Providing Reference Using Twitter

Twitter can be a powerful resource for quick reference services. It should be in every reference librarian’s arsenal of resources. Hashtags are a powerful way to search for the best tweets about a common topic (think subject headings!). One way that I use Twitter for reference is determining whether a resource that a student or faculty wants to access is actually down when they are having access problems.

A quick example:

I tried accessing Feedly, an RSS reader, on an ipad. I was unable to access the app. However, I was able to access the site on a browser through my laptop.  I quickly went to twitter and searched for #feedly. I immediately saw tweets that indicated that the feedly ipad app was down, and that some individuals were accessing feedly through a browser while others were not. I was therefore able to narrow the access problem down to the vendor and the ipad app and simply used the browser until the ipad app was again available.

When tweeting about access issues, be sure to use appropriate hashtags and succinct but clear descriptions of the problem.

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4 Responses to Providing Reference Using Twitter

  1. Mike Lipson says:

    Great idea! Twitter is awesome for real-time updates about pretty much anything. If the resource you’re looking at is a website, you might also want to check out DownForEveryoneOrJustMe ( It’s a really simple site that will give you one important piece of information: whether a site is down for everyone, or you’re just not able to access it. That’s a powerful starting point when something doesn’t work and you’re troubleshooting.

  2. Okay, I just learned another use for Twitter. I have only used Twitter for a very short time and am still trying to understand its many uses. Using it for a research tool is outstanding and probably very quick. I am going to remember this tip. Thank you.

  3. darlagrant says:

    I am embarrassed to say that I never thought about using Twitter for research like this. What a great way to keep up on a myriad of different topics. Thanks for the suggestion!

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