Category Archives: Micro-Content: Twitter & More

Follow a Library Day at ALA TechSource


What I appreciate the most about this project is their main goal is educating people about the benefits of following a library on Twitter. The group is aiming beyond our little online world of librarians and library folk and I think we should help them. What better way to do your own promotion for YOUR library’s Twitter feed than to play up this internationally organized day.

Some off the cuff ideas whilst I continue to recuperate after that unfortunate dog-related injury:

  • Embed the overview video in your library’s blog or Web site and write a little blurb about your own library’s Twitter presence.
  • Make a  companion video highlighting the project and the faces behind your library’s Twitter presence.
  • Add info about the project to your other sites for online presence: Facebook, etc. Share with your friends everywhere.
  • Print up some of those ever popular bookmarks, inserts, fliers, stickers, etc (and do it quick – we have about 2 weeks) and send them out the door with your patrons.
  • Put up some fliers, get some local press coverage, and be sure to share the idea with your own followers.

Open Conversation: Twitter & Libraries

Note: This is the second column I co-wrote with Jan Klerk for Digitale Bibliotek last year. I realized it was one of the first times I’ve discussed the backchannel in my classes in print.

Michael Stephens and Jan Klerk did their open conversation this time on microblog platform Twitter. The topic was of course…

Twitter and Libraries.


MS Jan- I’ve been thinking about librarians using Twitter as medium 4 collaboration & as info space. Have u seen this?

JK I see a small but growing group Dutch librarians just over- came prejudices & are experimenting. How it’s in the USA?


MS I see librarians using Twitter in 3 ways: as a thriving commentary/community, as a useful tool & as a question space.

MS As commentary/community, we might look at the use of #ALAMW09 as a means to network, plan and state opini- ons.

MS As a useful tool to save time, my favorite example is UGL alerts and @askundergrad2

JK Yes, the UGL is a nice example of smart timesaving distribution.

MS 3rd area is monitoring Twittersphere 4 ?s to answer & using the space as info resource if ?s asked we need to be here.

JK I think your categorization is very enlightening I also see librarians use Twitter interconnecting different social networks.

JK In this way Twitter is a very smart & fast way to distribute the same information simultaneously on different platforms.

JK Aggregating reactions from different platforms in 1 email account makes it easy to communicate either with patrons or staff.

JK The way Twitter=used at #ALAMW09 2 share sad feelings about the tragic loss of colleagues is very touching & adds value.

MS Yes, the human factor comes through the medium strongly to convey the sadness & shock at losing colleagues.


MS Also as LIS educator this fascinates me (Twitter as a Learning Tool)

JK The idea of using Twitter as a question space I think=challenging. Could this replace existing Q&A services?

MS Maybe not replace Q&A but become part of the channels where questions are asked & info is sought. I think it’s fluid.


JK We talked about channels yesterday & monitoring them. How can libraries take part in the fast growing amount of channels?

MS I suggest librarians do a scan of the multiple channels & find the spaces where folks might be mentioning the library.

JK I agree & finding spaces where folks mention the library=the job4 our marketeers. Instead of our usual shooting in the dark.

MS Using @briansolis’s conversation prism is a good start but it can also be overwhelming until you jump in and explore.

MS Checkout the prism here (


JK I think I could use the prism as starting point to renew traditional services into build-in participatory services.

JK I mean that the conversational aspect is always build-in in every library service you want to develop.

MS I like that thinking. I wish more libs did that here. One barrier is a marketing/PR mindset not open to conversation.

MS Or open to allowing users to chime in, contribute, create & guide those new/rebooted services. We must listen/reply!


JK Sounds challinging2useTwitter as backchannel during classes. Can u trust your pupils? Or is it a matter of radical trust.

MS Is indeed a matter of radical trust ? if I am doing my job well & trusting them to do theirs well 2 then we are fine.

JK I like this! It’s simple, it’s clear, it keeps you going. We libraries should make this our mission statement!

