Double or nothing: Increasing your library’s number of Twitter followers

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Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com

This post is part of the very cool “Show Me the Awesome” project, brainchild of Kelly Jensen, Liz Burns, and Sophie Brookover.  It showcases cool things librarians are doing–things that you might not hear about otherwise.   Twitter hash tag: #30awesome.

The “awesome” in this post refers to the increased amount of followers on our library’s Twitter account.   I work in an academic library in a small, semi-rural area where bandwidth coverage can sometimes be less than reliable. So, Twitter didn’t really “hit” here until 1-2 years ago. But, between July 17, 2012 and February 13, 2013 we put in some extra effort and went from 209 to over 418  Twitter followers.  More importantly, the second “half” of our followers has a much larger proportion of students, staff, faculty, and university organizations than the first half did, so we are reaching more of our target audience.

Here’s how it happened.

1.  We used the school’s hash tags.
Last summer  a tidal wave of prospective freshman began tweeting about the school–how excited they were to attend, how much they loved the informal camp in the weeks beforehand, etc.  Tarleton State University is famous for its traditions, many of which are shared for the first time during freshman Duck Camp. So, we re-tweeted prospective students who used school-related hash tags.  We tweeted out interesting facts, pictures and trivia questions with the hash tag #Tarleton.  One was, “Who was the first Tarleton president to say ‘Bleed Purple’?” with a link to our newspaper archives. Another was a picture of the homecoming queen in 1984 (which, let’s face it,  is practically pre-historic if you are a freshman).

2. We followed students, staff, and university organizations.
When using Twitter as the library, I would search for words and hash tags related to the university. Our account would follow anyone whose Twitter biography stated that they were a student here. If they mentioned their major or a hobby in their Twitter bio, I would tweet them links to related library resources. We also followed (and re-tweeted) other university departments and organizations–and they often returned the favor.

3.  We thanked users who followed & re-tweeted us.
People choose to follow you or re-tweet your content, so show them appreciation with a quick “Thanks”, “You rock”, or “Let us know if you need anything.” Often students would re-tweet our thank yous, as if to say, “Check it out. The library *knows* me.” To find these interactions, go to the top of your Twitter screen and click @Connect. On the next screen, click on Interactions and Mentions to see who has been tweeting you, following you, and “favoriting” your links.

4. We didn’t make every tweet about the library.
It’s OK to occasionally tweet about memes, or the weather, or something cool another department is doing. It’s also OK to be friendly.  Once on our home feed I saw a sad tweet from a student whose pet had just passed away. So they received a message through the library’s account: “We’re so sorry to hear about your pet. Hope you feel better soon.”  Small as it was, the gesture was appreciated. If we see a student tweet about a high grade, they’ll receive a quick congratulatory tweet or message. During a recent nearby tornado, we tweeted emergency safety information.

5. We monitored tweets about the library.
OK, some people might call this creeping, but as an organization we prefer the term “brand monitoring” (cough cough).  You can go to Advanced Twitter Search and limit your searches by keyword (“library”) and geography (name of city and state). I set up an alert using IFTTT that texted me whenever someone used the word “library” within a 5 mile radius of the campus. The fact that we’re in a semi-rural area without competing universities meant there weren’t very many people tweeting about libraries other than this one, or possibly the small  public library.
This allows us to find gems like “I forgot my highlighters at the library” or “Why can’t the girl next to me  at the library shut up?!”

Sometimes these tweets are worded less politely (see picture below).  With the tweets above, we’ll respond directly with information about our uber cool supply vending machine, or remind students to ask a librarian to shush their neighbor.  These tweets often get re-tweeted or favorited. Advanced searches for words like library AND (APA, MLA, paper, research, project, final) allowed us to send students “just in time” links to citation resources or to answer their questions about hours.

6. We tracked our followers.  An easy (and free) way to do this is with Twitter Counter. You may want to take screenshots so that you can document the number of your followers over time.

Time management:
You may want to set aside a designated time daily for working with Twitter,  or rotate the responsibility among co-workers. If you’re on Twitter a lot in your spare time and have a mobile device, use an app like echofon that allows you to easily toggle between multiple accounts. Bufferapp  lets you pre-schedule tweets for upcoming events like contests.

Rock Twitter #LikeABoss by Yvonne M on Prezi - Mozilla Firefox_2013-05-31_16-07-26

Thanks for letting me be part of this “awesome” project! If you have any questions please leave a comment or tweet @yvonnemmu.

Blogs, social networks, and librarians

I originally started this blog because, well, I knew lots of other librarians blogged and it seemed like a good idea, particularly during my job search. It wasa reason, although hardly a compelling one.

I remember when blogs first started to become popular, but weren’t yet mainstream, that people often mocked bloggers as self-absorbed. Now it’s almost odd *not* to have a blog–especially if you’re a librarian.

