by: Alison Flood
Libraries throughout the UK are testing the waters of Twitter as a way to both engage with their readers and dispel their image as fusty, silent enclaves staffed by old-fashioned introverts.
At the British Library (@britishlibrary), they're talking about riding on John Berger's motorbike; "about as good as it gets I think". Aberdeenshire's libraries (@onceuponashire) are recommending books – "Katherine by Anya Seton is a great romp through the 14th century, well worth a read" – while the John Rylands University of Manchester library (@jrul) informs us that it has just made a 14th century cookbook available online, complete with recipes for porpoise, pike and blancmange.
"Librarians as a group are very spread out around the country, and they are really seizing on Twitter as a great way to network and spread information among themselves. They are also trying it out to give information about author events and closing times to their users," said Benedicte Page, libraries expert at the Bookseller. From Milton Keynes (@mklibraries) to Devon (@devonlibraries), Plymouth (@plymlibraries) to Newcastle (@toonlibraries), over 40 UK libraries are now using Twitter, and a "Twitter for librarians" course will be held by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) in September to encourage more to take it up.
"It certainly helps to change perceptions of what we do, raising our profile and helping to shape our role," said David Viner, assistant librarian at Solihull Central Library (@davidviner, @cilipwm). "Twitter instinctively becomes the medium you use to find out information, so in that sense it allows libraries to promote their services to users and non-users in a fast and effective way."
Page said that individual librarians, as well as libraries, were also using the service. "Some authorities are getting on board in a more formal way, but there also seem to be a lot of librarians who are trying Twitter out spontaneously and having fun with the system," she said. Phil Bradley (@Philbradley), a freelance librarian running the Twitter course for CILIP, agreed, estimating that there are 400-plus librarians now regularly using Twitter in the UK. "It's an extremely vibrant community," he said. "It allows librarians to promote what they're doing .. They can contact other librarians, ask questions and answer questions." Viner said he followed fellow librarians from all over the world, booksellers, agencies and organisations whose news is of direct relevance to his job.
The UK's library community is still a long way behind the US, where at least 300 libraries are regularly in touch with their users via Twitter, but Bradley believes the numbers of tweeting British librarians and libraries is only going to grow. "Librarians are really taking to Twitter in a big way [and] we're just going to see more and more of this," he said.
From: The Guardian