MS Look at what Pima County Lib in Arizona did: Users made vids!

JK In the Netherlands some schools have forbidden their pupils to use social networks during classes.

MS It concerns me that schools (& libs!) are blocking access 2 social networks when they could be used in the edu process.

JK I have the impression that relationship between school & libraries as institute&pupils as group=often based on distrust.

MS I agree. In many cases students are not trusted or must be protected from ‘the big bad world!’ in school.

MS In libraries distrust is probably contributing factor 4 unwelcoming youth spaces & adversarial attitudes of librarians.


MS This has been fun to play out this discussion using Twitter. I hope our readers will try it out.

1 ALA Midwinter Meeting 2009 upcoming/midwinter/home.cfm Helaas geeft niet langer de conversatie weer die hoorde bij de ALA Midwinter Meeting en die onder de hashtag #alamw09 is gepubliceerd
2 Twitteraccount ‘Undergraduate Library’ van de University of Illinois
3 Undergraduate Library
4 Pat Callagan:TwitterasaLearningTool

Don’t Miss the Tech Set from LITA & Neal Schuman

The Librarian in Black writes:

I’m pleased to announce that my first book, Technology Training in Libraries, is set to be released in March of this year!

This book has been a labor of love for the last year.  In it, I walk you through setting up a technology training program in your library, including basic technology training (both online and face-to-face) and general tech training principles and tips.  I also address creating and training to a set of “technology skills” expectations for staff members.  The bulk of the book walks you through the steps for setting up specific types of technology training: lunchtime brown-bags, 23-things style programs, technology petting zoos, peer training, and train-the-trainer programs.  On the practical side, I cover how to come up with a dollar value for estimating the return on investment for training programs, how to market training, creating a culture of learning, dealing with difficult learning, and measuring success with individuals and the library as a whole.  Finally, I offer a huge list of recommended resources at the end of the book.  At 125 pages, it is a concise how-to manual for successfully setting up specific technology training initiatives in a library.

The book is the 6th in a 10-book series called The Tech Set, a joint LITA & Neal-Schuman project edited by Ellyssa Kroski.  The entire series is  meant to be a series of practical how-to guides on specific technology services in libraries.  Other topics include next-gen catalogs, microblogging, mobile technology, gaming, unconferences, and more.  The set boasts some great names: Cliff Landis, Connie Crosby, Jason Griffey, Robin Hastings, Steve Lawson, Sean Robinson, Lauren Pressley, Kelly Czarnecki, and Marshall Breeding.

For more information, you can see my book’s pre-pub website (which offers a peek inside the book) and for a complete list of the Tech Set titles, see the site for the entire Tech Set series.

Elyssa asked me to take a look at the set and consider an endorsement. I read multiple chapters from each work – and Sean Robinson’s excellent tome on video making for libraries in its entirety and was very pleased. Pleased enough to endorse the set. I was especially taken with Jason Griffey’s work on mobile library services and mobile technology and Sarah’s take on a subject near and dear to my heart tech training. Here’s what I submitted to Neal Schuman:

For those curious about next gen library catalogs or wondering if the library should be on Twitter, the Tech Set offers ten volumes of current thinking and best practice for a wide range of  library-related tech trends. Editor Elyssa Kroski has assembled a who’s who of notable experts on these timely topics – including outstanding entries such as Jason Griffey on mobile technologies, Cliff Landis on utilizing social networking and Sarah Houghton-Jan on effective technology training. The titles are well-researched, clearly explained by a cadre of library technologists, offering tips and tricks for diving into blogging, gaming, video production, and  more. This set will be a useful addition to any librarian’s toolkit for  planning for emerging technologies.

These up-to-date  volumes will surely find a welcome spot in my teaching and will probably serve as textbooks for many technology-related LIS courses. Congrats to all involved!

