Guest Post: Twitter for Subject Specific Collection Development

This post comes to us from our good friend @shinyinfo, who originally posted this at her own blog (but is courteous enough to want to share it with our fledgling audience).
Using Twitter as a communication tool for libraries is not a particularly wild idea anymore, though many libraries are still not using it for one reason or another. However, I’m not talking about creating a general Twitter account for your library, I’m talking about Librarians using Twitter for collection development, particularly for subject specific collection development.

Speaking from personal experience as the Librarian at the Arab American National Museum, my collection development needs and strategies are slightly different than those at a Public or Academic library. The beauty of working in a Special Library like mine is that I collect fiction, YA, non-fiction, audio, visual & more but for a VERY SPECIFIC theme; any media created by or about Arab Americans. This sort of collecting can be very difficult because I’m not looking for trends in reading or using any of the other techniques that Public Librarians use, I’m looking for the needle in a haystack of publishers catalogs or following news from professional organizations like RAWI.

But what about people who are doing self-published work? Or what about when people write an article that we can put in our vertical file? Or independent artists? How on earth will I hear about these things when it won’t show up in a publishers catalog or in any organization’s news? Unlike many Public or Academic libraries, we crave self-published or independently published work because it will be a unique addition to the collection, but they are the hardest items to seek because they simply don’t have the promotional power of the big publishers. Herein lies the power of Twitter…

With more and more artists and writers skipping the traditional publication and creation methods and going about it independently, they’re turning to social media to advertise their wares. Not only are they advertising their own work but promoting the work of other independent artists that they collaborate with or share the same vision with. Wouldn’t it then make sense to put yourself in a position to hear what they’re saying?

I make a point to follow every Arab American writer, musical artist, blogger, and “person-in-the-know” that I know of on Twitter. Not only do I hear about new projects from the people I follow but I hear about projects from people I didn’t know existed. Without Twitter I could have never heard about The Narcycist’s new book or even that he wrote a book in the first place! Without Twitter I would have never known about comics artist Marguerite Dabaie and her self-published graphic novel series "The Hookah Girl". Without Twitter our library’s collection would be less unique and less representative of Arab Americans who work outside of The Industry, particularly young, new artists and authors who are telling their own stories their own way. I am not only hearing about all of these new projects but Twitter allows me to communicate directly with the authors and artists, creating new relationships and collaborations.

Even though I do collection development for a very specific theme, anyone who does subject specific collection development could take on this strategy. It’s important to become part of the world you are collecting for, for example: if you’re collecting for Mid-Eastern Studies at an Academic Library become a member of MESA. Follow the blogs, add people on Twitter and Facebook, join the conversation. It’s easy for Librarians to get wrapped up in their own worlds and rely on traditional sources or other librarians for collection development advice, which will cause you to miss out on a lot of new stuff.

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