Monthly Archives: December 2011




I made a pretty big mistake as I was writing these. I had it in my head, somehow, that you need to join Twitter to see the information that’s posted on Twitter. This is false and I learned it was false in this class, but, somehow, I forgot. I stand by my assertion that an organization posting tweets should make those tweets available in more than one place but, yeah. No one has to join to see them.

Sigh. Blame the semester. My energy for knowing/remembering/thinking has been thoroughly sapped.



The end


This will, most likely, be my final post. I can’t say I’m a convert, to blogs or to Twitter. I can say that I had more fun writing this than I thought I would, that I’m almost entirely unafraid of social media in a professional setting, and that I’ve developed a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

The first step, I think, in building a social media presence for an organization is choosing the right platform. A mantra from Library 500 was, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” It may all be easy to set up, but that doesn’t mean that hopping on board will do anything for your organization or your patrons.

For example, I spent some time exploring the website of the Medical Library Association. I didn’t do a separate post because it’s not a library but a professional association for librarians, and also because, as of yet, they’re not using Twitter. Instead, they have a Youtube channel, full of dork-tastic videos that I, as an aspiring medical librarian, didn’t find very useful. (Although some of the lines were pretty great: “Librarians are good people people”; “I love what I do, and I love it because, every day, I learn at least twelve new things.”*) Here again, I could see blogs being better, or at least some form of social media that has a lot of written content and is more serious, more informative, and at least a little easier to stomach.

If you choose to use Twitter, remember that every tweet matters. Think seriously about its purpose before you send it off (grab attention? draw new patrons? announce an unforeseen closure?). Think about the extent to which you want your Twitter feed to focus on and reflect your organization. If you are like The Huntington, and your blog is doing most of that work, then you may want to simply let Twitter be Twitter, and use it to talk to your patrons. Or you may be like the World Digital Library and use an “#onthisday” feature to highlight aspects of and items in your collection.

Old clock

Someday, I will build a library of clocks.

To the extent you’re able, use un-acronymed, natural language. I’ve gone back and forth on this but, in the end, I think it’s best to avoid jargon and any but the most obvious abbreviations. The 140-character limit does invite fun new language — but I think we should see it as an invitation to practice what may be the dying art of concision, not to madly follow the new fad of MEIA (Making Everything Into an Acronym).

I think if you’re an expert in communication, it’s not really necessary to be an expert in the ins and outs of Twitter. I’m starting to believe that hashtags can do a whole lot of good, but they seem to follow naturally form other things that librarians do, like build and use controlled vocabularies. Other Twitter features, like FF (which means Something-Friday… First-Friday? Fast-Friday? Fun-Friday?) may expand your SC (Street Cred! In my mind, it will be Street Cred) among Twitter denizens, but you can make use of the program by sticking to the basics.

And finally, make your Twitter feed available through at least one other channel, whether a box (I guess it’s a widget?) on your website, an email newsletter, or some other resource that you have at your disposal (and that your patrons are already using). Try to make your social media information available to anyone who gets online (which should, increasingly, mean anyone who has access to a library — which should mean anyone), and not only to anyone willing to set up an account with The Next Big Social Media Thing. Libraries and librarians are trendsetters (for real — uncool is definitely the new cool), but that doesn’t mean we have to get on board everything that comes along.

Oh! Post-finally, consider the wider organization when you set up new social media — by which I mean the people who work for it. You may set up an account, and you may be willing and able to keep it active and exciting, and you may not be with that organization in a year. Your profile may then go fallow, leaving any patrons who used it in a lurch. Choose something that truly is easy to use and use well, that suits your library, and that can be maintained for the foreseeable future, regardless of staff, software, etc. changes.

Managing social media is one more thing that librarians will need to keep track of in the coming years. I think this is fine; if most librarians are anything like me, they like to be very busy. Except, of course, for that hour every day that they spend on the couch, TV on, dog curled up, brain on cruise control.

