I have mixed feelings about libraries and Twitter. Certainly I can see the usefulness. I like the idea of updates for closures or reminders about programs. I also like the idea of getting a Tweet when new books come in.
One obstacle I see is information overload. Most of what I enjoy about social networking is the social aspect. I enjoy reading the silly things my friends say because they are my friends. I’m interested in how they’re feeling and sometimes even what they’re having for breakfast. But the library is not my friend. I like the library, and I support the library, but as I add more and more non-friend things to my online life, I begin to get overwhelmed with a glut of information. Social applications seem to have a critical mass – there needs to be enough interesting people doing interesting things in order for the site to gel, but then at some point there are too many people telling me what they had for breakfast and I can’t see the bagels and lox for the cornflakes. I like the idea that I could get a tweet when the library gets a new book, but there’s no way for me to specify that they only notify me about the vampire novels.
The New York Public Library has 2,797 followers as of 06/14/09. The city of New York has about 8.3 million people. Is that enough followers to justify the Twitter account? I’m not sure. Tweets don’t take very much time to write, so maybe that’s not a lot of staff time taken up. According to the NYPL website in 2005 the library had 2.1 million cardholders. Will Twitter bring more people to the library? Will it serve those who don’t have internet at home or on the phone? Or will the level of service for those who do follow the library be greatly improved? I don’t know, and I’m not sure how to justify it.