Todd Burleson of Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka, IL, was named School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year in August 2016. Be sure to also check out blog posts from Finalists Anita Cellucci and Laura Gardner.
As a veteran teacher librarian, I consider myself tech savvy. And yet it might surprise you to know that I only recently started using Twitter. I'd like to share with you three reasons why I think all librarians should start using Twitter.
If you are completely new to Twitter, I would recommend going to Twitter’s “getting started” page to check out some terrific videos and tutorials to help. (If you already have a Twitter account, keep reading.)
Expand your professional network
At first, I wasn't sure how Twitter could help me. It seemed like one more thing to distract me from my work, and I don't need many more of those. Besides, what in the world could anyone communicate in 140 characters or less?
I started out by following several librarians whom I admired. I “lurked.” (Lurking, or reading others’ content without posting your own, is perfectly acceptable on Twitter!) I read hundreds of posts both from users I followed and those they followed. My world was already expanding.
That is, in fact, the first reason to use Twitter. You may never meet many of those you follow due to geographic distance, but that does not stop you from learning, sharing and growing alongside them.
Being a librarian can be lonely sometimes. We are often the typically the only librarian in our buildings. However, with Twitter, we are no longer limited to the colleagues in our building, district, state or country. The world is full of people who are working to be the best librarians they can be.
Here are just a few accounts that I would highly recommend librarians follow: @gravescolleen, @DianaLRendina @lieberrian, @plemmonsa, @LibrarianMsG, and @anitacellucci. Follow these folks and you are sure to be exposed to many new thoughts and ideas. Plus, by following them, you have the added benefit of their networks. Go ahead: read and learn.
Take charge of your own professional development
There never seems to be enough time to keep up with the trends in school libraries. Twitter allows users to easily "tag" their tweets, which helps others search for specific topics.
Before I was on Twitter, I laughed at this terrific skit about hashtags from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. I really had no idea how hashtags worked. Now, if I am interested in learning about a specific topic, I just search for the hashtag. For example, if I'm curious about how teachers are using green screens, I type in #greenscreen in the search box. This will pull up dozens of tweets that will me get started in learning about a topic. I can find hundreds of articles, videos, links and more. I could easily fill an afternoon of professional development research and exploration of these resources. Be careful, it is very easy to fall into a "rabbit hole" and lose hours of time.
What is a Twitter chat? It's essentially a gathering of like-minded individuals chatting online about given topics (this video helps explain). All you really need in order to participate is the hashtag for the chat. Search that hashtag on Twitter and you will see all the tweets on that given topic. Twitter chats are run by a moderator who asks questions and guides the conversation. The wonderful part about Twitter chats is that you don't have to be there in real time. If you want to read all the tweets from a chat that has already happened, just search the hashtag. Here is a list of some of the best Twitter chats and when they happen.
When you first begin, you may feel overwhelmed. There are too many hashtags and Twitter chats to follow. Organizing it all can be daunting. Apart from practice, a useful aid for organizing all this new information is Tweetdeck. This video can help you learn how to manage your Twitter feed.
Twitter has encouraged, inspired and enlightened me. I hope that you will find it to be equally rewarding.
Follow Todd on Twitter @todd_burleson.
Image via Julia Graeper