The British Library

Entrance to the British Library

Sign Above the Entrance to the British Library (by Paul Farmer)

Jumping across the Atlantic to another national library, The British Library also has an active Twitter account.  A quick scan would suggest that the British Library’s Twitter feed (@britishlibrary) is used significantly for promoting projects and collections within the Library, rather than pushing blog posts.

While the familiar Twitter logo is once again shuffled to the bottom of the British Library homepage, the page is shorter and simpler than the Library of Congress, making the logo somewhat easier to spot (though that may also be a function of my learning to look at the very bottom of the page first).  More importantly, however, the British Library links a constantly changing Twitter stream to the bottom of their homepage.  On the weekends, when no new posts are being published, the feed cycles through some designated number of tweets, so the information is constantly rotating.

Even if the tweets aren’t new, the motion catches the eye quite easily, and the surrounding box then invites the visitor to “join the discussion.”  The presence of the scrolling twitter feed on the library homepage makes the entire system quite easy to navigate even for a non-Twitter user, and the “join the discussion” statement invites everyone to join Twitter or at least peruse the more complicated network available therein; the British Library follows (and retweets) other major British institutions, enabling a user to access all sorts of historical and literary information through the one feed.

The British Library does follow one of Erin Logsdon’s recommendations for a “Twitter Makeover” — including the “name of the person responsible for tweeting.”  This gives the library some personality, avoiding the sense of a monolithic entity.  They also meet most of Andy Burkhart’s tips for “How Libraries can Leverage Twitter” and “Six Things Libraries Should Tweet.”  An easy way to summarize these tips would be to say that the British Library’s feed interacts with other people; they appear to have a search set up for “british library,” which allows them to respond to tweets like this one: “How many books does the Old British Library have? :p”

As for blending with other social media and technology, the Library homepage also has links to Facebook and YouTube accounts.  While there is certainly cross-posting between the Twitter and Facebook accounts, there doesn’t seem to be any pushing of YouTube or blog links in the Twitter feed, though there are links to relevant news postings.  More integrated into technology is the use of Twitter to advertise the availability of “eBook Treasures” for the iPad.

Overall, the British Library has a quite friendly Twitter presence.  Visually, the background image is a constant reminder of whose feed you are looking at — the National Air and Space Administration (@NASA) certainly doesn’t have an illuminated manuscript style background!  Their system of tweeting little interesting factoids is also a good one for catching attention and drawing patrons into further interaction or investigation, especially when those factoids relate to current projects within the British Library itself.  Given the number of these collections-related tweets, it would be nice to have them link to the library catalog, as they may just happen to tweet something of scholarly interest to a researcher — the world of academic research is so broad it is a distinct possibility — and to have a possible source located and then stubbornly unavailable (especially if you need to arrive knowing which resources you wish to use) could lead to a long email goose-chase.

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