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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?