And maybe this is just me trying to rationalize the amount of TV I watch, but I do think this neutral time is pretty healthy behavior. I want to close by directing you to a recent blog post I read, You’re Not As Busy As You Think. I think it provides some excellent words of caution for any and all professionals and especially for those of us whose bread and butter is information. Here in the twenty-first century, there is a lot to post and a lot of places to post it. But we don’t need to post something to the Internet the second it happens. Organizationally and individually, we need to remember that we still matter, even if we’re not constantly plugged in.


*This was said without any discernible irony; apparently the speaker does, in fact, keep a running total.

Check out more cool old clocks, and other things, at H is for Home’s flickr set and’s flickr set.

More Huntington!


I said I would be focusing on Twitter, but I lied. I had to poke around at more of The Huntington‘s social media because I wondered if they used it to present more, um, collection-y aspects than they have on Twitter. If you look at the website, you’ll notice that you can access Twitter, Facebook, etc. from a couple of points: little icons off to the right, and a drop down menu called “Interact” at the top.

The website itself is fine, though still a little busy for my money. Here’s my revolutionary idea for it: send the address straight to the blogs! The Huntington runs the gamut of social media — Twitter, Facebook, Flickr podcasts, and vodcasts. The blogs, however, seem to already be streamlining much of this content into one place. Also, they are cool. They give me the tastes of the collection that I crave, as well as things I never expected, like this video of Sam Maloof. Check it out — it will make  you cringe because you’ll think he’s going to slice through his fingers but, don’t worry, he doesn’t.

There is a lot going on at The Huntington. Even the podcasts, which I haven’t listened to yet but am pretty excited about, are arranged into several categories: you can subscribe to podcasts about astronomy and World War II. You can download audio tours of gardens and exhibitions.

There’s a lot happening, a lot to talk about, and a lot of justification for using a lot of social media. But I wonder what might happen if it were all accessible

through the blog. Because, as I said, much of it already is — the Flickr images, the youtube videos, the Twitter feed, nestled nicely at the right of the screen. Would you lose viewers by not having the same icons, the same level of access, to all the social media content? I don’t know, but it’s something to consider. In any case, The Huntington’s blogs seem to offer more than any of the other options (more content and more easy cross-referencing to the others), and you don’t have to join or download anything to use them. If nothing else, it seems like they should be highlighted in some way. As a user, I would probably just avoid the “Interact” menu. I would write it off as a bunch of programs I didn’t want to join, things I didn’t want to deal with. But the blogs offer easy public access and simple navigation. Very nice.

Henry Huntington

Oh Henry, I bet you would've loved the Internet.

The image above is in the public domain, but check out this report if you’re interest in the history of LA.

Organizational profile: The Huntington


Oh, The Huntington! In my last semester of college, I got out of bed every morning at six and spent two hours on the impressively inconvenient public transit of LA County to do an internship there. (It turns out, Pasadena and Claremont actually aren’t very far apart. Who knew.) And now, on Twitter, we meet again. The Huntington began in the early twentieth century, when a railroad magnate named Henry Huntington used his millions/bajillions to build a private universe. One of the most weirdly fascinating factoids, for me, was that there are scholars there who do nothing but study Henry and write books about him. He’s an avenue, I guess, to some incredible collections of books, plants, and art.


Image used under Creative Commons License.

The Huntington is most commonly referred to as The Huntington Library (full name is The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens). This is interesting to me because the library is, for the most part, off-limits to the public. Some of its particular treasures, like a Gutenberg Bible and an Audubon Birds of America, are displayed in galleries, and other manuscripts go on display periodically (I first encountered Aphra Behn there… and holy mother of cake, I’ll have done a good job if I die with a Wikipedia entry that includes the heading “Life in England, writing career, work as a spy”).

So here’s what I want from social media at The Huntington: a glimpse of the things that, pre-Internet, I would have needed a PhD and letters of recommendation to see. There are probably barriers to this that I’m not aware of, and on top of that, I do love the idea of having only one or two copies of a given work in the world, and having the copies lovingly protected in a special place. The endless copies of things, to the point where the original hardly seems to matter, wigs me out. (Thanks, Frederick Jameson.)

