Feb 272008

A 5.3 magnitude earthquake hit the UK around 1am their time today. ( Earthquake felt across much of UK )

Within 3 minutes of it happening, I received this message from one of my Twitter friends. “BREAKING NEWS – Reports of an earthquake in London streaming into the BreakingNewsOn center. working to confirm. Stay for Coverage “ It came from a profile based in the Netherlands called BreakingNewsOn.


Being an old-fashioned net-citizen, I checked out Google and then Google News. Not a sausage about any London earthquake – although 16 hours before, Lloyd’s of London had predicted that Israel was at risk of an earthquake:


So – I turned to my new favourite tool, Tweet Scan (thanks Sue) – which searches posts (tweets) to twitter. Searching on “earthquake”  retrieved an instant snapshot of how it was affecting people in the UK, including the poor guy with the really old property who believes that God hates him personally.


Google doesn’t have the instant goods. Blogs don’t. And the next edition of my local newspaper – once the most up-to-date news source available – won’t be distributed until about 12 hours after the earthquake happened.  

As librarians, we need to be familiar with the way information is created and transmitted – and how this is changing. We need to know how to use new tools to mine these new sources. We need to ask questions about the accuracy of such sources, and try to work out where archiving fits into this.

I’m wondering how many librarians would pick up the inherent weakness of Tweet Scan as an information tool. Tweet Scan only indexes those Twitter accounts that are public, not accounts like mine, which only my friends can read.  If you’ve been on the inside, in there playing with Twitter, you’ve probably worked this out. If you’ve been watching from the outside, you probably had no idea.  

Of course, my earthquake search is a great illustration of how the information rich live. Twitter can only be accessed by people with skills and time – both time to spend twitterwatching and the type of day with the leisure to be constantly interrupted by twitter. To me, this makes it even more important that librarians understand how this works and are able be a conduit to the information poor .

If you are in an academic library, your clientele probably includes some of the most information rich – and young and privileged- people around. I love this videoclip that provides a glimpse into the way these kids are changing.  Bear with it for the first minute or so, and you will be rewarded with some very interesting perspectives on print, email and wristwatches. Are you  relevant? (found via Stephen’s Lighthouse )

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  7 Responses to “Are your sources relevant? Are you ?”

  1. I’ve now got to the point that, for the information I am after, TweetScan is providing me with the most incredible resources.

    Obviously it all relates back to what search term you are using – but I’m tracking edublogs so am being alerted to so much excellent information as it happens. This morning trialled an Edublogs forum because I saw a tweet about someone adding it to their blog – plus engaged in a conversation about digital story telling and embedding audios into blog posts.

    Sure I’m not capturing it all since some have their accounts locked – but what I am getting are gems. Also still using Terraminds as well – since TweetScan had a problem last week – but the feed name is much better with TweetScan.

  2. Hey there Kathryn, really enjoy reading your posts. LOL at your funny elbow picture!!

    Was wondering how the concept of twitter etc can be applied to public libraries/librarians where access to these sort of sites is totally denied. Are we creating some sort of divide amongst us as librarians? (only one more year of study and I can call myself this!) How can we provide information if we don’t have access to it?

    What comments would you make to librarians who are opposed to the notion of Library 2.0 and its associated social network sites? For some librarians many of the terms you blogged about would be totally alien and have no relevance to them.

    Would love you to blog about this concept sometime if you have any answers.

  3. Hi Kathryn Thanks for the meme passionquilt tag. Will work on that over the weekend. Just a further comment to the earthquake in London. I happened to quickly check my emails at the beginning of school lunchtime and was rather askance that my son in London had just sent me an email, knowing full well it was the early hours of the morning for him. Wondering what was wrong, I read his email, which stated that having retired to bed late, he was about to go to sleep, and felt his whole house shake (He lives at the top of a shop in and old building in Putney. He thought it had been an earthquake and was about to check the bbc news on his laptop). This information age we live in and the conceptual age we are about to enter, is rather amazing in that information can be sent around the world in a matter of minutes. Twitter is also adding to this fabulous age.

  4. Hi Sue. I have trouble keeping up with RSS feeds from (relatively) infrequently updated blogs. I do have a tweet scan feed on “sirexcat” because people often reply to me with this misspelling and find it really useful. I don’t think I could regularly check a tweetscan feed without my head exploding, but can understand how something like a track on Edublogs would be really useful for your Edublogging gig.

  5. Hi Jo. Really interesting question about what I’d say to librarians who don’t know about these types of new sites either because they don’t know, aren’t interested, actively see them as irrelevant or have sites like this blocked at their place of work. I’ll think about it and come up with a post in the next couple of weeks. Thanks for a something interesting to mull over.

  6. Anne. Yes…it is amazing… and it’s also wonderful how twitter can extend your personal/professional support network to include people you would never be in touch with otherwise.

  7. About Librarians who don’t want to know about Web 2 stuff – in my experience at a public library service on the east coast, it’s not the librarians who are blocking the sites. It’s the IT PEOPLE!!! Those that run the IT department won’t let us use Youtube, Facebook etc, or use Delicious tags, and more (that I haven’t even tried to try).

    In part there are serious bandwidth considerations – the council has not got the grunt yet to allow a staff of 500-1000 to be using these web pages/services, and in part due to security concerns (firewalls etc).

    To some extent these are reasonable restrictions in a budget conscious world, but it once again pushes sit back onto a few individuals (in their own time at home most likely) to get up and running with ideas for new stuff in our own workplace.

    The other push back I am experiencing is that everyone is tooooo busy just running the library to shift to new ways of doing things. and in our case, there is a priority on running arts/literacy grant type projects that fall under the “community engagement” banner, making the library a focus as a safe welcoming community place for people, rather than shaping itself as an infomration technology house.

    at this stage I think it takes all types.


What do you think? (Long comments lose "post" button :( )