Still, I admire people who are able to “let it all hang out” online, and I also worry about them (and, by extension, me). On the odd occasion I’ve seen references to librarians being called out at their workplace for their blog postings. Many librarians integrate their personal and professional lives online, with links to Flickr or instagram pictures, tumblr, etc. linked from their professional blogs. Some even have a flavors.me page that lists all their social networks in one place–Google Plus, FriendFeed, Quora, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, LiveJournal, Scoop.it, etc. etc. Five or six networks I can understand. But a dozen or more?

I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those librarians who punctuates my convictions with curse words online–not that there’s anything wrong with that. If other people feel and act differently, that’s great and more power to them. It’s just not my style.

Considerations like the above have kept me from updating this blog as often as I’d like. So too have the following:
1). The intimidation factor. There are lots of great librarian blogs out there that really dig into important issues. It’s hard not to feel inadequate.
2). The “what if” factor (related to the above). What if I post something and it is misinterpreted and there’s fall out?
3). Do I even need to blog? There are many thousands of librarians out there doing quality work who don’t feel the need to blog. Why should I bother?
4). This blog post on librarians and deprofessionalization that I read recently. The take-away is that the librarians need to read less blog posts and more professional journal articles.

So, these are all questions swirling around my brain in the moments that I blog or (more often) think about blogging or (even more often) think about the fact that I’m not blogging.

Google Plus, Privacy Minus

I started using Google Plus a few weeks ago.   I really liked it, and started following some of the hordes of other librarians already on it right away.  I was excited by its collaborative possibilities, and ready for an alternative to Facebook.    Probably one of the best things about Google Plus (for now, anyway) is the total lack of any commercial entities.

Recently some things have happened which make me question my decision.

G+ accounts suspended without good reason
Recently I’ve started seeing stories like this one about how Google Plus is deleting accounts “en masse” without disclosing specific reasons for doing so.

Loss of all Google Services
This story in particular caught my attention.  It is an open letter from a student who was denied access to all of Google’s services, supposedly due to a violation in Terms of Service (this was never explained).  In the process, he lost lots of data and had his life disrupted.  Needless to say, he is now embittered against Google, and who can blame him?  Also, what’s to stop this from happening to someone else?  What would you do if this happened to you?

A  colleague of mine describes the security concerns inherent in using cloud services this way:  “If you keep your stuff at someone else’s house, don’t be surprised when they move.”  Or, in this case, when they change the locks.

Public vs. Private Accounts
I’ve also heard that accounts that aren’t set to Public will be automatically deleted on July 31st.  I disagree but, after all, it is their product.

Below is an excerpt from Google Plus help section (emphasis mine):

“The purpose of Google Profiles is to enable you to manage your online identity. Today, nearly all Google Profiles are public. We believe that using Google Profiles to help people find and connect with you online is how the product is best used. Private profiles don’t allow this, so we have decided to require all profiles to be public.

Keep in mind that your full name and gender are the only required information that will be displayed on your profile; you’ll be able to edit or remove any other information that you don’t want to share.

If you currently have a private profile but you do not wish to make your profile public, you can delete your profile. Or, you can simply do nothing. All private profiles will be deleted after July 31, 2011.”

Pseudonym Ban
Google+ is also banning pseudonyms.  This concerns me because I don’t feel comfortable using my full name on the Internet, and try to avoid it when possible. Others are concerned about disclosing their identity online, because they have been stalked or otherwise abused.  Why should their safety be compromised?
Here is an excerpt from Google’s policy:

“On Google products such as Blogger and Picasa, users can use three types of identities: pseudonymous ( activity tied to a made up name) , identified (activity tied to your real name), and unidentified (activity tied to neither).”

On Google Plus, however, users have only one option: identified.

Skud at infotropism has some excellent posts on this topic.  She even surveyed over 100 people who had their Google Plus accounts suspended for name-related reasons. Many of them had excellent reasons for not using their full names, including government employment, incidents with stalkers, backstabbing colleagues, online harassment, and many more.

Now what?
I really like Google + so far.  And I do use other Google features, such as Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Docs.

But I’m not so sure that I’m OK using the products of a company that…

A)…kicks people off of its service without any warning or way to access their information. Even YouTube will give you several warnings.

and

B)…hasn’t addressed valid concerns about user safety and privacy.

I totally get that G+ is a social network, designed to help people connect with others.  But…privacy and safety are not black and white.

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What can I contribute?

I’m a new academic librarian, and have yet to write an article or present at a conference. There are so many areas of interest, and so many people contributing, that it’s hard for me to know where to begin. For one thing, I don’t have faculty status (and I’m OK with that), so I’m not required to “publish or perish.” And most of the time, I’m too busy with my day to day “librarianating” to look ahead and actually, you know, plan stuff.

Also, it’s difficult for me to believe that I have something fresh and worthwhile to offer, especially when I look at conference programs and think,

“Wow, how cool!”

or

“I’ve never even *heard* of that”

or

“How did they find the time to do all of that research?”

Surely I can’t be the only one who feels this way. I cast out some feelers on this topic to librarians on Google Plus and got the following advice:

—“You have information worth sharing. That’s a very general statement, but everyone has something they are The Expert in. The trick is to figure out what your topic/field is. Once you’ve decided, you’d look for conferences geared towards that topic.”