And yet. It would be so neat if we married the magic of the Web with the magic of the rare. I would love it if the resident scholars could be employed as resident tweeters, and if The Huntington used hashtags to give us a series about rare books and other obscure elements of the collection. I don’t even need a photo here, just a thought or two from someone I’ve never met, someone who’s studying the things that I’ll never see.

The most recent tweets from The Huntington have to do with a recent closure due to high winds in LA. Going further back, they are mostly very chatty, describing the weather and responding to comments by others in The Huntington’s network. Which I like. I do. They are making me believe in the community that Twitter can create. (Example: “@brobest That’s what we call “quality time!” Enjoy this beautiful afternoon with your family!”) But, having spent time at the Huntington, they also make me ache for the things that aren’t there.

Again, it’s pretty hard for me to figure out what I’m feeling about this. I think it makes total sense for the collection and Twitter to be two very separate things, for the collection to do what it does best and for Twitter to do the same. So I think that is more to consider from an organizational perspective. Do you want the social media you use to disseminate what is most special about your collection/your institution? Or is it better to keep Twitter in its place and protect the integrity of the collection? A week ago, I would have emphatically said the latter. But I was so excited by the things I found at World Digital Library that now I’m not so sure.

Image above is from Check them out for cool videos of The Huntington! 

World Digital Library, and a celebration of hash and hashtags


Okay, I admit it: the Internet can actually be pretty darn cool. I could happily waste hours of my youth exploring the World Digital Library. I mean, check it out, you can search through a basic search box, or a map, or a timeline, or a language. Or you can browse around. So many options! And yet you aren’t distressed by the options because they are laid out in such a clean, intuitive way, with the lovely map in center stage, the timeline beneath, and the other options up top, arranged clearly and obviously but unobtrusively.

And seriously, how awesome is this? A nineteenth-century historical and political atlas of one of my favorite countries, Chile. Allow me to state the obvious: the Internet allows you to see things that you never, ever would see otherwise. Of course, being alive and out in the world also allows you to see things that you wouldn’t see otherwise. I don’t know. I could rant for a bit about implications (that I imagine) of having this much magic at your fingertips, of not really having to work for some pretty amazing rewards. But that’s neither here nor there, and I’m in a good mood.

So, the WDL clearly has access to some hard-core web designers. The tweeters also, clearly, know what’s up, and they are vastly increasing my appreciation of hashtags. Many of the tags here are “#onthisday”, which signal the sort of tantalizing historical tidbit that the Smithsonian Libraries also used, though not quite as often or quite as effectively. Here, you get a quick fact and an image. And again, I could probably grouse about the downsides of this, how it feels sort of like cheating, how it lets you think you know something without any real work or engagement. Instead I’ll say, it’s an informational amuse-bouche. Classy!

Amuse bouche!

Image used under Creative Commons License.

Image above is from Wikipedia.

Hashtags are one way in which even a small organization can manage tweets. You retain all the wonderful randomness of topics, but you also make use of your controlled vocabulary skills to make information in your Twitter feed easily navigable and comprehensible to your users. I don’t think you need to be super-obsessive about creating this vocabulary. But what if everything that happened in the library, from a planned story hour to a surprise visit from Eddie Money, were nested under the broad heading of “#events”? New acquisitions, books the librarians are reading, and rearrangement of shelves could all be tagged with “#collection.”

And now, because WDL has inspired me to share the ephemera of my own life, I’ll close with a shout-out to Hash:

During the hash-making days in October the smell of her cooking spread as far as Inreliden and Lillåberg, and the folk went and stood out in their yards just to be able to breathe and sate themselves on the vapors and fragrances.

“You don’t happen to have the recipe?” Lars Högström asked.

“Recipe?” said Eva Marklund. “A recipe like that wouldn’t be possible. Who would be able to understand it? It could never be written down on paper, there’s a limit to what words can describe!

“But,” she went on, “I’m not one to complain. We must all be content with the hash we’ve been granted.” (from Hash by Torgny Lindgren, p. 54)

Smithsonian Libraries, plus some thoughts on the nature of the tweet.


