A Few Things I’m Noticing While I Twitter

I cannot say that I am completely convinced Twitter has specific library applications, it does have very excellent librarian applications. I can attest to this, as a librarian who loves using Twitter. Like regular blogging, microblogging is most effective when there is an individual you appreciate behind the wysiwyg.

That does not mean people do not have interesting ideas about how it could be used. And certainly, some libraries are using it. Still, as I’ve said about the Facebook universe, I strongly feel that we need to come up with tidy, professional-looking ways of using the technology before we deem it important. I am not putting libraries using Twitter down — in fact, I think they are laying the foundations for the future of the service. I also believe that innovation comes from doing, rather than conjecturing. However, we need an empirical understanding of what Twitter is, how it can be most effectively applied to libraries, and, most importantly, we need to have an honest look at what real success is in this realm.

So here are the things I notice about the Twitterverse, as an experienced user and some thoughts about why these things matter to libraries.

  • I ignore most promotions of all kinds.

Description: I had a few “friends” that do little more than send me links of promotions. The only exception to this rule so far is LISNews, but there are two mitigating factors 1) Blake “friended” me first and 2) I still see the Twitter link as Blake letting me know what’s going on, not as a promotion for the LISNews blog. Even so, what I see in links from LISNews in my Twitter account, I more commonly read from Google Reader anyway.

What Libraries Should Think About: Promotion appears to be the main purpose for libraries using Twitter, but mere promotions of programs are not going to be that successful in the end. If you are going to promote via Twitter, there’s got to be some social goodness there. It has to be fun; it has to be unique; it has to bring more value to me than my tick is bringing to your quantitative success measure.

  • I’m mostly using it from a browser.

Description: Jeremiah Owyang confirmed this a little more empirically. I mostly view Twitter from a website. Sidebars and cellphones don’t cut it for me right yet.

What Libraries Should Think About: Dreaming about accessing the mobile market through twitter is probably a bit optimistic right now. You may get some, but not a whole lot.

  • It’s great as a more disposable yet friendlier version of del.icio.us.

Description: I use delicious alot for bookmarking. I find myself using Twitter to show neato stuff to friends. While delicious seems to have the win for helping me store information I may want to look at later, Twitter is where I go to say “hey guys, take a look at this!” In other words, if I’m not likely to want it later (ie. a “breaking news story”) Twitter’s where I’m going to go with it. I also find that links are just a bit more personalized when I get them through Twitter, probably because they are the sort of things you’d want other people to see.

What Libraries Should Think About: The personal aspect of Twitter is very important. If a library is sending links, it ought to be something the library thinks is special — there has to be a human aspect about it. That’s not an easy thing to pull off.

  • Food/Coffee is a common theme.

Description: Maybe it’s just librarians, but people are always going on about their lunch, coffee, supper, sleep. I wonder what a Twitter search for the word “yum” would bring out?

What Libraries Should Think About: Twitterers have real lives too. You can learn alot about a subject using Twitter Mashups though. For instance, I searched the word “library” in the twittermap application and a whole lot of tags showed up around Philadelphia. I wonder why?

  • It’s about my friends, really.

Description: More than anything, my twitter account is about people that interest me. I choose my “friends” carefully, and usually along a specific train of thought. Actually, I see most of my social sphere as involving different “moods” of my internet access. Facebook tends to be about local and highschool/college friends. Twitter is about librarians. This blog is about libraries on the whole.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Is there a “mood” within social softwares in which libraries belong? Is the library going to improve or worsen that mood?

  • It’s great for social planning.

Description: When I went to CIL last year, I really wished I had twitter. All the cool cats knew where all the cool events were, and poor old me had no clue. Don’t get me wrong, I had lots and lots of fun anyway, but Twitter is great for keeping up with your acquaintances.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Twitter is about up-to-date, quick-paced blogging. Twitter ought to happen a few times in a day, and in general, it is better to have a one-month hiatus and then 20 twits in one day than it is to pace yourself with a once-a-week post like you would with a normal blog.

Your Twitter persona happens in a series of post usually happening in one or two days. Your customers’ Twitter experience will change from day to day as some people login and out over time. In other words, it is not unlike a chatroom. A good strategy might be to schedule a day in the week or all-day event where the library will “Twitter” over the course of the day.

  • I always want up-to-date Twits.

Description: I do not look at old Twits really. In that sense, the information on Twitter is highly, highly disposable. If, for some reason I am not receiving my twits, I feel like a twit because I am usually responding to things that are out of relevance.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Old news is no news. If you are not Twitting often, you should probably not twit at all.

  • I most frequently read twits with an @username attached to them.

Description: Twitter lets people comment on what people say, usually by placing an “at” sign in front of the user name. This draws the attention of a twitter friend. I love this stuff the most, and I often track the old twits by clicking on the @username.

