Goodbye from the Twitter Librarians
In October 2018, a team of four Toronto librarians made their way onto Twitter. We were looking for new ways of connecting readers with books; trying to find out if Twitter could be a place where people could get reading recommendations from the comfort of their phone or tablet, wherever they were.
At around the same time, Toronto Public Library was developing a Reading Challenge. In a Facebook group, and at meetups in library branches, hundreds of local readers started sharing book recommendations with each other and getting recommendations from library staff.
So, after a year-long pilot, we decided to bring the two projects together. Now, some of us are moving from Twitter to the Reading Challenge team. We will be devoting our energies to moderating the Facebook group, writing blog posts and facilitating meetups. Our Twitter accounts will still be live, but dormant.
For now, here’s a recap of some of our favourite moments from the #TOpicks pilot project, each in our own words.
The #TOpicks team cumulatively recommended approximately 3000 items from the TPL catalogue. We had a very high engagement rate throughout the project.
Some of my best moments were:
- Surprising customers with recommendations from the TPL catalogue
- Speaking to authors, celebrities and Twitter accounts for various shows/organizations
- Partnering with the Toronto Zoo for our wonderful animal chat
- Covering Fan Expo Canada and receiving book recommendations from attendees
- Having my first big gaming post celebrating the 20th anniversary of “The Legend of Zelda” receive plaudits from people on Twitter with varying interests who were happy to see library staff use a video game from their childhood as a basis for Readers’ Advisory
This was the tweet that surprised many people on Twitter and garnered a lot of attention. Note to my fellow librarians – you can make Readers’ Advisory recommendations from anything!
Then I dressed as Borg cube from Star Trek: The Next Generation and ”assimilated” recommendations from attendees, adding their reading distinctiveness to the TPL Collective.
The Simpson’s Twitter account liked this tweet! Had to promote TPL’s Bookmobile via “The Simpsons!”
I have to thank all the team members – @TPLWendy, @TPLMaggie, and @TPLChristie – for their hard work, excellent Readers' Advisory skills, and their commitment to the #TOpicks project. It was a joy interacting with them online, helping people with their Readers’ Advisory queries and sharing many, many laughs. 3000 recommendations in a year is what I would consider excellent work by any group of staff, and a marker of the project's success. I will miss the friendships that I made online, and humanizing the customer service experience online the way staff do every day in the branches.
DON’T THINK OF IT AS DYING, said Death. JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.
This quote is particularly apt, not just because it’s the end of our Twitter experiment but because Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman were two of my favourite authors to recommend in the past 18 months. I mentioned them whenever I could.
I loved meeting and learning about the lives of our customers – one who posts photos from their home about 2 blocks from my home. I walk past their building constantly!
I loved following staff members at TPL and at libraries around the world. As one of my professors at Library School said, people who work in libraries all have the best senses of humour. Seeing what goes on in other libraries – the programs, the displays, the creativity was a constant inspiration.
Some of my favourite moments:
I loved being able to share my library experiences, adorable and annoying, with fellow staff and library fans.
I loved the food as bookmarks meme.
Recommending books is great but finding new books for yourself is better.
I loved participating in Thursday afteroon #AskALibrarian sessions. It was great to share book recommendations but my favourite moment was when they solved my own question. It had been driving me crazy!
Interactions on Twitter between the #TOpicks team gave me a lot of joy – like this one during one of our live chats when @TPLBRNDN and I deconstructed the Guns n’ Roses video for November Rain. Read the whole thread here: The November Rain Thread.
And then there was the battle of the dancing sheep GIFs with @TPLWendy and @TPLChristie. Dancing Sheep Thread.
It was so much fun getting to interact with you all! Here were some of my favourite moments over the past year.
Learning that zookeepers read to gorillas for enrichment (and what they read).
That time we played #MakeABookAboutACat.
That time we played #EmojiBookTitle:
Not to mention getting to meet @myonlinelifenow IRL, sharing the wonders of octopus minds with #AnimalBookClub, and, of course, working with my most excellent colleagues. It was a lot of fun working on this project. I’m going to miss your Twitter avatars, your love of books and your clever repartee. I hope to see some of you in the Reading Challenge in the future!
As this #TOpicks pilot comes to a close, I can’t help but think of one of my favourite quotes by Dr. Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
There is a bittersweet feeling to the ending of this pilot project. It will be odd not to engage in lighthearted and interactive live twitter chats every few months with my colleagues @TPLBRNDN, @TPLMaggie and @TPLWendy. Some of my favourite memories of this project surround those hour-long interactions. Including the day @TPLBRNDN was mesmerized by my choice of drink.
One of my first posts of 2019 was in support of an issue that remains very close to my heart: mental health awareness. We are living in an age where we are more aware of the impact of mental health on our everyday lives, yet we still rarely talk about it openly. It will continue to be an issue I will advocate for both online and off.
I was fortunate to have interacted with some phenomenal accounts via this pilot project, most notably Gav and Helen, the hosts of the Talk of the Street: A Coronation Street Podcast (@corriepodcast). If you are a Corrie fan and haven't checked them out yet, I mean...what, precisely, are you waiting for?
Social media continues to be a tricky place to navigate. Misinterpretation, misreading of posts, anger, biases, etc., can all fuel a slightly negative experience. However, this may also be the case because negativity garners more attention. I was fortunate in this pilot to have encountered the positive side of disagreeing on the internet. We may not always agree with others, both on social media and off, but there are much more conducive ways of vocalising your opposing viewpoint without aggression, negativity or insults.
I was fortunate to meet Lanrick Bennett Jr. (@myonlinelifenow) and his son Jackson in 2016 when they began their now infamous #JacksLibraryTour. Later that year, I met the rest of the Bennett family, Sabrina and Zoe. I adore this family so very much! Since then, we’ve been in contact via Twitter, and Lanrick and Jackson stopped by my library branch this past November to join in our 105th birthday festivities.
I cannot believe how much Jackson has grown since the first time we met when he was too shy to speak to me, up until that meetup in November...when he was too shy to speak to me. However, he and I found a great way to communicate via video messages on twitter.
Thank you, Jack, for helping me find new ways to Librarian!
But I must say my favourite memories of this pilot have been working with my colleagues, @TPLBRNDN, @TPLMaggie and @TPLWendy, as well as everyone behind the scenes that helped make this project the success it was.
Regardless of the pilot being over, we will remain the OG #TOpicks Team, and I look forward to our many meetups and reunions soon.
Happy Reading to you all!
In a world where you can be anything, #BeKind.