I logged on to Twitter planning to gather my thoughts about its use by the Smithsonian Libraries. The next thing I knew, an hour had passed and I was thoroughly absorbed in the Libraries’ online collections, particularly the Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music. From an organizational perspective, this seems like an ideal result, especially when it happens with someone like me, someone not at all inclined to click around on the Web. As you might expect, the Smithsonian Libraries have a lovely website, characterized by enticing images and links that tell you exactly what you’re getting. It’s easy to get lost, but in a good way, in the way you’d anticipate getting lost if you visited the Smithsonian itself.


Image used under Creative Commons License.


Again, this would seem to be a great outcome for a tweet. But it made me see a certain tension in Twitter. Or maybe tension isn’t the right word but rather, something I haven’t figured out yet. Most of the time when I go to the Internet, I want to get what I came for and head back out. Twitter would seem to lend itself to that, to quickly giving patrons important information (when and where an event is happening) and then let them get on with their lives. But at least in the case of the Smithsonian Libraries, the tweets I like best are the ones that serve as teasers.

Which makes me think that, as an organization, you really can’t just fire off a tweet based on whatever happens to be going on. You need to consider what each tweet’s purpose is — should it inform or entice?

Should the tweet that’s designed to inform appear in the same feed as the tweet that entices? This is a case where I wish I could somehow filter the tweets that I see. I love the ones dealing with ephemera; looking through them, I found myself clicking on to more content than I would have expected. Not living anywhere near the Smithsonian, the brief informational tweets don’t do much for me. And, if I happened to be anywhere near DC, I’d probably want to get that information from another source, like an events calendar.


Nope, not even close.

With an organization this large and with this much material, I do wonder if it makes sense to set up more than one Twitter feed. I’m not sure. On the one hand, maybe it’s good that this is, simply, the nature of the beast, that not every tweet will have relevance to every user and that, as a user, you may have to wade through a lot of irrelevant posts to get to what you want. It seems like a way to avoid the filter bubbles that we discussed earlier this term, which creep me out to no end… I’m certainly not in love with wasting a lot of time searching around to find something that’s relevant to me or that I just happen to like or whatever. But I hate the idea of getting online and stepping into a Carrie-shaped hole in the universe, a glimpse of information that’s built according to a network’s sense of who I am. (And of course, the picture gets even scarier if the network is correct.)

But. I could still see a place for slightly more tailored feeds. In the case of the Smithsonian Libraries, I would like one for event notifications and one for everything else. I think this makes sense in a very large organization with close to seven thousand Twitter followers.

The image of the Smithsonian can be found at Famous Wonders.

Organizational profile: Family Support and Resource Centre


So far, the tweets of the Family Support and Resource Centre (FSRC) are my favorites. This may have something to do with the fact that there aren’t as many of Kid and mother readingthem, and they are simple, to the point, and written in language that I understand. The FSRC is the library of the BC Children’s Hospital, and all its activities, online and off, occur under the watchful eyes of a SLAIS graduate. So far, the only awkward thing I’m seeing about the FSRC is its name.

You’ll notice on the website that they aren’t making use of a great deal of social media — Twitter, in fact, seems to be all there is. You’ll also notice that the link to Twitter is quite prominent, and that recent tweets are posted in a nice, clean frame to the right of the screen. Not to gush too much, but I love this. It’s a simple thing, but I still think it’s great that users have at least one option for accessing the same news that’s on Twitter without actually joining Twitter. I think it shows that the librarian is thinking about patrons and their ease of access and use. It’s also a nice stroke of organizational savvy, since it doesn’t restrict the information to the Twitter-verse, which may be wide and infinitely expanding but still, isn’t used by everyone.

Other nice touches: shout-outs to new followers, including, when applicable, a suggestion for resources that the new follower might find useful: “@BCRenalAgency Thx for following! Have you seen the list of renal-related pamphlets by BC Children’s?They’re under “U”…

I’m not sure  how the librarian decided to use Twitter and not Facebook or a blog or other social media options. Perhaps I’ll get to ask her at some point. But I do think that, in some cases, deciding on only one or two might be really wise. It certainly makes sense if you have a way of knowing that your patrons are using one service but not another, or if the nature of the information you want to share lends itself to a certain format (an advertisement for and description of an event, followed by a recap, would work well on a blog). But limiting your social media reach offers several benefits:

  • It’s cleaner and much less overwhelming for patrons who are a little less tech-savvy.
  • Your  staff can make full use of the resource, getting to know how it works, what it offers, and who they’re reaching through it. You don’t want to use the shotgun method, signing the organization up for everything and then assuming that, because it’s on, it will have an impact.
  • If you’re using something like Twitter, you can feed the news through other platforms, such as your website, and get more bang for your buck without worrying about keeping up with a bunch of different profiles.

