One of the great parts of Twitter is that librarians are still discovering and experimenting with new uses for the platform. Twitter can become a tool for interacting with patrons in new and exciting ways. Once you master the basic ways to use Twitter, it is important to come up with new content to expand and engage your followers.
Here are some innovative ways academic librarians have been using Twitter:
- To hear from your patrons: Much of the scholarly research mentioned the potential of Twitter as a reference tool. In her article “Making Twitter Work: A Guide for the Uninitiated, the Skeptical, and the Pragmatic”, Valerie Forrestal discusses tools, like TweetDeck, that can be used to track hashtags. Institutions can use Twitter to see how much their events are being discussed and what is being said.
- One topic that is currently of interest to academic librarians is providing reference services over Twitter. Erin Fields wrote an article for Library High Tech News which ways the pros and cons of answering reference questions online, referring specially to one library’s experience with a reference hashtag. On one side, providing reference services can be a great way to allow busy college students to contact the library easily and on a platform they know. On the other, Twitter reference services could easily create conflicts for patron privacy.
- Libraries can also use Twitter as a general gauge of patron response to the library. The academic librarian at UW-Madison gave an example of students tweeting about a broken internet connection at the library, something that was fixed as soon as the supervisors of the account saw the complaints.
- To familiarize patrons with the library. Used properly, Twitter can be a great way to get people into the library. Librarians can tweet about the interesting items and content the library holds.
- A great example of this was written about by law librarians Marcia Baker and Stefanie Pearlman in their article “Tweet Treats”. They discussed their success in doing a scavenger hunt like activity using Twitter. The library staff would hide candy somewhere in the law library and then Tweet out clues as to where the candy was throughout the day. Baker and Pearlman conducted the scavenger hunt during freshman orientation, in an attempt to get the freshman familiar with navigating the library and its collection. The event proved so popular, the librarians continued to do it annually and for finals week! Here is a sample tweet treat clue from May 2, 2014
- To engage with students on a new level. The article “Hashtag Librarian” by Ellen Filgo, written about her experience using Twitter to interact with a class, really delves into a lot of the innovative uses of the technology. She offered to Tweet along with an online class, answering their questions and supplementing the discussion as the class was conducted. Filgo talked about both the positives and negatives of this experience. She says “I found myself being stretched professionally…I had to be good at multitasking, thinking quickly, and typing swiftly” (Filgo 80). However, she also talked about a large payoff; she was able to intervene early in the research process and students responded positively to her presence in the past. Filgo’s innovative classroom interactions are just one example of how librarians can use Twitter to get more involved in the academic process.