Sunday, April 29, 2007

Twitter Update or how I was able to exploit the latest social networking site without really trying

So I posted last week about how my library is using twitter. A few people didn't see how twitter could be useful for libraries, but there are several benefits to using twitter for your library. When twitter originally came out, I did not see much use for it. I did not want to keep track of the every move of strangers. However, when several twitter tools came out, things began to materialize.

My library puts out a lot of RSS feeds using a subscription through They produce newsletters, reviews, and other information about new books. It sends an update on new fiction, new non-fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, and many more newsletters. Right now it produces over 20 newsletters that are preset and are produced without staff intervention. It also produces staff developed newsletters. Most of these newsletters are produced by staff and deal almost entirely with events. Again, the neat thing about these newsletters is the fact that I can dump the calendar of events into it and the old programs go away once they have expired. Once we plan out three months of programming staff only need to click a button to update the website for the newest program. These newsletters can be followed by going to the website, by getting the rss feed, or by subscribing via email. The majority of information produced is performed by this subscription. You can see it here.

Another piece of information we produce is information through our google calendar. This is a way for patrons to review all of our events at a glance. They can subscribe to our events through their own google calendar. I also set it up so the calendar sends the daily agenda to our library blog.

I established a blog through blogger and dump all of the feeds into the blog. It continuously updates without any staff time. I had some trouble with spam at first when I tried to automate the updates. I was able to develop a filter through gmail to send the update to the blog. I have not had any problems so far. An advantage of the blog is that one can subscribe to it, or follow it all they want. It also highlights all of the library newsletters so patrons don't have to subscribe to every single one, they can just subscribe to the blog. The daily events are also sent to the blog so patrons can see what we are doing that day, or if we are closed.

Polaris creates a feed for all new materials added. New books, videos, audio, and large print all have a separate feed and is updated as soon as the book is on the shelf. This is neat because you can follow the new materials in real time. I am attempting to develop a custom feed so that adult fiction, non-fiction, juvenile, easy, and Spanish books all have separate feeds. These are not dumped onto the blog, but can be followed on our website.

We also established a flickr and photobucket account. I have a direct link to flickr on our main page, and it has an rss feed. We use photobucket just to establish our library gallery page. The library gallery also has a feed as it is developed through the bookletters content management system.

So all this information and it can be dumped anywhere. What to do with it other than push it to subscribers? After reading about twitter and investigating the other tools with twitter, it became easy just to dump all of the feeds into to twitter using rss2twitter is an easier interface since twitterfeed requires an openid. However, there is more control at the twitter feed site as you can tell it how often to update. So I just starting dumping the feed in there.

My plan is to advertise the service in the local paper and one the website. I would have liked to advertise that anyone can subscribe to library news, events, and new books just by texting "follow cglibrary" to 40404. However, when I attempted the experiment myself, it didn't follow. I am investigating as to why. I set up the account and tried it with my own phone. It seemed to work fine when I texted. It prompted me to set up an account, and then it told me that whenever cglibrary updates, I would be notified. It didn't work. Of course, the side affect of trying this is that people who are just using the twitter interface online can follow the library quite easily that way.

From the trends I am seeing, I think only the truly dedicated would use only their cell phone to use this service. This also calmed my fears about just using it for cell phones since if people were following us via their cell phone, they would get at least six text messages a day, that can get a little expensive. I also thought that I might customize the feeds depending on the user. I am developing that now, but not sure if I will have a separate twitter account for adults, children, teens, and Spanish users. More investigation is required.

Another bright side is the incredible attention the library is receiving by developing the twitter feed. Really, it's not much different from many news organizations dumping their news stories into twitter. I think the discussion on how useless it was led to the attention since I found a simple practical use. Thanks to all the bloggers who brought it attention, Shifted Librarian David Lee King,Steven Cohen at Library Stuff (sorry had Thing originally), and to Daniel Cornwall at Alaskan Librarian for sending the information to the For Immediate Release Podcast. It's great to see libraries mentioned in non-library settings. This also helped produce an interview with Bryan Person via Twitter for his New Comm Road Podcast

Other libraries are twittering as well: Cleveland Public Library, Ada Comm Library, and the Lunar Planetary Institute Library. I am sure there are more, just not enough attention is being paid to them. If your library twitters, send a comment over to David Lee King. I will keep you posted on the twitter progress.


Steven M. Cohen said...

:-) - Great piece...Library Thing, Library Stuff...same difference. :-)

jdscott50 said...

Thanks Steven. My apologies for the mix-up. I had just added a few books to Library Thing. I made the correction.

jess said...

Dude! Will you come to my library and teach me how to do all that!? Cool.

Daniel said...

I've bookmarked the NewComm Media interview. Looking forward to hearing it tonight!

Anonymous said...

This is terrific!

Nice use of technologies to meet your patrons where they are AND give them content they can use. The Google calendar is an inspired touch, and I'm intrigued by all of the creative ways you share content that doesn't require staff time.

I think you should accept Jessica's offer and teach other libraries how to do all of this--I'm certain she doesn't represent the one interested library. :)

Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing all of the cool stuff you're doing at City of Casa Grande Public Library!

jdscott50 said...

Thanks for the comments. This blog post will probably be the best I can do in lieu of a class. I just hope when a library thinks they are ready, this post will help.

Anonymous said...

Great piece! As result, I am investigating its application here at the Lane Medical Library.

One question that remains, though, is *why* twitter when one is already using RSS? I can think of a few answers, but I'd love to hear from someone who's been there.

jdscott50 said...

I chose twitter because I could automate the feed. I could use a social networking site, but perform almost zero maintenace on it. Hence the title. I did it because it was easy.

Christopher said...

Awesome info, I'm just starting out with BookLetters so I hope to get something this great up and running! Thanks!

jdscott50 said...

Christopher, That's great! It's a great service. One thing you might consider is to harvest your catalog for email addresses. Bookletters can create a custom library newsletter and people can click to opt out. Just another aspect that has been more successful for us.