Takin’ It to the Streets

dcpltweetDon’t miss this post by Aaron Schmidt:

On Wednesday afternoons during the Summer outside of the MLK Jr. Memorial Library in Washington DC you will find a table full of friendly librarians talking to the passersby. The librarians also bring out an assortment of library materials to illustrate what’s available in the library. It is a great program and I’d like to see it go even further.

Take a look at the images Aaron shares, highlighting some recent tweet conversations that are perfect examples of the possibilities of engaging with users via Twitter.

Ten Ways to Encourage the Tribe*



Download the Virginia Beach Version of the Slides here.

The good folks at Virginia Beach Public Libraries asked me back this year to talk about building community with social tools.  This was perfect timing because I had just read Peter Block’s Community: The Structure of Belonging and I’ve been working on an article and interview about/with Seth Godin for Digital Bibliotek magazine. His book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us has figured prominently into my thinking and teaching so far this year.

I always appreciate this type of synchronicity. Jenny Levine introduced me to Peter Block’s book – a fascinating look at transforming communities. Based almost entirely on creating community in physical space, his definition speaks to what I see as an important building block of online community: “Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness.” 

Compare that with Howard Rheingold’s 1993 definition of virtual community: “Social aggregators that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” 

Many important keywords here: human… conversations… relatedness..relationships…

Godin simply states: “Human beings can’t help it: we need to belong.” 

Godin’s Tribes is full of insights and ahas for me – as is the crowd-sourced companion PDF at Download this one and give it a look after you read Tribes. It offers roadmap style planning points and loads of questions/answers for convening your tribe.

Combine all the above with these points from A List Apart’s post “The Wisdom of Community” that posits the ideas contained in The Wisdom of Crowds are amplified by the social web: “where they can reach their full potential.”

To enable online crowds to be wise, Derek Pozowak notes you need these things:

  • Simplicity
  • Interface
  • Aggregation
  • Participation
  • Selfishness
  • Explicit vs. implicit feedback

So, from all of this inspiration and these authors’ brilliant thinking, allow me to submit for your approval:

Ten Ways to Encourage the Tribe*

Connect around a cause, a community or a concept

Create your online group around a current issue, a user population or what libraries have a lot of: ideas. Focus on materials: reading, viewing, discussion. Focus on community: what’s happening around town? Focus on the current climate: what programs, services and revamped services might you offer in light of the economic downturn? How can the library help?

Ravelry is a smoking hot example of a focused community that works. A librarian shared with the group I was with in California last week that her daughter was publishing video via Ravelry of spinning techniques for people all of over the world.

Consider also Puget Sound Off  at The Digital Natives blog had this to say:

“The focus is to connect teens in the Puget Sound area that care about the same social issues so that they can create positive change in their communities.”

Take a look at Genre X from Oak Park Public Library at and read what Aaron Schmidt had to say about how they are building community here:

What cause, community or concept do you want to connect?

Use Stories

“Marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.”  Godin writes in Tribes

Can we say enough about the power of stories in libraries? The stories people share about libraries and how they use them – in person and online – are priceless for understanding the role we can play in people’s lives. I’m knocked out by 14 Days to have Your Say  as a way to get students involved and talking about library service. Public libraries could do this too – internally, with the community, as a strategic planning step.

Presenting the library’s story is another option. Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Annual Report at is a perfect example of sharing the library’s story in a human, playful way (driven by technology, but it’s not ABOUT the technology).

Be Transparent

Transparency leads to trust and buy-in. Secrets, deception, guarded details shared only as “need to know” demands hurts organizations. Give me an honest, open mechanism for sharing information and I’ll listen and react. 

Michael Casey and I have been exploring these topics for over two years at Library Journal and I still see other folks like Godin urging business and organizations to embrace the concept. It’s foundational to building a healthy community.

Leverage the Social Tools

Use the tools to extend the library into realms where people are connecting and talking. 

Godin notes in Tribes that “Internet companies have taken the original idea behind blogs and amplified it into a set of tools that anyone can use to tighten a tribe.” Facebook, Twitter and others allow interaction and information sharing – with replies built in. 

