REPS Insights: Twitter for Archivists

Image Credit: British Library
Image Credit: British Library

Annalisa Moretti graduated from Simmons College in 2013. Currently, she works at MIT Libraries in Curation, Preservation, and Reformatting Services. She is the Website and Social Media Coordinator for REPS. You can read her blog here.

There’s a great community of archivists and librarians on Twitter. But often when I ask colleagues if they are on Twitter, I get responses like “I signed up for an account, but I don’t really use it,” and “I don’t really understand it”. Or, “I use Twitter but not for professional purposes.” I decided to write a little primer on how you can use Twitter in your professional life to help people who have these issues.

Why should you bother? It’s a great way to get involved in the professional discourse on an every day basis. You can discuss current events, recent articles, new initiatives, and your own career in the profession, and in an informal, conversational way, with less pressure than if you were email on a listserv. Your Twitter account is your domain. You have control over what goes into it, who you engage with, whose Tweets you see. You can create or join a community of people with whom you share a common bond, who are dealing with the same difficulties as you. It’s a good support system, especially for new archivists. If you feel isolated — because of your employment situation, your location, or shyness — Twitter is a great way to get connected.

A Crash Course in Twitter

Twitter can be a bit of a steep learning curve if you aren’t familiar with it. Here are a few resources to help you understand Twitter terminology and how to use the service:

A Twitter Glossary

Highlights

You can’t edit tweets, but you can delete them if you need to. You can also protect your account and make your tweets private, but then you won’t be able to participate in Tweet Ups and replying to people who you don’t follow.

Getting Started: Who to Follow

Twitter is all about who you choose to follow. You create your community, composed of the people and institutions you want to hear from. Many archives-related organizations, websites, and blogs operate Twitter accounts (including @repsnea), and following them is a good way to get started.

To make things easy, I’ve created a List of some of these accounts. (Lists are another useful function of Twitter — you can keep track of a bunch of related accounts, and if you want, you can view your timeline through the list to only see tweets from that account; you can also subscribe to other people’s lists.) Try adding some of these accounts when you start yours. It’ll help keep you connected with some of the important issues and events happening in the archives world.

Beyond the Basics: Getting Involved in the Archives Community

Personally, I had used Twitter for a few years prior to getting involved in Twitter professionally. I did not want to mix my personal account with my professional life, so I made a professional account … and then didn’t use it for a long, long time. I just didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know if I had anything to share; I was a student and I didn’t have a job in an archives.

This spring, when I was attending New England Archivists’ Spring 2014 Meeting, I decided to get in. Most conferences and events today have official hashtags — like #NEAsp14 — to group together all tweets about that event. I decided to break in my dusty old Twitter account by live tweeting some of the sessions I attended. It was surprisingly fun — kind of like taking notes, except I was sharing them with lots of other people. Some other attendees replied, favorited, retweeted and followed me. I followed them back. And via their tweets, I found more people to follow.

You can read all the tweets that used the #NEAsp14 hashtag in this Storify (Storify is a service which embeds tweets into a narrative format). Attending an event and using a hashtag is a great way to get involved — maybe try it this August at SAA, or in November NEA’s Fall Meeting.

Another good way to get involved using hash tags are Tweet Ups. An organization or individual might host a Tweet Up at a scheduled time in order to conduct an organized discussion. SNAP, the Student and New Archival Professionals Roundtable of SAA hosts Tweet Ups usually on 5th, 15th, and 25th of the month with the hashtag #snaprt. INALJ (I Need a Library Job) also frequently hosts them with the hashtag #inaljchat. The format of these events usually consist of several questions, labeled Q1, Q2, etc. Participants can answer these questions using the hashtag. Usually you can also suggest questions.

Now, Go Out and Do It!

You can follow me, if you want: @annalisacaprice. I retweet other accounts fairly often, so find your way to other archivists on Twitter that way.

Some things to keep in mind when using Twitter professionally:

  • Don’t engage in attacks on people. Debates = okay, arguments = waste of time. If someone makes you mad or attacks you, you can block or mute them.
  • Do inject some of your personality into it. You should be careful about what you tweet, but you don’t need to be a self-promotion robot, either.
  • Before you tweet about anything in your institution’s collection, be sure that it’s permissible to do so.
  • But you can still ask people for advice about your work! If you’re trying to encode something something complicated, using Archivists’ Toolkit or Omeka for the first time, or dealing with a complicated reference issue, there might be archivists out there on Twitter who can help.

Good luck and I hope to see you on Twitter!

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5 thoughts on “REPS Insights: Twitter for Archivists

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    Hi, this is a great post and very helpful! I’m writing to ask if I can share the post’s URL with my fellow students who are members of the student chapter of the SAA at San Jose State University. They have a web page (on weebly) and a Facebook page as well as a page on our online Learning Management System. Would it it be OK to share the URL on any of these pages? If you prefer not, I understand completely! I am a member of the NEA, I live in MA, and will graduate from SJSU’s School of Lib. and Info. Science in December.

    Thank you for your time and for sharing this information about Twitter.

    Amy Totten

    • Hi Amy! Please feel free to share the link with anybody/any group. And I hope you will join REPS and pass the word on to any of your classmates who are in the NE area. We’ve been wanting to reach out to students in online programs who are in the region!

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