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Ambient Awareness in Twitter for Reference

A couple of days ago I was able to help a patron on Twitter with a question that they had about citations. It wasn’t directly addressed to the library though, so I almost missed it. A savvy marketing professor actually referred the student to the library on Twitter, which was very helpful.

This got me thinking though. There are likely a lot of potential library related questions on Twitter from our patrons that we miss because they might not be asking us or thinking of the library when they tweet. Patrons may be talking about proper citation or research though not @replying or DMing the library.

So, to remedy this and catch some of these questions I set up several alerts using Twitter’s advanced search. You can take advantage of the Boolean nature of the advanced search to make your searches very specific. I set up searches for:

  • Tweets containing the word library
  • Tweets containing the word cite
  • Tweets containing the word research
  • Tweets containing the word paper
  • Tweets containing the word need AND book OR article OR books OR articles

All of these alerts I set up were within a 10-25 mile radius of the college to keep it targeted locally and keep hits managable. I keep these alerts in a folder in Google Reader.

Different libraries might run different searches. For example a public library around this time may run a search having to do with “tax help” or “taxes.” The searches can be tailored to your specific community, and they can be modified over time. I may find that some of the searches I’m running never return any useful hits. But something like the word “cite” or “citation” is not used that often. When it is, there’s a decent chance it’s something a library can help with.

What do other folks think? Are there other searches you would run? Is this just going out and looking for more work?

Andy Burkhardt

39 Comments

  1. I actually have the exact same set-up for our library. I haven’t found so many questions that I cannot manage it. I usually send a reply to questions I see, but I rarely get a response back (or notice that they begin to follow us). However, the search alerts are great for other things like finding out about problems with facilities and what resources we may be missing from our collections.(People love to vent on Twitter!) :)

  2. I actually have the exact same set-up for our library. I haven’t found so many questions that I cannot manage it. I usually send a reply to questions I see, but I rarely get a response back (or notice that they begin to follow us). However, the search alerts are great for other things like finding out about problems with facilities and what resources we may be missing from our collections.(People love to vent on Twitter!) :)

  3. I’ve used advanced Twitter search for finding students with questions, but I have not tried alerts. I think it’s a great idea.

  4. I’ve used advanced Twitter search for finding students with questions, but I have not tried alerts. I think it’s a great idea.

  5. I’ve actually done similar as well, but using a twitter client for “Real time” pops

    I;m curious, with twitter alerts, how quick are you informed?

  6. I’ve actually done similar as well, but using a twitter client for “Real time” pops

    I;m curious, with twitter alerts, how quick are you informed?

  7. I like the idea of identifying problems Bridget. Your, right about rants on twitter. I’ve seen my fair share especially about wifi. In the advanced searching you can even limit by attitude (positive, negative, asking a question) which seems useful. Have you solved some problems or concerns via Twitter?

  8. I like the idea of identifying problems Bridget. Your, right about rants on twitter. I’ve seen my fair share especially about wifi. In the advanced searching you can even limit by attitude (positive, negative, asking a question) which seems useful. Have you solved some problems or concerns via Twitter?

  9. Aaron, the actual searches are real time or very close to it. The feed alerts that I get from the searches update periodically (probably when Google Reader decides to get them again). I check the Google Reader alerts periodically throughout the day. Sometimes I get to them pretty quickly, other times it may take a little bit.

  10. Aaron, the actual searches are real time or very close to it. The feed alerts that I get from the searches update periodically (probably when Google Reader decides to get them again). I check the Google Reader alerts periodically throughout the day. Sometimes I get to them pretty quickly, other times it may take a little bit.

  11. An excellent idea! I think it would be a good way for libraries to be more active in their somewhat slow Twitter accounts.

  12. An excellent idea! I think it would be a good way for libraries to be more active in their somewhat slow Twitter accounts.

  13. This is a fantastic idea. I had been watching the feed for a very simple search for my library. But I like the idea of adding more specific searches using terms like “cite”, “research”, etc.

    Oh and instead of adding the feed to my reader (which I don’t always have a chance to look through), I use the feed as a live bookmark in Firefox’s bookmarks toolbar. That way it’s just a click away whenever my browser is open.

