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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.

Andy Burkhardt

21 Comments

  1. Great post! Our library is at, @SAULib and felt nice to know that we do almost all the things you recommend. On Thursdays the library director annouces the Word of the day- its fun to see how the audience connects. Thanks again..

  2. I use kurrently to monitor who is talking about us on twitter and facebook. That works well because you can RSS feed a search for your library. Andy, your method of monitoring library tweets doesn’t work so well for me because I’m in a bigger city with lots of colleges and universities, but I do think the importance of motoring what people say about your library is understated.

  3. Malakiva, that is great to hear that the director is involved and posts regularly. A word of the day is a really good idea!

    Emily, I know my way of monitoring posts would only work in specific situations. A big city with lots of schools would make it a lot harder to filter through irrelevant stuff. I’ll have to look into kurrently. I hadn’t heard of it before. I like how it searches both Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for the tool suggestion!

  4. Good stuff, Andy! You mention shortcomings… is there anything you’ve tried that didn’t work out so well?

  5. David, there’s plenty of stuff I’ve tried that doesn’t work. :)

    One that comes to mind is our facebook page. We do not seem to get as much engagement there. I’m not sure if it’s our audience or the things that I post, but it definitely does not work as well as Twitter. I actually should look of examples of other libraries who get a lot of engagement on Facebook and see how their using it. Any ideas?

  6. The Tulsa City/County Library system (@tulsalibrary, I think) has “first line Fridays.” Every Friday, they tweet the first line of a book (usually YA), and then a link to the book’s catalog listing. I think this is brilliant.

  7. Great stuff, Andy! – Beth Redford, UW-Madison SLIS 1996, @bethredford

  8. molly, that is a really cool idea. Having regular content and posts like that adds some consistency to posting. And doing the first line from books like that is a great way to promote your collection. I might have to integrate some regular posts into our social media strategy. Thanks for the heads up.

    Beth, nice to meet another Madison SLIS grad! And you’re in Vermont too! Hopefully I get to meet you sometime. Maybe at VLA…

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