What Libraries Ought to Think About: Twitter is banter — you just have to accept that reality. Humans like banter — it’s ingrained. If you do not want your library to be part of the banter on the web, perhaps Twitter is not for your library. Then again, the *real* question you have to ask is whether your customers want the library to be part of this banter. That’s a hard call, and that’s why I want to see some empirical data on the issue.


All in all, Twitter is another tool to play around with to see if it works for what your library is doing in the community. From what I’ve seen so far, the Library Twitterverse has been occurring in about the same way that most Library Facebook applications have been occurring. First, interested library techies start “friending,” then come a few library customers. After that, it will either fizzle out or take off. In the end, “how” you use these technologies will matter more than “what” technologies you use.


In With the New; In With the New.

Ten more ideas about how I can make my life better, in libraries and elsewhere:

  •  Plan an unconference — somewhere, somehow.

The field needs more unconferences, and I’d like to host/organize one for local librarians this year — probably in the summer sometime.

  •  More controlled and productive computer time.

No, this has nothing to do with social software.   I just found that the end of last year turned my computer into a television/gaming system.    I have nothing against gaming or entertainment, it’s just that my kids are growing up, and I definitely want to spend more time focussed on friends, family and physical fun.

  • Two good books a month.

I want to start tracing my reading just like Jessamyn does.   It’s been a good start though.   I just finished Evelyn Waugh’s Men at Arms, which is a great book and the first of the Sword of Honor trilogy.

  • 12 Beers (or other favored beverage) for 12 Librarians

Librarians deserve a beer.   12 librarians will get a beer from me.

  • More blogging, but with more citations and reading to go with it.

One of the most satisfying posts from my point of view was my review of Margaret Somerville’s The Ethical Imagination.    I disagree with many points that the book makes, I truly felt that Somerville gets a bad rap around town undeservedly for her views on same-sex marriage.   Further, I am glad Somerville is out there with the guts to say the unpopular thing that she believes needs to be said.   True ethics may just about the opposite of being popular, in my view.

Anyway, even though my online survey (there’s going to be a results post soon!) has suggested that book reviews are not really a priority for my audience, you’ll just have to accept my indulgences here, ‘k?

  •  More fiction/poetry writing, published or not.

I used to love writing fiction and poetry.   I even won the Clare Murray Fooshee poetry prize (first place) once.    I’d like to get back to some of that.   It was a great hobby and it brings back my memories of the rec.arts.poems usenet group (which, like many usenet groups, is a mere shadow of its former glorious self).

  • Pare down the social with social.

Libraries weed books that have lost their relevance over time.   I think I need to think about the relevance of my “friends” and look at doing some serious weeding as well.   Of course, I mean “friends” as in “Facebook friends,” which, in the end, can be likened to a reference source more than it can to a “real” friend.

If you can be of use to me, information-wise, I’ll read your blog.   If I can be of use to you, read mine.   If we have some mutual co-sharing thing going on, you will make my Twitter list.   And, honestly, I’m just about finished with Facebook.

  •  Less money waste.

It’s crazy how the local coffee shop will just eat away at my wallet.   And for what?   It’s not like there is a ton of nutrition there — and it’s not like I couldn’t just drink water.   That’s all money that could go to my kids’ RESPs or some of my favorite charities.

  • No gifts please, and clutter-free-me!

Another one that is just wasteful.    Please, no gifts.   None — except maybe a book I don’t have, or a donation to a charity in my name.

I do not want anything that will end up in a landfill within a year.   I do not want to pay to store stuff that I never use.  Whenever Big Brothers, Big Sisters asks me if we have any used clothing, furniture or appliances to give them, I will say “yes.”

  •  Increase my code-fu.

It’s coming along, and I want to learn more.   At this stage, however, it’s about doing — developing skills versus learning syntax.

That’s 10 and that’s enough.   I look forward to re-visiting this list next year to see how well I did/didn’t do.

What’s on your self-improvement list?

Out With the Old, In With the New. . .

Last year, I created a post of Ideas for the New Year as a way to mark my progress over the year.   Overall, I don’t think I did too bad in completing them.  Here are the ideas, and how well I’ve done in completing them.

  •  New Website for the library.   

Check.  It happened, go look.

  • Contribute to or Create an Open Source product.

Sort of. I did learn a lot more coding this year over last and some of that code could be applied to an open source product.   For instance, I was playing a bit with PHPList, and learned how to create a component for Joomla.    Our website does use a custom component for the Programs section, which may be shared for other libraries in the future. 

  •  Have visible abs.

It did happen, and then I lost them.   My biceps certainly bulged a bit, but the spare tire is still a worthwhile nemesis for me.   Add that to the next list!

  • Learning 2.0 for work.

