Why Use Twitter?

I frequently give “Cool Stuff” presentations at my library’s weekly management meetings. Tomorrow’s presentation focuses on Twitter – so I thought I’d gather some ideas on Twitter use from my fellow Twitter users. Here’s what I asked: “working on a twitter presentation for management – anyone want to share what you like about twitter?

Within 20 minutes, I had received over 23 answers! Look at the interesting variety of answers:

  • amylibrarian – “keeping informed on technology and library issues”
  • digitalsista – “twitter is a resource on news and local grassroots activities”
  • pghgurl30 – “I like it cuz I can follow a variety of people easily, librarians, blogfriends”
  • Jill_HW – “Twitter = Instant support, feedback, solutions, etc.”
  • book_luvr – “I learn so much from all of you that I follow! I’m able to share with staff here.”
  • kenleyneufeld – “I find Twitter useful for professional networking.”
  • julian2 – “The conversation is very quick and enriched.”
  • jessewilkins – “more specifically crowdsourcing of links to resources.”
  • ehampton – “quick and easy networking!”
  • strnglibrarian – “the networking! the instant news! the connection to the outside world (from anywhere). are the first things that come to mind”
  • baldgeekinmd – “twitter can be quick and dirty, reach many easily and frustrating when it is not working right.”
  • bschu1022 – “The networking! I can get an answer to a question (in seconds!) from colleagues around the world & not just by email or phone!”
  • MyCreativeTeam – “twitter likes: follow/pitch journalists, query experts, gather blog fodder, promote blog via twitterfeed, quick friend contact”
  • sarchet62 – “I’m following as many health care providers I can find on twitter and learning learning learning helps in my work!!” and “if all you did was follow news channels the tweets are worth it”
  • bckhough – “Twitter made this year’s ALA my best ALA experience yet. It added an energy or connectedness that has been missing”
  • NikkiPilkington – “Quick and easy way to get marketing messages out to interested people”
  • coyenator – “connecting with people, cross-pollinating ideas, apps, experience, info, tools, innovations, and of course, opinions!”
  • znstrk – “quick responses when you ask a question, and interesting tweets from others.”

Themes that stand out: crowdsourcing, news, networking, sharing ideas and messages, staying connected. This quick question turned into an amazing crowdsourced answer the question “why do you use Twitter?”

Do you have anything to add?

Answering the What Do I Have to Stop Doing Question

I’ve heard this question a couple times, and heard it asked again at ALA2008 during the OCLC Symposium. The question usually goes something like this:

“We’re being asked to do all these new things, and we’re already extremely busy. What did you have to stop doing in order to start doing these new things?”

I didn’t get a chance to answer it (we moved on), so I thought I’d tackle it here.

A couple thoughts

Usually, the person asking the question (when I’ve heard it, anyway) comes from a more “traditional” branch of librarianship, and hasn’t really tried out “new” things like blogs or IM reference services. And they (like many of us) feel that what THEY do is extremely important stuff. So when they ask, they’re usually seeing all the daily work they do, how important and satisfying they find that work to be, and start thinking… “well, what does he (ie., the speaker) expect me to give up? It’s all important stuff, and I don’t have enough time in the day to add something else to my already busy daily schedule. What does he expect me to drop?”

I think they’re asking the wrong question.

Why? That question is focused on ME. What I’m doing. It’s focused on librarians and departments and “the way we’ve always done things.”

How about re-framing the question? Instead of focusing on the work we already do, why not focus on meeting the library’s priorities? What are the goals of the the library? The organizational priorities? Figure those goals out, then work to meet those goals.

Will your daily work change? Maybe. Will some things that you currently do not get done? Maybe – but that’s ok. Because you’ll be focused not on “doing stuff,” but on moving the organization forward.

So yes – the less important, non-prioritized stuff will either get done or get forgotten – and that’s ok. Because you have reframed your question.

How would YOU answer this question? I’d love to know!

ALA2008: LITA President’s Program

Title: Isn’t it Great to Be in the Library (wherever that is)

Joseph Janes, presentation
Panelists: the “It’s All Good” bloggers: Crystie Hill, Alice Sneary, George Needham, and Eric Childress

First, Joseph Janes:

Showing pics of libraries – showed a pic of a reference desk from around 1906, and said we probably recognized it as a reference desk. That’s not good. We’d have a different viewpoint if we were doctors – we’d hope that a doctor would NOT want a current operating room to resemble one from 1906!

Then he said librarians have a strong sense of tradition – what should we keep, what should we get rid of?

information environment evolves

  • as it always does
  • technology
  • competitive and volatile information marketplace (publisher and consumer)
  • societal/demographic changes
  • political, legal, cognitive domains

Highly dynamic environment!

What does it mean to be in the library?

  • physically, this is easy – you’re in the library when you cross the threshold and enter the building
  • except… branches, bookmobiles (are you “in the library” in a bookmobile?)


  • follow the same line of reasoning
  • in the library when they cross the digital threshold, hit the web site, search, ask chat reference Q, downloading an audiobook, etc.
  • in the library anywhere, anytime, any way in which people interact with information organized, provided, supported by their own community via their library staff

by implication, the library

  • is the place
  • as well as the stuff
  • and the support
  • and the interaction
  • and the values

all this implies:

an extended notion of library, librarianship, etc
there’s lots of potential with both ideas

somewhere and everywhere – you need a physical presence (you need the puppet closet) when you have physical objects, you need a physical place

but you have to be everywhere – be where your clients are when they want to use you

presences and identities are tied to environments – you can be in multiple presences at the same time. In each, you can have information needs.

be where they are

  • wherever they are (physically and virtually)
  • and whatever they want to do, or be
  • we must be available, positioned, and ready to support, assist, etc – on their terms
  • visible presences
  • in all the various places they are
  • not unlike building new branches or bookmobile routes

Plan services for these people in new digital communities!

We have to be better online

  • we do a great job in person
  • online, we have to be better
  • customers get frustrated fast online – and will go away just as fast

basic human urges

  • communicate, be heard
  • to learn
  • to organize, make sense of the world,
  • search for and make meaning
  • etc
  • We help in those areas

How do we get there?
Move beyond the building


Discussion Panel (interesting snippets):

what matters is why people use these tools – not how a library can use the tools

A priest – is ALWAYS a priest – at church, on the plane, at the cookout. In the same way, a librarian needs to be a librarian in all these emerging digital outposts.

What will make the difference is the experience around the stuff – not the stuff itself. If other places provide a better experience than the library, our customers will go there instead of the library.

We are doing the work right – but are we doing the right work?