Twitter can be classified into free social networking and micro-blogging services. It enables users to create, send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of only up to 140 characters displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers who are known as followers.
Twitter entered the social networking world in 2006 and has experienced staggering growth since then. Although actual usage numbers are hard to come by, Twitter’s global unique visitor numbers have increased from 19 million in March of this year to 32 million in April (Schonfeld, 2009). Because Twitter has millions of users, it’s a good place to find and connect with people interested in any institution, company and areas of expertise.
Some notable usages of Twitter are for business, social and political campaign, legal proceedings, education, emergencies, public relations, reporting dissent, and survey.
How Libraries Are Using Twitter
In a recent feature article, Sarah Milstein (2009) makes the excellent point that Twitter is built for exchanging information. Some examples of how libraries are using Twitter include: reference service, customer service, public relations, announcement, and marketing tool.
- The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Library (twitter.com/qutlibrary) uses Twitter for library announcements and news posting such as special events, holiday hours, exhibits, new book arrivals.
- The Ada Community Library (twitter.com/adalib) use Twitter for keeping patrons up-to-date, twittering on everything from Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month, book sales, and other library events to announcing new library cards.
- Twitter has become so integral a tool that several institutions—Pasadena City College’s Shatford Library, the Missouri River Regional Library, and the Undergraduate Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (UIUC) (twitter.com/askundergrad)—post updates directly on the library home page.
- In Arizona, the City of Casa Grande Library (twitter.com/cglibrary) uses Twitterfeed to post the authors and titles of new books to its Twitter profile. The service utilizes the library’s RSS feed for new titles to provide patrons with tweets concerning new acquisitions, which link back to the library’s catalog record.
- The Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) is using Twitter to put a new spin on its virtual reference (VR) service. NLC tweets all of its incoming reference questions as they are submitted through their Ask a Librarian service (twitter.com/NLC_Reference).
- Similarly, the Ask Us Now! online reference service for Maryland library patrons is also creating VR tweets (twitter.com/askusnow).
- ALSC, the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association), serves up tweets about news and events of interest to children’s library professionals such as children’s lit seminars, collection management, and special collections (twitter.com/alscblog).
(Twitter League, 2009)
Many libraries believe that Twitter provides many features for marketing, promotion, collaboration, and public relations. It also provides opportunities for professional developing and networking.
Twitter is not without critics. It potentially has several drawbacks with its service: its brevity, only reach certain audiences, technical problem, and spamming.
- Kroski, E. (2008). All a Twitter. School Library Journal, 54(7), 31. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals Database.
- Milstein, S. (2009). Twitter FOR Libraries (and Librarians). Computers in Libraries, 29(5), 17-18. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from ProQuest Computing Database.
- Schonfeld, E. (2009). Twitter surges past Digg, LinkedIn, and NYTimes.com with 32 million global visitors. Retrieved November 1, 2009 from http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/05/20/twitter-surges-past-digg-linkedin-and-nytimescom-with-32-million-global-visitors/
- Steiner, H. (2009). Reference utility of social networking sites: options and functionality. Library Hi Tech News, 26(5/6), 4-6. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from Academic Research Library Database.
- Twitter League. (2009). League: Libraries on Twitter. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from http://twitterleague.com/view_league/252