki, but you never know, they could be in the works. However, the website does a pretty good job of meeting all the needs a user could have without these additional tools. I would definitely use some, or possibly all of the services offered by the Cleveland Public Library, and I think other libraries should be using the services offered by this library as an example of how Web 2.0 technologies can be successfully applied to libraries. Overall, this library has it goin’ on. They are up to speed with Library 2.0 technologies and fully taking advantage of them. There can always be room for improvement, but this library leaves little. My only suggestion is for them to keep updating their services and stay on top of changing technologies, and then use them as they arise. For this library though, I would have to agree with Library Journals five star rating, it’s two thumbs up for me!
Oh, and in case you are interested, David Lee King’s blog on the social web, emerging trends and libraries, provides some links to other libraries using Twitter.