—“Identify what you know, and what interests you. What unique/interesting slant can you give it? Then find a conference. Check out previous presentations, hopefully online ones. Talk to the organisers and offer to do a freebie, or a small workshop type event to get your name known and tweeted. Repeat until you get asked.” 🙂

—“Figure out what you love and what you want to share and then go for it. Remember that you’ll be sharing your knowledge with a great community, too! Don’t feel apprehensive about it. I think the best thing about presenting is the people that I meet through it all – that’s where I’ve learned the most.”

—“Come up with an idea you want to present, find people to present with you because it is easier/more fun with a panel, plus it might help your nerves if you present with someone who has presented before, submit a proposal when there is call for conference proposals at a conference you’ll be at anyway. At least in my state, I think selection committees to make room for everyone who wants to present. I hope this helps.”

So I finally got an eReader….

Nook e-reader

Nook e-reader

Or is it an e-Reader? Or possibly an e-reader?

Recently I was lucky enough to be re-gifted a black and white Nook for Christmas. Despite my interest in shiny new things, I had put off getting one for some time.

a) I’m  frugal

b) I could always read e-books on my iPod Touch,

c) I’m concerned about e-books and the digital divide.

d) Past experiences trying to read e-books  on a computer screen had not impressed me.

e) I hated the idea of possibly not being able to control access to e-books I’d purchased. I’d heard about Amazon deleting illegal copies of 1984 (of all things) from Kindles .  When you buy a print book, it’s yours and that’s the end of it.

One month later…

The good. So far, I like the Nook.  I can definitely see the appeal of getting a book delivered to you instantly.

It uses e-ink and is backlit, so there’s no eye strain.

You can read library books on it, if you have online access to a library with Overdrive.

The bad. It doesn’t have 3G–not a big deal. A bigger deal? I can’t download free e-books from the Project Gutenberg site. I can do this with my iPod Touch, if I use the Kindle app.

The ugly. Unfortunately for me, the closest library with Overdrive is 70 miles away, and requires a resident library card for access. (OK, OK, so that’s really not the Nook’s fault). Even with this access, I’d have to download Overdrive’s software on my computer, find a book that wasn’t checked out, download it to my computer, and *then* transfer it to my device.

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Augmented reality & libraries

A screenshot of across air, an augmented reality app for iPhone and iPod Touch. This screen is showing nearby foursquare venues.

Augmented reality is a computerized layer that can give you more information about objects in real life.  Libraries are beginning to explore some of its uses.

Possibilities:
Orientation.
Get different pieces of information, depending on your location.   Find out if printers or copiers are nearby.
Discovery/browsing. Browse The Great Gatsby and be directed to a different floor with movie or audio book versions .
Event reminders. Walk by  a meeting room and be reminded about the guest speaker who will be  there tomorrow, and directed to a link with more information.

Caveats
Not everyone has mobile devices that will work with augmented reality applications. AR apps are not in wide use yet–it may be another few years before they’re so common that patrons will wonder, “Hey, where’s the library’s AR stuff?”

Experimenting with acrossair.
Since I have an iPod Touch,  not a smart phone, there are only a few AR applications that I can use.   One of them is acrossair, an “augmented browser” for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  You can search nearby tweets, Youtube videos, Wikipedia entries, photos, and more.

Once you find a video, tweet, or what-have-you, you can bookmark, Facebook, tweet or email it to someone.
You can also map the approximate location from where it was taken, get directions to this location and share the location via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
For example:
Let’s say I want to find out if anyone nearby has made a YouTube video.
I click on the YouTube icon and get a map with red pins.  Each pin symbolizes a YouTube video made within a 5, 10, 15, 20 or 50 mile radius, depending on my settings.

map of YouTube videos near me

Clicking on a pin takes me to the YouTube video:
YouTube video found using acrossair

This is where it gets a little weird. For each video, I can map where the user was when he/she made them,and even get directions to the (approximate) location in different “layers”, such as map or satellite.

Why would I want to do this, exactly? I noticed none of my YouTube videos came up, and I’m not sure why.  Not that I’m complaining.

Summary of acrossair:

Pros: Fun, and a novelty.
Cost: Free.
Cons: The interface is a bit crowded. Other people’s information can be shared in ways they don’t know about and/or haven’t explicitly authorized.
Application to libraries: Reputation management.  This is a quick, visual way to find out who in your area is tweeting about or taking pictures of the library.

Related resources:

“How Stuff Works: Augmented Reality.” http://computer.howstuffworks.com/augmented-reality.htm
“Augmented reality and libraries: 8bitlibrary.com.” http://blog.8bitlibrary.com/2010/04/16/augmented-reality-and-libraries/
“Augmented reality using a webcam and a flash.” http://www.adobe.com/devnet/flash/articles/augmented_reality.html
“AR Toolkit.” http://www.hitl.washington.edu/artoolkit/