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I just tweeted in the library

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This just in: Fail Whale! (thanks to Lee LeFever on Flickr)

Twitter has gotten a lot of press lately. CNN loves to talk about it. It has been on both John Stewart and Steven Colbert. Jimmy Fallon uses it copiously and talks about it on his show. Twitter has grown 2,300% in 13 months. There is no ignoring it.

Yet, recently at the ACRL conference in Seattle I was told students aren’t using it.  I heard this at an excellent session called If You Build It, Will They Care? Their data may be correct for the time they conducted the survey. I thought as much was true myself. I had not seen students on Twitter. Now, though, my response to them is: “just wait.”

The presence here at Champlain College has been growing steadily. This is likely in part due to the efforts of “the queen of social mediaElaine Young, a marketing professor at the college. She began to use the hashtag #campchamp to group all the tweets Champlain College together.

Following and using that tag has proven very useful in learning what’s going on around campus and connecting with students, faculty, and staff. I was even able to perform some preemptive reference for a student who tweeted that they were working on a paper.

I am predicting a growing number of students will be on Twitter in the coming months. It is not going away. We may have a number of pretty savvy students and faculty members here at Champlain, but I forsee a this becoming a national trend.

My advice? Try to find and follow the tag for your school or your community using a tool like Tweetdeck or even Twitter Search and RSS. If there isn’t a tag , start it. Someone has to be the first. Why not you?

It is a much less formal way to interact with students and faculty members. Instead of seeing them in class or meetings or a reference interview, you can simply have conversations about what’s going on around campus or in current events or whatever. It can be very powerful community building tool, in addition to its other myriad uses.

Your students may not be there yet, but they will be…they will be.

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The case for facebook

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I have been working on a facebook page for our library. A number of other libraries have entered into the social networking realm and I think it is past time for us to do so.

When I walk through the computer lab in the library to grab some coffee, every other computer I see has facebook up on the screen.

The other day I tried to imagine if any student was not on facebook at the college (I am sure there are some). Facebook is a whole separate life that intersects and meshes with everyday physical life. And if there are students not on there, it seems like they are missing out on half of what is going on. The same is true of the library. Right now we are missing out on half of what is going on.

I feel it is important to not always make students come to you. “Go to the library website.” “Come to the library.” We should also meet them where they already are. A vast majority of them spend a lot of time on facebook, and I think it would be worth our time to have a presence there as well.

Not only would it allow us to help students thorough things like IM reference through the Digsby widget I hacked together, but it would enable us to show a more human side of the library. I’ve added pictures of the librarians and staff and also pictures of different events like the Chili Cookoff or when T.C. Boyle came and autographed our library books. The library is made up of people. It’s not just a building; it has a life of its own.  Hopefully we can show that through facebook.

I hope to continously add content. Our amazing Information Literacy Librarian Sarah Cohen proposed that we have a Scrabble tournament sometime which would be a lot of fun and yield some excellent pictures/videos. I also would like to use it to converse with students and try to find out their thoughts and feelings about the library. A number of other library pages I have looked at don’t do so hot on this front. They have great content but the conversation is often lacking. I wonder how this can be better facilitated.

Other than that I have to keep brooding on the best ways to promote the page, but I hope to get it published by Spring Break.

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FBML and problem solving

Photo by Bryan Veloso on Flickr

Photo by Bryan Veloso on Flickr

I have risen to a new level of geekdom. The other day, as I was putting together a Facebook page for the library I ran into some problems, so I had to learn some FBML.

We recently switched from Meebo to Digsby for our IM reference widget. I wanted to put that same Digsby widget into our Facebook page so students would be able to connect with the library there as well. There is already a “Digsby widget” application  available in Facebook, but unfortunately when I tried adding it to the library page it kept failing and instead added itself to my personal profile.

Then, I decided I could just find an app that just allowed me to copy and paste the HTML to embed the Digsby widget, but none of those worked correctly either. Finally, as I was about to give up, I found an FBML app in this blog post. I googled FBML and found the Facebook developer’s wiki. It was easy enough to map FBML to the HTML that I already knew.  So I wrote a few lines of FBML including the location for the Digsby widget, and lo and behold it showed up there on my Facebook page.

This was one of those moments similar to when I first started writing HTML or CSS, when you just take a step back and say, “oh wow; I actually just created something.”  What amazes me is that is that I could actually understand enough about HTML to hack together something that worked in FBML, a totally new language to me. It is just a little over two years since I started learning HTML. Ever since then my curiosity and interest in technology in technology has been piqued.

I realized that there must be some solution to my problem, and kept trying different approaches to solve it.  That is the part I really love about technology. You are constantly learning and solving problems.  If something doesn’t work you have to keep trying until you find something that does. And with every problem you have to learn a little bit more.