As some people know, I am very interested in finding ways to successfully use technology with teens and figuring out ways to help librarians use technology in order to connect with teens. And, as some people know, I think Twitter is a really powerful technology that librarians should use. But, when I read reports that have been published recently saying that teens don’t tweet I think, “so what?”
Yes, it is interesting that teens haven’t taken to Twitter in the mass numbers we’ve seen for MySpace and Facebook. That doesn’t mean there aren’t teens who are using Twitter (and we should count that use as valid) and it doesn’t mean that librarians shouldn’t use Twitter in their library and professional lives. For example Twitter is an amazing tool for:
- Keeping up with news about the world and the library profession. You can subscribe to School Library Journal’s Twitter (@Sljournal), posts by school librarian Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza), and posts from The New York Times (@NyTimes) and Mashable (@mashable).
- Getting feedback from other professionals on everything including what to name a program, how to go about organizing a new service, what to include in a training, or how to handle a challenging situation.
- Keeping up with authors writing for teens and books that people are reading. A wide-array of teen authors are on Twitter and many of them post regularly about what they are working on and sometimes even sponsor contests so readers can win a copy of one of their books. Lots of librarians post information about what they are reading, link to reviews of books, and rate the books they and the teens they work with read.
- Know what’s going on in libraries. Public and school libraries have Twitter accounts on which they post everything from their daily hours to announcements of programs and even live Tweet what’s happening during TAB meetings (@TnCntrl).
These are just a very few examples of why and how librarians are using Twitter, even if masses of the teens they serve are not. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t pay attention to what teens do and don’t use. But, I think we need to put it in perspective. Even if Twitter isn’t something teens use, to repeat myself, that doesn’t mean it’s not a technology that librarians shouldn’t consider for their own work and professional development. (As suggested by the examples above.)
Beyond that, maybe this is an opportunity for librarians to be proactive in working with teens to teach them about tools like Twitter and how these tools can be used to learn about authors, music, celebrities, and other topics of interest. I think sometimes we think that if teens don’t use a technology that means there is no value in teaching them about. (Or even that there is no value in the technology) But, I would say, at least sometimes, that this is an opportunity to expand teen technology horizons. For example, since Twitter is an excellent source of information related to current events it can be something teens might want to use in school related and personal research. Now that Twitter is starting to show up in search results lists, even if teens don’t use Twitter to post content, they may end up using Twitter to find information. We need to help teens therefore learn how to evaluate and use Twitter search results effectively.
Ultimately I’d say the headline shouldn’t be teens don’t tweet. Instead:
- Why teens don’t tweet.
- What librarians should tweet.
- What teens need to know about Twitter as an information source.
It’s not really as black and white as any headline might make it. If teens don’t tweet, so what? If teens don’t tweet, how are we going to use and analyze that information? If teens don’t tweet, does that mean I shouldn’t? So many questions, maybe I’ll find the answers on Twitter. (Or in the comments to this blog post.)