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How Libraries Can Leverage Twitter

Twitter has been working pretty well at our library. It is coming up on two years since our first tweet. I have been thinking a lot lately about how we use Twitter and our successes and shortcomings with it. Looking back on tweets, conversations, and interactions from the past year and a half, I noticed 7 ways that we are leveraging Twitter to improve our library, our services, and our relationships with users. We are leveraging Twitter to:

Report library happenings

If the library is closing early due to weather or if a printer is down, we can communicate via Twitter, among other channels. If we are having events like an international photo contest or a chili cook off, we can let people know. It’s also helpful to let people know when new displays, art, or exhibits are put up. I like to post an update every time we put up our new book display for the month as well as post a picture of a particularly interesting cover.

Promote library resources/services

When we get new interesting resources, we let people know via Twitter. When we got Mango languages, I posted it to Twitter and people retweeted the post and asked about it a lot.  I also even simply promote our print collection at relevant times. On St. Patrick’s Day I posted this tweet promoting Oscar Wilde’s short fiction. About half an hour later a student came up from the stacks with a James Joyce title and said he was inspired by the library’s Twitter post.

Build community

Looking at the statistics for our library Twitter account, 31% of all our tweets are retweets. That means that at least third of the content, ideas, and events we’re promoting are not our own. Last week we relayed a message from a student about the Vagina Monologues production that was going to be happening on campus. We also have posted information about the human versus zombies game that occurs every fall (for more info about this fairly awesome game, go here). Libraries are hearts of the community, so of course we want to promote what other people are doing. One of our strategic goals at the library is “foster a sense of campus community” and Twitter helps us to do that.

Engage our users

We don’t simply use twitter as a bullhorn though either. We try to engage members of our community. I post news articles of relevance and ask questions. I also noticed when people are working on papers or projects and do what I can to encourage them or help them. Below is an interaction where a student was writing a business paper on virtual teams, and it was an opportunity for the library to help.

Monitor library related tweets

People are likely saying things about your library or things that are related to your library. The reason I am able to find questions or tweets like the one above is because I monitor our Champlain College hashtag and because I have some tweet alerts set up for specific word related to libraries, research, and papers. Through this monitoring, we can address user concerns and answer their questions.

Solicit feedback

This is something that we are not doing quite as well, and I hope that we can improve. But Twitter is a perfect tool to ask for feedback on some service you are thinking about adding or some initiative you recently implemented. Twitter is great for informally asking questions. When designing resources or services for users, it’s important to actually ask them. Twitter is one tool that could facilitate that.

Create greater awareness of the library

Doing all the aforementioned things creates a greater awareness of the library and what it has to offer. Being active on social networking sites like Twitter makes the library more visible. Not every post gets noticed. And some that you think go unnoticed are actually effective. With the St. Patrick’s Day post I mentioned before, no one tweeted back saying what a good post it was. It seemed like it may have fallen on deaf ears. But not long after a student came in, mentioned he saw the post, and checked out a book because of it.

Facebook, email, and print are all important too and should be used accordingly depending on your community. But Twitter is great tool to have in your communication toolbox. It can be powerful in furthering your library’s mission.

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Improve Your Soft Skills

I’ve got a guest post up on the blog Hack Library School. If you are not following this blog, I would suggest subscribing. It’s a collective blog about rethinking library school and the future of librarianship. Here’s a short snippet from the post:

In librarianship, speaking in public is necessary if you want to be in academia, present at conferences, or hold any sort of leadership position. We have to teach classes, run meetings, present to faculty, other librarians, and the public, and sometimes even give presentations to land a job.

Read the rest here

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Catch And Release For Ideas

lightbulbs in a cage

image by Graham and Sheila on Flickr

We have ideas all the time. At conferences, in the shower, talking to co-workers, lying in bed, riding the bus, there is no shortage of ideas. Some are great and some are duds, but it’s necessary to capture them if we ever want to act on them. In fact, generating and capturing ideas is a key step in the innovation process as I learned in a presentation by David Dahl at the ACRL national conference. If we do not purposefully and regularly capture our ideas, it’s easy to lose them.

On a personal level, I am sure most people have preferred ways of capturing their ideas. My colleague Sarah uses nice notebooks and different colored pens to capture her idea in an analog format. I use Evernote on my two PCs, my iPad, and my Android phone to capture notes anywhere at anytime and automatically have them sync across devices. Other people might use lists or sticky notes or different digital methods to capture their ideas. There is a wide variety of ways to capture ideas and not every solution will work for every person. You need to find what works best for you.

But we also need to capture ideas on a shared staff-wide level. We have good ideas about how we can improve library resources, but if those ideas aren’t shared, they’re useless. I have a Evernote notebook titled “Work.” My colleague Sarah has her stack of notebooks with library thoughts and ideas in them. I bet if we brought some of these ideas together, we would both get excited and some of them would get implemented. There can be a lot of magic that happens when ideas collide.

Just like personal idea capture, there are a variety of ways to bring staff ideas together. David Dahl in his ACRL presentation mentioned some of the more obvious ones like wikis, intranets and even less obvious ones like innovation management software. In talking to Steven Bell at the ACRL conference, I learned about another cool way of capturing ideas as a staff. At a library staff retreat at their institution, staff members were given small notebooks. They were to use the notebooks to capture ideas about library stuff or ideas that came from observing library users. Then at some point in the future they will come together again and share their ideas. I thought this was a creative and fun way to collect ideas, and it showed that not everything has to be shared digitally. Analog can work just as well and sometimes better.

No matter how ideas are captured, they can’t just sit there. Ideas die in captivity. They need to be shared and examined and studied to be able to flourish and become an actual change in your library.

How do you capture and share ideas?