“The biggest shift is going to be that organizations that could never have afforded a national campaign will suddenly have one,” Godin writes in a recent blog post. 

Libraries – all shapes, sizes and types – can do this. We can take promotion online – make it viral. Recent online initiatives such as the New Jersey State Library’s campaign to share users’ video stories about the transformational qualities of libraries are ways to create low-cost, human, authentic marketing campaigns. 

A perfect first step: set aside one meeting – not six months of meetings (or heaven forbid a year or more) – to craft your library’s social media policy and plan. Use this as a starting point:

The Social Media Do’s Explained [31]

  1. Be Polite – Talk the way you would if you were doing a job interview. [72]
  2. Be Courteous – Be sure to listen & ask questions. [52]
  3. Be Helpful – Offering tips, tricks & how-to’s goes a long way. [65]
  4. Be Conversational – Don’t just be a PR twit. Chat as you would with a stranger at a bar. Be funny yet interesting. [117]
  5. Be Intelligent – Provide some value. Don’t talk down. Offer insight. [71]
  6. Be Non-confrontational – Don’t start a flame war, it can & will come back to haunt you. [90]
  7. Be Transparent – Disclose that you work for the company, be honest & truthful. [81]

Read more:

Remember the Mission

Have you looked at your library’s mission lately through the lens of social tools and conversational communities online? Checkout Evanston PL’s mission: 

The mission of the Evanston Public Library is to promote the development of independent, self-confident, and literate citizens through the provision of open access to cultural, intellectual, and informational resources.

Creating an online community like any of the Ning’s I’ve written about or similar certainly taps into what this sample mission states, just as enhancing the library catalog does.

Redwood City PL’s mission states: 

The Redwood City Public Library’s mission is to be “the learning center of our community and the place people turn to for the discovery of ideas, the joy of reading and the power of information.”

Discovering ideas and sharing within catalogs such as the community-focused SOPAC is a perfect example of fulfilling a mission like this in the 21st Century.

The Little Things count…a lot

Last December when I bought the new Subaru and tweeted about passing on the $250 Subaru charity donation promotion money to the ASPCA yielding a reply from said organization with minutes is a perfect example of a little connection, a little interaction, meaning a lot.

DKPublishing’s gift to me of a tour guide to Vancouver because of my tweet about their books or recent discussions about Oak park Public Library’s collection are further examples of how a tiny little expression of kindness or bit of feedback can go a long way.

What little things can you do with your users online? What little kindness can you extend?

Listen & Talk (like a human)

The Cluetrain said it best:

“Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.”

If you are going to participate in the conversations going on around your library and within your community, do so in a human way – authentic, real, emotional. Every chance I get, I echo the Cluetrain in my talks, saying: “People can smell PR speak a mile away and they do not respond well to it.”

I spoke recently with librarian who discovered unpleasant reviews of his branch on Yelp. He realized the best move he could make would be to respond to the reviews with thanks and insights about the feedback. I like this thinking.

An interesting example comes from the discussion I lead in Phoenix and Virginia Beach about library databases. In this transparent world, what would happen if the library actively put out there what is spent on electronic resources and encouraged the public to weigh in on what’s purchased. Would there be an uproar? User involvement? I think it would be a very open, honest thing to do: “Hey, library patrons, we spent $125,000 of your tax dollars last year on ________. How should we spend it this year?”  Has anyone out there  done this?

How could you listen and talk with your tribe?

Create a Culture of Caring

Through reading Tribes, the Tribes Q&A and Block’s book, I was struck by the emphasis on making real connections with people via caring and support. This speaks to my personal emphasis on “encouraging the heart” in everything we do. A quote by Darien Library’s Kate Sheehan from Cindi Trainor’s recent TechSource post about  Computers in Libraries 2009  sticks in my brain too:

In the time since I’ve been home from CIL, the moment that has bounced around in my head most often was a quote from fellow TechSource blogger Kate Sheehan. During her part of “Innovation, Services and Practices,” she remarked “The chief export of our libraries is kindness.” It seems so obvious, so nostalgic—and distinctly low-tech—for a librarian to announce that we are, above all, kind to our patrons. Yet many people in our service industry, well, aren’t. I once heard a reference librarian refer to her stone-cold demeanor as “business-like.” An otherwise merry librarian, she probably would have been horrified to know that students thought her “mean.” In this age of snark and snipe, anonymous and named, a little kindness goes a long way, and I’m taking this one to heart.

