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This series of posts, as you may have guessed from the cunning title, is about the use of Twitter in libraries. I’m not going to focus on any particular sector rather I’m going to blog about the best examples of Twitter use in libraries from across the world, why it’s important and what they tweet about. This first entry however is a gentle introduction to Twitter for those among you who have been living on Mars, or Norwich (kidding) for the past 5 years.

Twitter is a ‘micro-blogging’ site. So where as here I’m effectively ‘macro’ blogging on Twitter there is a character limit of 147 characters so you have to be short and to the point in your Tweets (which is the name for a micro-blog entry). People can Tweet about anything however random (and there are some very random things on Twitter) and their Tweets are seen by whoever follows them. The more people who follow you the more coverage your Tweet will have and vise versa if you follow more you’ll see more Tweets on your homepage.

Aside from being popular there are several tools you can use to make your Tweets more widely known. Firstly you can re-Tweet other people’s Tweets which will appear on the pages of people who follow and likewise other people can re-Tweet your Tweets. Secondly you can use ‘hashtags’ to make your Tweets appear in trends and searches. So if you were Tweeting against closures to public libraries you could put #savelibraries in your Tweet. This hashtag recently trended worldwide in the course of one day.

Trends are fairly self explanatory – Twitter will note when a certain number of Tweets have included the same hashtag which then appears in the ‘trending’ column on the homepage. The trending facility has been described by Twitter creator Biz Stone as “a discovery engine for what’s happening now”. Finally you can also reply to people’s Tweets which will then show up on their page and allow others to see it.

Twitter is also a social networking site, like Facebook. A social network “is a website which allows users to communicate directly with each other on topics of mutual interest”. However one of the main differences in Twitter compared to Facebook is in its usage. Whereas Facebook is generally used by people to find friends that they know in ‘real’ life Twitter is more about following people you don’t know. In fact I would say Twitter is about opinion whereas Facebook is about people. This distinction has been noted in books like ‘The Little Book of Twitter: Get Tweetwise!’ (Collins 2009) which covers what could be described as Twitter etiquette.

So there you go – a crash course in Twitter. The next entry will actually get round to looking at our subject: Twitter use in libraries. Tune in next time.

Picture source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jan/17/twitter-support-libraries-worldwide

“I define postmodern as incredulity toward meta-narratives” Jean-François Lyotard (1979)

Now over 30 years old the above quote by Jean-François Lyotard is part of a longer work in which he, to a great extent, defined the great cultural condition of our times; post modernism.

If postmodernism is about incredulity towards meta-narratives or incredulity towards accepted truths then what does this mean in the context of an academic library? It partly involves a rejection or at least re-imagining of what is considered as an academic library both externally and internally. One way in which this re-imagining is manifested is through the growth of Learning Spaces. These spaces take the once highly structured and didactic space of the library and take it into new and less controlled parts of campuses.

Inflatable learning pod inside learning centre at Glasgow Caledonian University

Inflatable Pod Glasgow Caledonian University

Learning Spaces are typically more social, less didactic and more ad hoc than the more traditional forms of academic library. They do not replace central HE library but rather reach out to the rest of the university and take those parts of libraries which can operate with less control. Group study, debating space, presentation rehearsal space or just casual conversational space are all catered for through these new spaces.

These developments in HE libraries are in essence the development of libraries without walls.

Reference

Jean-Francois Lyotard (1979) La Condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir. Paris: Éditions de Minuit.

man looking over fenceI recently had the experience of working in the library of a private sector higher education institute in the UK, which will remain nameless (although you could probably find out if you really wanted to).

Private HEIs are something of an oddity in UK higher education but given the current government’s pre-occupation with privatisation and marketisation it’s likely they will become more widespread. My observations therefore might be useful in the current climate – either that or they won’t be any use to anyone whatsoever, which is more likely.

I was employed as a librarian with line management responsibility of two library assistants, academic liaison for a number of subjects and, given the small size of the institution, issue and enquiry desk duties on a regular basis. Nothing different from the average state university there then. The main differences I noticed concerned the ‘customer’ focussed approach throughout the library and wider department.

While I’m not convinced by the notion of a student as customer (customers invariably have used a service before whereas many students are completely new to higher education) the focus at this institution was around maximising face-to-face help for students and avoiding, where possible, the adoption of technologies to reduce face-to-face service such as self-issue/return. Given the more customer focussed ideology it was unsurprising that students, on the whole, expected a great deal of time from librarians and library staff in general.

I expect this may become more of a trend in UK higher education as students pay more to come to university and expect more ‘bang for their buck’. The library, as the ‘shop front’ of many HEIs will undoubtedly become a focal point for such expectancy. However I believe, given  my experiences of different HE libraries, that such expectations can be well met in HE libraries where students can see where their money is paying for resources be they electronic, human or printed.

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