Twitter is the social media platform that has benefited me the most in my career. I find that its use of 140 characters in incremental communications has been helpful when researching or networking about gifted education and public libraries. The specific audience that thrives on Twitter is great for networking, and it gives the participant a sense of engagement that borders on intimacy, as anyone can talk to anyone else, as long as their profile is public. It gives libraries an “opportunity to engage with and build community through meaningful and easy connections to the content users who decide to share” (Rossman, 2016). Although it seems like a strange format for it, one can also use the service to chat with a large group of people. The gifted professionals that I follow have a weekly #gtchat where there is a moderator and they pose the topic and bring up several questions. The participants in the chat go around and introduce themselves, and all follow the thread to find out who responds with their opinions or experiences and in turn asks new questions. This forms a community with those who engage, and it provides answers to those who seek them. The chat participants are usually from all over the world, which gives different cultural perspectives. There is also a large group of people who are librarians that work in public and academic settings and tweet to each other about work issues, freedom of information, librarian humor, politics, even cardigans or what it is like to work on a Saturday (#saturdaylibrarian). The networking is fantastic professionally, and ideas are shared across the world. People who use Twitter are able to continuously add people who have like-minded interests and they can expound their knowledge by communicating with these individuals and bouncing ideas off each other.
The immediacy that is Twitter is also a drawback. While it gives rapid information in real time, it also allows anyone to type anything and call it real or news. Since there is no verification of sources on Twitter, the user has to be discerning with what they read and accept as truth. When using it for professional reasons, it is good to verify the facts before retweeting or passing on any information found there. Also, even though the 140-character limit makes for succinct communication, it is all that it allows. The word amount can be constricting. Like anything on the internet, whatever is passed on is public record. Although it doesn’t seem as “real” as print, it is public and capturable, and if an institution makes a mistake or says something even slightly inappropriate, it is available for the world to see on the internet as that mistake.
Twitter is a simple structure. When hashtagging, one categorizes their tweet with certain subjects which other people reading the tweets can follow. This is helpful to those who want to follow threads which are only relevant to their interests. If a library wanted to use a certain hashtag for summer reading, patrons could tweet and tag their photos and books they are reading and anyone could follow it in a straight line. Tags can be used for contests and festivals where everyone is invited to participate in an open forum. These tags can get the public engaged, and this creates attention for the library and whatever program they are holding. Libraries can tweet each other and create humorous exchanges just to elevate the status or publicity of what goes on in libraries. Users can also use the “list” function to put the people involved in specific subjects all together and follow that list for only gifted education or public libraries. It makes reading newsworthy tweets easier when they are grouped by subject. Twitter is a good medium for libraries because it allows for a wide audience. Libraries engage the public with Twitter because it is free advertising, it enhances their productivity, promotes library materials, it reengages the public, and enhances the patrons’ experience (Vassilakaki & Garoufallou, 2015). The whole world are available for “follows” and they can use the vast network of professional librarians to spread their message or advertisement, and if they are “cheeky” enough, or informative enough, or just a good source of books to read or program material, people will follow and pass the information on.
I do find Twitter, as a tool, a great voice for libraries, and very informative for someone interested in learning more about gifted education. There is an enormous amount of networking that can be done with both topics, and the gifted professionals are very active and use it as a platform to advocate for the issues regarding gifted children. They tweet their senators to remind them to fund their programs, they let everyone know when the latest conference is upcoming, and they chat with each other about learning more about the subject at hand. As a professional, it is easy to gain access with top researchers in the field by simply sending them a question or following them online. It provides a level of intimacy that behooves someone trying to become connected in their field. It is also a good fit for libraries because it provides a platform that reaches out to potentially millions that are looking for tweets about library-related things. The tone of the account can be humor, information, recommendations, and creating an online persona for the organization can give it a way of advertising itself almost as a unique individual. Library professionals can also use it to connect with other librarians and learn more about their profession through interaction, chats, and connecting through conference threads that occur. “Utilizing social media is a powerful method to advocate for libraries in this time of austere budgets and waning support for public institutions” (Ewbank, 2015). They can speak to another professional a world away about issues regarding information science and they can advocate for their beliefs online regarding information freedom. Although it is not a perfect medium, I have found it extremely beneficial to my interests in both public libraries and gifted children.
Ewbank, A. (2015). Library advocacy through Twitter: a social media analysis of #savelibraries and #getESEAright. School Libraries Worldwide(2), 26-38.
Rossman, D. &. (2016). Social media optimization: principles for building and engaging community. Library Technology Reports, 8(1).
Vassilakaki, E., & Garoufallou, E. (2015). The impact of Twitter on libraries: a critical review of the literature. The impact of Twitter on libraries: a critical review of the literature.(4), pp. 795-810.