Amen. In our recent Cheers & Jeers column at LJ, Michael and I mentioned this as well:

Cheers to the folks using emerging tools to enhance conferences and learning opportunities, such as Skyping speaker, UStreaming a trends session, or tagging tweets, posts, pictures, and more with a common moniker.

Jeers, however, to some who criticize in the conference back channel. We’ve been disappointed with snarky chatter and lack of respect for speakers and conference attendees at some events.

Constructive feedback and disagreement fostering debate are wonderful things. But mean-spirited criticism does not have a place at conferences or inside your online community.

How can you encourage your tribe’s collective heart today? What little bit of kindness can you extend?

Trust them

“Faith is critical to all innovation.” Godin notes in Tribes on p. 80.

Faith and trust are building blocks for online social engagement. Until you get past worrying about how you’ll control your tribe and trust them, the results of your online community building might not fare the best. Open comments, ask for feedback, and trust the responses – the genuine ones will rise to the top, good and bad.

Trust your staff to post and interact with the public. And trust the public to do the same. A quick meeting of all of the minds involved will get everyone on the same page – mission, vision, guidelines for participating in the conversation — instead of having a year or two of meetings to hash out how it should all work with social media. See the policy above for inspiration. Hey libraries – post your social media policies so other libraries can adapt and use them. 

What can you do right now to trust your community? What changes can you make?

Value EVERY Member

Every member of the tribe you want to create should be valued: for participating, for lurking, for shaking things up, for calming things down and for simply contributing. NO ONE should be denied access if they are a part of the group. This goes for public tribes and for your staff tribe. 

Public tribes might include your young adults, your 20-30-somethings, etc. It might also include those folks you haven’t extended any services or outreach to as of yet. It certainly should include the groups you’ve marginalized for whatever reason.

Planning this talk, I checked in with John Blyberg from Darien Library. I’ve long used the “Front Desk” blog example in my talks as an example of involving and engaging all levels of staff. Via the new Darien Library site, all staff who want to can post to the fully-integrated Drupal-driven site, including folks from circulation:

“All staff are encouraged to post, no matter their position,” Blyberg told me. “We don’t moderate—posts just go up, but our User Experience team will work with staff on spelling and layout issues, etc if necessary.  We never criticize them on content, because that would discourage them, though we would intervene if something was inappropriate.  We have told our staff that their posts should not betray a political bias because the of the library’s non-profit status as well as our desire to be seen as an apolitical community resource.  I would say that 90% of our full time staff posts and maybe 50% of our part time staff.”

I urged the good folks at VBPL (and members of the city government who also attended my talks and workshops) to consider Godin’s Tribes carefully and to look for ways to blend his vision with what libraries do. It strikes me that gathering folks around ideas and letting them communicate is very much in line with what our mission should be.

I was glad to finish out the Cheers & Jeers column with this:

Cheers to marketing guru Seth Godin and his book Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us (Portfolio)—a touchstone for us this year. We agree with Godin that the market will reward organizations and individuals who choose to lead while those stuck within archaic rules and outdated practice—or guided by fear—will not flourish.

Which will you be?


