Deepening the Conversation

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AskUndergrad on Twitter

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New jobs are full of important accomplishments that are largely invisible. I’m really happy that in my first few months on the job here I’ve got at least one loudly visible accomplishment.

I feel like I’ve figured out how to make Twitter work for my library. How to use it to connect our patugltwitterron base to our collections & services. And I’ve been able to use Twitter to support the philosophy I’m building my job around: connecting undergraduates to their intellectual life via library services.

What do I mean when I say that? Well, if you look at the screen cap to the right you can see the three main types of tweets I’ve been training the grad assistants to develop. The blue one is aservice tweet.” A research study I’m involved with (based on Nancy Foster’s Rochester Study – link is a .pdf) has been revealing that our students don’t know what they can do in our library. We’re trying to tweet at least one service a day, from our 24/5 hours to the existence of typewriters, color printers, and scanners, right on down to the nitty gritty of reserves searching and the OPAC itself.

The purple one is a “partner tweet“. My Learning Commons has a number of student services and campus partnerships that we host in an effort to both be “the campus in the library” and hopefully develop intellectual and library connections with units like Study Abroad, Career Center, undeclared advising, and One Book One Campus.

The use I am most excited about though is the “this day in history tweet.” These are connections between a historical event and library resources. The links are to pre-canned searches in the OPAC or database, or to a LibGuide, and are designed to make the connection between something interesting and library stuff, and hopefully build critical thinking skills as well as basic library awareness. We also do variations on these tweets with campus & community events, film series, festivals, and current news. My secret wish? That the Google calendar we use to make note of interesting events will eventually be maintained enough to make public, and that campus & community program planners will seek out inclusion on the UGL Recommends calendar!

I’ve been considering this semester an experimental roll-out, where I am working out training issues, fleshing out the wiki we’re using for guidelines and content, getting folks used to tweeting regularly and using the variety of tools we need to pull this off (we use Twitter, a PBWiki, a Google calendar, a link shortener with analytics, a canned search generator for the OPAC, a website with instruction for creating proxied search pURLS for the databases, and we’re looking into a tweet scheduler and Google analytics!)

The biggest challenge has been that we’re broadcast only. Our Twitter is embedded in the UGL home page (that’s why every entry is dated), and we’ve been using it in such a way that no one needs to understand twitter to get some advantage. I now have to solve a very luxurious problem though — we’re catching on, and the number of actual UIUC undergraduate students who follow askundergrad has shot up. I like having the feed on the homepage, but I also want to get interactive! I’m thinking about using a hashtag and embedding that, but am leery about losing more precious characters. It’s a fantastic dilemna, and I’m looking forward to solving it!

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6 thoughts on “AskUndergrad on Twitter

  1. Brilliant! Way to go.

  2. What a fantastic idea for promoting library services. Good luck with your new venture.

  3. Surprisingly, Twitter can be a remarkably interesting way to connect people to all sorts of intellectual topics. Try http://www.twitter.com/The_Pub_Debates, or http://twitter.com/PBSMediaShift

  4. Hey Rudy,

    Just wanted to say I passed along this post to the librarians @ Parkland. We’re wanting to create an inanimate object of the library twitter account. You’ve got some great ideas going. I thought you might find this website helpful to analyze the UGL tweets:

    http://tweetstats.com/

    You can follow me on twitter. User name is SnazzyLibrarian

    • Thanks for spreading the word Lora!

      Tweetstats is nice for some things, but the stats we’re looking at are more about what is being clicked on, and if the tweets are accessed beyond the day they’re tweeted, which tweetstats isn’t able to provide. It’s definitely pretty though!

  5. Pingback: Annual Reporting and the Importance of Librarian as Communicator « the Undergraduate Science Librarian

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