Messaging in a 2.0 World: Twitter & SMS

Library Technology Reports, September-October 2007 | Go to article overview

Messaging in a 2.0 World: Twitter & SMS


Messaging has changed as well in the time since the last "Web 2.0 & Libraries," a little over a year. One major change was the advent of Meebo and Meebo Me, described in chapter 1. Others include the introduction of Twitter (a microblogging/messaging tool) and the use of short messaging text to enhance library functions via cell phones.

Twitter

Fred Stutzman, in his "12-Minute Definitive Guide," describes Twitter this way:

   Twitter has been labeled anything from a microblogging
   application to a continuous presence
   notifier to a viral, social instant messaging client.
   Whatever Twitter is, it has certainly caught the
   attention of a wide swath of people and it appears
   to be well on its way to establishing itself as the
   first breakout Web 2.0 application of 2007. (1)

Users can access Twitter messages--called Tweats--via the Web, via an RSS feed, and via text on their cellular phones. As of this writing, IM support was in place but is on hold. Stutzman divides uses into two areas: social updating and microblogging. Accessing a Twitter user, one might find an update on his or her day, a direct message to another Twitterer, or a bit of wit and wisdom.

In this time of exploration and play by many library professionals, it's not surprising that libraries are experimenting with Twitter as well. The Nebraska Library Commission recently blogged about their use of Twitter. The librarians decided to add their reference questions to a Twitter account For example, here are the five most recent questions:

1. NLC Reference: Need names of staff members of Governor Kerrey.

2. NLC Reference: Need the address to the Better Business Bureau in Marietta, Ga

3. NLC Reference: Was there ever an International Wildlife Park in Grand Prairie Neb.?

4. NLC Reference: WHAT YEAR WERE DRIVER LICENSES FIRST REQUIRED IN NE? 5. NLC Reference: There is a Gdowski Dam in Nebraska. Who it is named for and a little history? (2)

Other libraries are also experimenting with Twitter. These include the Cleveland Public Library, which is Twittering events and notes about the library; the Lunar Planetary Institute, which is Twittering information about the library podcasts and more; and the Casa Grande Library.

Casa Grande Library's director Jeff Scott shared his thoughts about adding Twitter to the library Web site. Inspired by a post from Jenny Levine, Scott wondered if a library could dump all its RSS feeds into Twitter using Twitterfeed.

"Then whenever the library did anything, catalog a book, have a program, put out a newsletter, anyone on Twitter would know about it," he said. His second hope was that people would then be connected to Casa Grande Library via their mobile device. The second part is slow to come. "I have many friends and followers of the library, but I know for sure only one or two are from Casa Grande, some others from Arizona." (3)

Scott promoted the innovation in the library news section of the newspaper and the library's e-mail distribution list. He also plans to put it on the library's main Web page: "I just need to find a way to put it there without junking up the page. If I place the Twitter feed into the Library in Your Pocket Section at http://cglibrary.org, not many people will read it. If it is not on the opening page, most people wouldn't investigate what it is." (4)

Seeking participation

Scott also noted one of the issues with libraries using 2.0 technologies. Sometimes it seems all the subscribers are other librarians--turned on to the service by the biblioblogopshere. "From talking to other libraries on social networking, many of their friends are just librarians and other libraries instead of patrons. It is the same for the library's Twitter feed," he said. "I would like to go out and seek locals to get participation, but most of them don't say where they are from and I have no way to identify them. …

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