* at Your Library

Nancy Dowd: Guy Kawasaki on Twitter

Don’t miss Nancy Dowd’s reporting of Guy Kawasaki’s “Using Twitter for Marketing:”

1. Forget the A List
2. Defocus- you never know who will carry the banner for you so be open to every possibility.
3. Get lots of followers.
3. Content
4. Monitor what people are saying about you.
5. Copy what people are doing/best practices

Adding Links to the Hyperlinked Library

Just some things of note:

Library of Congress embraces YouTube, iTunes: “Our broad strategy is to ‘fish where the fish are,’ and to use the sites that give our content added value — in the case of iTunes, ubiquity, portability, etc.,” Raymond said in an e-mail.

Pupils to Study Twitter and Blogs: Children to leave primary school familiar with blogging, podcasts, Wikipedia and Twitter as sources of information and forms of communication. They must gain “fluency” in handwriting and keyboard skills, and learn how to use a spellchecker alongside how to spell.

When every student has a laptop, why run computer labsThe change also doesn’t mean that the university gets to reclaim all that physical space from the labs. As the university’s explanatory document notes, “ITC understands that students need collaborative space where they can bring their laptops and mobile devices to conduct group work, especially as the curriculum becomes increasingly team- and project-based.”

TTW Guest Post: Twitter – Zero to Amazing in 30 days

Twitter – Zero to Amazing in 30 Days
by Chris Oien

A lot of people just do not get Twitter. For quite some time, I was one of them. I enjoyed the stories like the one about how a guy got arrested by the police in Egypt, Twittered the word “Arrested”, and got his friends spurred into action to get him released. But, I just could not see what use it could be to me.

That started changing in Michael Stephens’s Library 2.0 class, that I took last fall. The whole class signed up for it and talked to each other on it, and that was great. And we still do sometimes! So once you reach a certain threshold of people, it’s very useful. But outside of that, I know very few people on it, so I still wasn’t a big user.

Events would soon intervene to show me how powerful it can be for professional purposes. I currently work for the business association on Lake Street (Minneapolis), and as part of that we launched a new website at the beginning of this year. One day, much to my surprise, I saw that the  site got a huge jump in traffic. A little detective work pointed me back to the source: Twitter! Meet Minneapolis (the visitors’ association) tweeted our website to the world, and locals reacted very favorably. They clicked on it, they retweeted it, they blogged it, they commented on it. One guy even put it through a website feedback startup he just created, and he gave us some free advice on how we might improve it.

Simply put, wow! That plus my previous Library 2.0 class experience convinced me that I should really look into doing this for myself. So I did! I created a new business account, put up a few tweets, then started finding select people to follow. I found people in the Minneapolis area who mentioned Lake Street or Lake Street businesses in their tweets. A lot of them added me back and I was off to a good start.

And then? Then it took the heck off. 88 updates and about a one month later, I am stunned by how well it’s going. I have almost 250 followers now, and it’s a strange day when at least one new person doesn’t start following. I don’t have to find them anymore now, they find me. Sometimes people just starting out, with only 7 accounts they’re following, have mine as one of them, along with Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak. Some other things I’ve done in just a few weeks on Twitter:

* Had people spontaneously recommend going to our website and following my account
* Recommended Lake St. restaurants for Twitterers to go to – they asked me!
* Put out a call for people to send me a testimonial of their favorite place on Lake Street that I would put on the site, and a couple
* Had people retweet my messages about stuff going on on Lake, spreading the message
* I’ve started retweeting people’s tweets when they say something nice about a Lake Street business, and many of them are quite pleased to be acknolwedged
* Inspired another place to start Twittering – the Midtown Global Market

To see how well it’s going, you can just look at Twitter’s search page for my account name. We have an audacious marketing plan this year that will spend thousands of dollars, but Twitter is already reaching hundreds of people for absolutely no cost. Like I said, wow. I am now a true Twitter convert.

Now, I don’t (yet) work in a library, but I think the lessons here apply well there too: be open to trying a social web tool when the time is right, really throw yourself into the medium, and be interactive at every opportunity, and success might just be waiting around the corner. Oh, and don’t worry too much if co-workers don’t have any idea what you’re doing – if it takes off, it’ll be a lot easier to explain then.


Chris Oien is an MLIS student at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota.