The ALA Annual Tweet-Report

By Michael Stephens |

First up, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Folks at ALA 2008 in Anaheim, California were all “A-Twitter!” Of course there was also much Flickring, texting, blogging, IMing and any other 2.0-ish, social-networkey “ing” you can name going on as well. Twitter, however, seemed to be on everyone's mind and at many people's fingertips -- amongst what I heard referred to as the Twitterati.

And, I must confess: I thoroughly enjoyed participating in the ALA Annual 2008 Twitterverse that sprang up for those few days in late June. It fascinated me to see the power of such a simple and, yes, overburdened, tool. Micro-blogging has found a place amongst LIS workers and even through outages and downtime, the tweets from ALA marched on. “I credit Twitter for helping make this my best ALA yet. More connected. Too many people to see, places to be, but I read tweets,” responded Brenda Hough to my tweeted requests for “interviews” for this post. The call via Twitter and at TTW prompted many useful, hilarious and telling responses. Others helped out via comments at TTW and in personal email.


Looking at the tweets and responses, patterns emerge of how the tool was used and how people responded to it.  The functions of Twitter at a conference such as ALA include:


Reporting on Sessions:


Matthew Hamilton, Marketing and Promotions Coordinator at the University of Colorado  noted: "I liked using Twitter to see what other folks were doing and enjoying at the conference, but my FAVORITE moment was when Joe Janes said "there are probably folks twittering right now" while I was mid-tweet!”


Others agreed. Rochelle tweeted: “Twitter kept me in touch with my group of friends & colleagues and was able to know whether a workshop was good, crowded, etc.”


Kenley NeufeldLibrary Director at Santa Barbara City College, utilized Summize for search and Tweetscan for search and RSS as well as Hahlo on his iPhone and Twirl on his laptop played the role of citizen journalist. “For the Science Fiction Panel, I pulled quotes from the speakers, such as Doctorow, and put them on Twitter - maybe about a dozen. This allowed those who could not attend "hear" some of the nuggets. After, I heard from a couple folks who really appreciated this because they couldn't be there.” One of his favorite tweets? “Doctorow: 'If we allow copyright to govern our decision making process about our knowledge society our descendants will curse us.'" 


For some, Twitter was the mechanism for straightforward, from the hip commentary on sessions. Gina Persichini chided an ultra-prepared with a question audience member. 


Other folks enjoyed the extra layer of participation and commentary: “Being able to twitter during that particular program was like having a simultaneous micro-program going on,” Tony Tallent told me via email about his tweets during a particularly rousing session.



Meeting Up & Making Plans:


I did some of this myself, announcing via Twiiter that I was at Booth 2828 at the LIS education pavillion. I was curious to see who might be following and find their way to me to say hi.  A few minutes later, Jezzmyne appeared to say hi!


Others reported launching impromptu dinner gatherings, trips to Disneyland and meet ups via the Twitter site.


Aaron Dobbs reported the ease of meeting up as well as the feeling of tweet overload:  “The question "Where am I likeliest to run into my tweeps?" helped me catch up with several people I might have otherwise completely missed,” he said. “Being inundated by the tweet txt flood was a bit much at times (and I forgot to switch to "unlimited" for the week, ouch) but all in all a handy way to keep up with my people.”


Commentary & Transparency:


Tweets emerged from meetings and the exhibit hall as well. Helene Blowers passed through the exhibits and observed that some ILS vendors weren't very busy, while David Lee King reported from his “first ever committee meeting” receiving twitter help from Jenny Levine about conference schedules. He also noted that at one point the LITA National Forum group voted to use new technology, prompting Twitter observer Jill Hurst-Wahl to wryly tweet: “Voting to use technology....seems so last century."


Following from Afar:


It wasn’t just folks at the conference, but libraryland watched the tweeted events of ALA from afar. “Don't forget the effect for those of us who aren't there but who are following a bunch of you who are,” said Candy Scwartz, Professor at Simmons GSLIS.  “I love "seeing" two of my friends hooking up with each other for lunch, or getting blow-by-blows of events. I also love how it gets suddenly quiet at around midnight Boston time.”  Amy Rasmussen agreed: “I am not there, but I have LOVED reading the tweets about ALA conference: networking, session info, etc. I will be at ALA next year, and I can't wait! Reading the Twitter comments has made me very excited.” Eli Neuberger concurred : “ALA tweets let me keep up with what was going on and being talked about at Annual even though I couldn't attend this year.”


Iris Shreve Garrott from McCracken County Public Library said “ I could follow along with the fun and work for all those lucky enough to be in Anaheim... of course Flickr helped too...Not that I joined in, but that I could eavesdrop to find out what to read more about via the details or links included.”


Katie Bunker reported: “I'm fairly new to Twitter and follow a few US library-Twitters. Although I wasn't there- I loved the Twitters about sessions, hotels, feelings- it connected me in some small way (and I don't think I would have got ANY of that any other way) Loved the immediacy of it.” Australian Kathryn Greenhill echoed the sentiment: “Also great to get a sense of speakers and thinkers who are worth following up later. I used to read live blog posts after conferences, but I usually find that the twitter coverage, as an aggregation from a few people, covers the same ground.”


Finding New Ideas:


Candy Schwartz also reported: “I am getting well informed on things YALSA, even though that's not one of my interests. So ALA Twitter is exposing me to other specializations (wish someone would Twitter the ones I AM interested in).” Toby Greenwalt discovered a way to experience the essence of the conference, its spirit if you will:  “I like the idea of having an instant zeitgeist to tap into. it works for finding new ideas, and getting answers.”


Simply Fun Observations & Connections


Many folks tweeted their fun, silly and ironic observations of the conference. There were almost too many to choose from, from comments on meeting room temperature, food and drink, exciting or dull as dirt programs, Disneyland attractions, Anaheim transportation options, and reports of the effect of the 23,000+ attendance on the city, including the insights of David Lee King's cabbie.




It will be very interesting to see how Twitter, Friendfeed and other aggregating micro-blogging applications impact our future conferences. I see great potential for these apps.  I will certainly advocate for more reporting, more wry observation, playing nice and much more fun for sure. Thanks to all who contributed to this lengthy and link heavy post!




Craig Anderson:

Jill Hurst-Wahl:

Tony Tallent:


David Lee King:

Helene Blowers:

Gina Persichini: