Sunday, April 6, 2014

Twitter and Academic Libraries: The Interview

For my interview, I talked to a librarian at Memorial Library who helps run the UW-Madison Twitter account and Facebook page. She also works with the university to introduce first year students and parents to the UW-Madison library system. Because she was one of the founding members of the Twitter account, the librarian had a lot of insight and advice about using a Twitter account for an academic library. Here are just a few of the interesting points made in the interview:

  • Because the main audience is students, Twitter (and social media in general) for libraries needs to walk the line between being fun and edgy enough for students to pay attention, while also being careful to not become political.  She gave the example of a few years ago when the Go Big Read book was In Defense of Food and the library twitter account ran into problems with PETA. The library had to be very careful to make it clear when they were posting about other people's opinions, not their own.
  • When I asked her about promotion in academic libraries (like the recent #UWBookMadness event), she said it was naive for academic librarians to think they did not have any competition. In the past few years alone, the "non-library" study spaces have increased greatly. Librarians need to use Twitter and other social media to promote their collections and resources and draw students into the libraries.
  • One surprise for me was that she said the largest challenge with maintaining the Twitter account was coming up with new content. She said that some of the earliest advice she got about running a twitter account was that you need to post well and post often because it is really easy for Tweets to get lost in a person's feed. Each month the five librarians who post on the account meet to try to plan out some of their content, but they also try to keep up with relevant news around campus. 
The interview I had was very informative and useful to me as a future librarian. The librarian I interviewed had a lot of points that did not initially cross my mind when thinking about Twitter for libraries. I think that social media use by academic libraries is something that is going to continue to expand and develop. 

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