Blogging and Microblogging

August 14, 2007

Moderator: Linda Braun

Session Notes

· Why microblogging
· What is most doable
· Better way to use blogging
· Use in the future

Twitter: Comments: people have friends, know friends – social networking among librarians. How to find more librarians on Twitter? List of all Twitter participants!

Tweet – text messaging via cellphone. Goes to all people in friends’ list.

Question: How can you justify Twittering while at work? You’re doing work-related activities: e.g. reference queries. Can be seen as an alternative to online refeference services, such as “Ask a Librarian.”
Patrons are less enchanted by long formal reference interactions. They want instant gratification by messaging. Participants didn’t really say they can answer queries, but rather can dispense informational advice: announcements of events, meetings.

What audience is the Twitter audience? Real Friends? Work Friends? Water-cooler buddies? How does it differ from e-mail distribution lists (“Listserv lists). But Twitter is FASTER and less formal – easier to put out content.

Two audiences: for other librarians, and for patrons. Pownce allows you to set up groups of friends (personal, professional, hobby-related, etc.), depending on the kinds of info you want to dispense to them.

Linda has a Firefox extension that allows direct input into Pownce or Twitter. [Take a look at the Firefox add-ons that interace with Twitter.]

Getting friends: One participant did a huge outreach campaign to the students at her institution. Some people (especially students) accept friends casually and readily, so you can be pretty sure you’ll get “friends” from your institution.

Is there spam on microblogging? Maybe a few people of the type who choose to be a friend of everyone on earth. Or students who are writing collaborative novels by Twitter (like chain mail, where each person writes a few lines to form an ever-increasing cumulation before passing it on to the next friend). You can lock down your Twitterings. One participant mentioned how Google picked up all her Twittering – somewhat embarrassing! - before she learned how to control levels of public access.

Twitterprose! Twitterlit! Gives you a wealth of initial statements of thematically-related topics. Great opportunity for web-wandering and surfing.

Why use it? It's less formal, more local (i.e. better connections with the people you know). Great way to toss out new ideas and see how people respond. Great way to control immediacy. (The web allows one to control the flow of people coming to you with queries, something that would be difficult with in-person interactions of people that say “I need help NOW!”)

Example of Cleveland Public Library using Twitter:
You can find a list of academic libraries using Twitter on the Libsuccess wiki:

Another reason to use Twitter, Facebook, and similar sites: This is where your public is! You’ve got to go out to them and meet them on their communication terms. [It was not mentioned at the conference that general library attendance for academic and public libraries is decreasing across the board - see Stephen Abrams' blog.]

Reaching out to your public does present challenges, because it changes the relationship between staff and patrons. Formerly there were formal boundaries between “library staff” and “patron.” Such boundaries are being blurred by the evolving nature of social computing. For librarians who want to get Twitter/Pownce accounts, the question arises: Should your profile be institutional, or a personal profile? Maybe it has to be a bit of both (that blurred boundary). Doing so makes librarians more human, and therefore more approachable for the public. Students *want* to find their favorite librarian – they WANT to talk to them. (When you order a pizza by phone, don't you always want to talk to the same person who knows your preference for toppings?)

One library sees social network software as a marketing or branding technique. Some spoke of fear on the part of upper administration to take part in Library 2.0. Their negativity might be due to fear or lack of knowledge about Library 2.0 techniques. In at least one case, the administration eventually came on board when they saw the results.

Some people are luddites, and some are immediately drawn by new technologies. One has to rise to the occasion to ask for help, to promote use of technologies. Don’t forget that you do represent your institution when you Twitter as part of the institution (i.e. you're beholden to the rules of “work for hire” – that is, your work does not belong to you, but to your institutions). As librarians we need to fight for our needs and rights to explore and engage in Library 2.0.

Blogs vs. microblogs. How are they being played out at people’s institutions? As a tool? Let’s hear success stories.

One participant had a secret blog for 2 years, so he was ready when he received approval from the IT department. An instant way to update immediately. At Baruch they have a Reference Blog, which replaces an e-mail distribution list. A blog also replaces the old paper-based bulletin board. The problem is that not everyone is at the same level of comfort in using the blog (even just to check it). One librarian wanted to make the rule to check the blog before approaching the reference desk, since it provided instruction/guidelines. Information Literacy blogging – a way to engage the faculty and make them more active.

Blog as communication device? Pose questions on the blog and invite your readers to respond and comment. At Baruch, CUNY is pushing blog use, so that becomes a way to support the effort.

The issue of "medium as message" came up, with participants exploring what tools are good for which purposes. One academic librarian said students like getting RSS feeds of course descriptions. At Baruch (our host), Blackboard is used for students enrolled in specific courses. Blog is more general. Baruch wants to move away from the Blackboard – too restrictive in its software. Other technologies (e.g. blogs) allow you to reach more people. Do people find blogs allow for more humanization, personalized contact? One participant spoke of her long-term desire for a tech blog. It was not realized, but she realized ultimately that when a blog appeals to a broader audience, it results in a better interaction.

Microblogging at libraries. One participant mentioned how it’s an announcement-only blog. No one went to it. But once they set it up as a feed where content was aggregated (think of Bloglines, or Google News), people were able to receive it and took to it (this was supported by evidence of user response). One participant – on their library’s front page – created feed of events and other activities.

Using technologies in a way that supports their attributes, e.g. Listserv list communication leads to a certain kind of communication, different from blogs. Some people just hate email!

Blog Posts by Attendees

Add your Twitter / Pownce ID to receive additional friends

  • Stephen Francoeur (Baruch College) uses Twitter at s_francoeur
  • Maura Deedy (The Ferguson Library) uses Twitter at mauramae
  • Shannon Kealey (Currently at NYU Bobst, as of Sept. at NYU Ehrman Medical Library) uses Twitter at librariansrawk and learning to use Pownce too (same username)
  • Susan Chute (NYPL) is trying out Pownce at chanteus