Overall, I think the FSRC is a great example of how to use Twitter in a small organization, and also how to balance ease of use with effective use.

The image above is in the public domain and is free of copyright. For more like it, check out Reusable Art

Organizational profile: the Canadian Music Centre


I volunteer for the library at the Canadian Music Centre of Vancouver. I was excited to see that the national Centre is merrily tweeting away — this made me feel, I don’t know, a sense of familiarity, or something along those lines. It makes me wonder how people end up on Twitter normally; I always sort of assumed that there are people who join Twitter because they like Twitter, and then there are people like me, who don’t. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Most people probably arrive there by following somebody they know. And some, perhaps, get there through an organization that they like. Maybe this isn’t terribly significant, but for me it’s something to consider… your library might be leading innocent patrons into Twitter. Are there any implications to that?

Enough rambling! For now. Let’s begin by taking a look at the website of the Canadian Music Centre. I’m not in love with it, to be honest. It seems very cluttered* and a little sad, hunching over there at the left side of the screen. Now that I am an expert web designer (thanks Susie!) I would want to streamline the bejeesus out of this. I mean, navigation isn’t terribly difficult, but it would be smoother, I think, to nest “Find a Composer” under “Find Music”, and I’m struggling to figure out why there needs to be a CMC Boutique and a big block for Centrestreams… again, why not have a simple “Listen to Music” menu, with options for streaming online and buying? Basically, I think there’s a lot to be done. And I think the website is designed for people who already know a lot about the organization, who have a near-intuitive sense of the difference between Centrestreams and Centrediscs, who know what an associate is.

The website, and the Twitter feeds, sort of make me feel like I’m spying on a club that I don’t belong to. This may sound whiny, but I really do mean it more as a statement than a criticism. If you’re a music library, do you want to tailor your online presence to musicians? Or do you want to try to invite neophytes in? I have to think there’s a middle ground, a strategy that’s just a bit more neutral and welcoming to whoever might wander in off the Internet.

It’s harder to make these value judgments about Twitter. There is a sense of both Musicians’ Club and Twitter Club and even a hint of Canada Club, best expressed by the rampant acronyms: FF, LRT, SNBTo, MT, TO.

I mean, it’s the Twitter feed of the Canadian Music Centre. Using the lingo of music and Canada and Twitter certainly makes sense. But I do wonder if, as an organization, it’s better to put some of your 140 characters to the service of utter clarity. Not to pander to newbies while annoying those who know what’s up, but just to hedge your bets. I love the Canadian Music Centre, but it hasn’t given me that elusive reason to stick around Twitter post-assignment. There is just too much that I don’t understand and too much that doesn’t seem relevant to me, as a USAmerican living in Vancouver who likes music a lot but has no expertise. Some of the Twitter guides I’ve read recently suggest setting up a few feeds for your organization to deal with different areas, and some of the places I follow seem to be doing that. But it strikes me as messy and not terribly user-friendly. So I can’t say that I have a solution to the overall clubbiness of the Centre’s web presence, beyond just not getting carried away in the excitement of rapid-fire messages about something you love. Consider your lurkers!

*The social media links are displayed fairly prominently, about 1/4 of the way down the page. But I missed them when I was exploring the last couple of days; I was, in fact, all set to grouse about how the website didn’t link to the Twitter feed at all. Again, just too much stuff, too many horizontal blocks of different messages, too easy to pass over.

Screech and Pick

Pickle, my dog, and Screechy, my violin. I take lessons now, but any future I had in music was crushed when I was ten and my sister told me I sang like a dying toad.