  14. This is a fantastic idea. I had been watching the feed for a very simple search for my library. But I like the idea of adding more specific searches using terms like “cite”, “research”, etc.

    Oh and instead of adding the feed to my reader (which I don’t always have a chance to look through), I use the feed as a live bookmark in Firefox’s bookmarks toolbar. That way it’s just a click away whenever my browser is open.

  15. Andy, I always forward our facilities issues to those higher up, but it’s pretty tough to make changes around here. Most of the problems we are aware of, but I collect the tweets as “evidence” in hopes that one day we’ll have enough to make a case and change things.

  16. Andy, I always forward our facilities issues to those higher up, but it’s pretty tough to make changes around here. Most of the problems we are aware of, but I collect the tweets as “evidence” in hopes that one day we’ll have enough to make a case and change things.

  17. Bridget, that’s a great idea about saving tweets as evidence of problems or that something needs to be addressed. I’m going to have to start doing that.

    Jonathan, a live bookmark’s a good idea. Either that or an email alert. Something so it is more real time (especially if it’s a problem or time sensitive).

  18. Bridget, that’s a great idea about saving tweets as evidence of problems or that something needs to be addressed. I’m going to have to start doing that.

    Jonathan, a live bookmark’s a good idea. Either that or an email alert. Something so it is more real time (especially if it’s a problem or time sensitive).

  19. I've gotten quite a few successes, there are not many direct queries (we don't market it a lot) , basically the Tweet account is used more for service recovery, but IMHO your response must be quite fast, otherwise it loses it point. Google alerts used to be particularly bad with tweets with response times of months, but now it's quite fast. See some recent examples here http://twitter.com/NUSlibraries/favorites . Note : It probably isn't ideal to note tweets by faving, since it's public.

  20. Yeah, I'd like responses to be faster and I only check Google Reader periodically throughout the day. Have you found other alerts work better?

  21. Hi Andy,

    Saw this post a while back, and thought it sounded like a fab way to reach users who might not know how the library can help them. Just wondering, a month on, how this idea is working out? Do you think the Twitter searches have allowed you to help more patrons than you would have otherwise? I'm interested in this idea as I'm co-presenting a seminar next month for a CILIP members day on library advocacy outside of the “echo chamber” (see http://thewikiman.org/blog/?p=423 for a bit more about it) and I think your targeted Twitter searches are a wonderful example of that.

    Cheers,
    Laura

  22. Hey Laura, that sounds like a really cool presentation. I've had mixed success so far. I'm pretty sure I helped a non-regular library user who mentioned they were doing a paper on a difficult topic, but didn't mention the library. I also sent a couple of messages that may have been helpful but didn't get responses. I'm also learning a lot. Things like how students use the library and that there are a lot of last minute papers and students tweeting late. :) I'll post something on this soon with some screenshots, so keep watching. Good luck on your seminar!

  23. Hi Andy,

    Saw this post a while back, and thought it sounded like a fab way to reach users who might not know how the library can help them. Just wondering, a month on, how this idea is working out? Do you think the Twitter searches have allowed you to help more patrons than you would have otherwise? I'm interested in this idea as I'm co-presenting a seminar next month for a CILIP members day on library advocacy outside of the “echo chamber” (see http://thewikiman.org/blog/?p=423 for a bit more about it) and I think your targeted Twitter searches are a wonderful example of that.

    Cheers,
    Laura

  24. Hey Laura, that sounds like a really cool presentation. I've had mixed success so far. I'm pretty sure I helped a non-regular library user who mentioned they were doing a paper on a difficult topic, but didn't mention the library. I also sent a couple of messages that may have been helpful but didn't get responses. I'm also learning a lot. Things like how students use the library and that there are a lot of last minute papers and students tweeting late. :) I'll post something on this soon with some screenshots, so keep watching. Good luck on your seminar!

  25. Hi Andy are these feeds still working for you? I have been trying to work out how to set one up and although I can save a search, I cannot get a feed to subscribe via Google Reader.

  26. moonflowerdragon, that work around is really helpful! Twitter did break their easy way of getting a RSS search feed so those links are super helpful. Thanks!

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