Check.   We’re half-way through a 6 month program.

  • Reduce my consumption of meat.

Perhaps, but not sufficiently enough if I’m going to be honest with myself.

  • Public something scientific in a journal.

Nope, but I did get approved to present at two big conferences and I had a couple of blog posts added to trade journals as well.

  • Go to a good tech-related conference

Yup!   Computers in Libraries last year was great.   Steven Cohen calls it his favorite.

  •  Be a once-a-month Second Lifer.

You know?  You make these promises to yourself that, in retrospect make no sense.   This is one.   I am glad I did not become a once-a-month Second Lifer.   Although I did try it probably about 12 times last year.

  • Go to One or More of the Following Places: Cuba, Quebec City, London UK, Killarney IR, Savannah GA, Chicago IL or San Francisco CA.

New baby nixed this one.    That said, my 4 year old took up an interest in flags, one of which was Virginia — which I did go to for CIL, and my mother moved to Montreal, passing Quebec City, and came back to visit for the Holidays so I’m accepting this as resolved.

  • Go Out with a Friend once Every Two Months min

Total failure.   I blame LSW and Uncontrolled Vocabulary.

The Year in First Lines

There is a meme going on.   I am not going to tag you.   It never works anyway.   Just do it if you want to do it.  🙂

December: Oh yeah, there’s been a hiatus.

November: So, I can generally get funding for approximately one conference per year.

 October: I’m happy to say that the Halifax Public Libraries have launched their Learning 2.0 program with quite a bit of fanfare

September: I was absolutely astonished to discover that I am #22 on the Online Education Database’s list of the top 25 bloggers.

August: Ok.. It all happened on July 25th, but René Simon Deschamps was stuck in an incubator with a bili problem for the past little while.

July: Yes, one year of the Other Librarian as of 1pm July 5th.

June: At the CLA Emerging Technologies Interest Group Pre-Conference, Mark Leggott presented something he titled “Library 2.0: Threads in the Tapestry.”

May: The big story today was the Ontario government’s banning of Facebook from staff computers.


Accident I took these pictures over the past week just up the street from my house.

March: Finally, Mark Leggott has responded and kicked the Slow Library off in the way that it should — with its originator!

February: Having invited a few people to play around with a test server and default version of Joomla, I figured I could start sharing what I know about this Content Management System (CMS) and how I think you should approach a website architecture with the knowledge that you are moving from a static website to a CMS.

January:  This is the exact way I met my wife. . .
(More or less) The only thing it needs is Michael Stephens wearing a bun.

A Month-Long Change of Theme. :)

Oh yeah, there’s been a hiatus.   Lots of real life going on these days.   But here are some interesting things:

  • I will be presenting at Computers in Libraries on the use of laptop labs in libraries.   This is exciting because fellow Library Society of the Worlders, Steve Lawson, Joshua Neff, and Rikhei Harris are going too.   And there’ll be more I’m sure, though I haven’t seen the whole schedule yet.
  • I changed the theme of my blog for a festive feel.  What do you think?
  • I’m moving my stuff into a new house this month, which is pretty exciting and sad.  I love this house, but for my kids I want to live closer to a school.

Carnival of the Infosciences #84

 So the big news for this Carnival post is that most of y’all were too busy eating turkey to send in submissions.   So this one’ll be fairly short and sweet.

Larry Ferlazzo thought the set of tutorials from the Calgary Public Library would be pretty useful.   I agree — it’s always good to show people where to find the good learning tools.

Anna Creech, the Eclectic Librarian sent in Mark Lindner’s article on DDC with this comment:  “I know it’s a little old, but I found it to be an interesting read. It’s rare that something about cataloging doesn’t make my eyes glaze over, and this addresses and important issue with traditional library cataloging structures. ”

 Kathryn Greenhill put in an interesting article of her own entitled “Website or Web Presence?” basically outlining how web design is very much like web marketing these days — in all its modes:  promotion, understanding the user and so on.

ANd finally, Katie of the Young Librarian sends in “LibWorld: Library and Librarian Blogs of the World” by the Filipino Librarian.  The biblioblogosphere definitely has a good lot of North Americans out there, it is nice to see that library blogging is catching on in other places as well.

An Other Carnival of the Infosciences (#84)

I just couldn’t resist joining in on the fun, so The Other Librarian is the host for the next Carnival of the Infosciences.

“So what?” you say.    “So what do you want to see in the next issue?” is my reply.

It works like this:  you tag something with “carninfo” in del.icio.us with a  little comment or something over the next week, and I’ll post all about it come next Monday.  That’s it.

And if you don’t want to del.icio.us, then you can use the submission form instead.

Of course, if you wanted to host the Carnival yourself, you can just find an open slot in the wiki, read through the hosting guidelines, and send Chadwick a message telling him your intentions.