Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Remaking Twitter for libraries

When you're out with friends there often comes a time, usually late at night after a few drinks, when you start talking about putting the world to rights - or as we'd say in French "refaire le monde", remaking the world. When I'm out with my library friends, we sometimes "remake the library", from collections to training via social media. A few of us are Twitter users, and we've talked about what we'd like to do in the highly hypothetical case where we'd be in charge of a public library's Twitter account. Ideas from these discussions, as well as things I have "soaked up" from talks and conferences I've attended, have been going around my head and made me want to write this article.

So, here are a few things I'd like to do if I ever was given the freedom of managing a library's Twitter account:
  • I would start by following library staff personal Twitter accounts. I would make sure staff know they are welcome and even encouraged to use Twitter at work, especially if they tweet about what they do and about things related to the library service. I would retweet them, perhaps using the hashtag #StaffTweet. View some examples in this Storify.
  • As might have been gathered from the #StaffTweet examples, I'd use Twitter to promote collections and the service as a whole by talking about what library staff are actually up to. I'd love it if this could be done in a humourous way.

  • I would have "A day at [...] Branch Library" every week or so, in a different location, so that the service's Twitter account is not focused only on the central library.
  • I would promote library events, not just once, but several times and preferably in different ways until the actual day, and while it is happening. See examples of live coverage of events by Newcastle Libraries here.
  • I would engage with people: not only by replying, reacting to their comments and retweeting them, but also by making them participate in discussions as well as games and competitions, for example with trivia questions. Newcastle University Library Reader Services (@nulibrs) often hold "guess where our library bag is in this picture" competitions.
  • I would tweet about things that aren't directly related to the library service but my followers (and potential followers) might be interested in: mainly local and literary news. I would point to changes and achievements in the local area, talk about this popular author whose new book has just been published, highlight upcoming literary events, etc. 

  • I would make sure the Twitter account is lively, by tweeting several times a day - not tweeting at all in any particular day is not acceptable. This would be made easier by having a team behind the Twitter account, rather than just one person.
[Text below added 31/01/13]
  • I would interact with other local organisations - the obvious ones being the other cultural venues in the area, ("building partnerships"?) promoting each other's events. An easy thing to do would be talking about events that can be related to the library's services and collections: a film out in the cinema that is adapted from a book the library holds copies of, the local theatre putting on a play of which you can view the text or information about the author, background, film adaptations, etc. in the library.

Many thanks to my friends for our discussions and their opinions on this blog post!

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