Exploring Connections and Authority in Twitter


Painting by Ury Lesser -1895 (public domain)

I chose the Association of College and Research Libraries, (“ACRL”) a division of the American Libary Association, for this assignment.  Although ACRL has many social network outlets, I chose to explore Twitter, as I have an interest in how Twitter can be mined for conversations and connections.  (To me, they do not seem particularly obvious).

ACRL recently was awarded a substantial grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Studies (“IMLS”).  This generated a good bit of conversation and allowed me to find a few individuals to check out.
The folks/institutions that I chose to investigate were Lisa Hinchliffe, Valerie Hill, Nicole Pagowsky, NCSU libraries, and Kevin Read.

I felt that all of these individuals/institutions were trustworthy and good resources for a number of different reasons.  Ms. Hinchliffe was chosen because I know that she is the past-president of ACRL, and remains highly active in the association. Ms. Hill’s profile revealed that she regularly shares numerous tidbits of information, most of which are relevant to my own work.  The same goes for Ms. Pagowsky, with the addition that she is also a younger librarian whose posts reflect many of the same perspectives on libraries that I share.  NCSU libraries are well known for their forward-thinking programming and spaces, and this made me comfortable following them.  Lastly Mr. Read, although his role as a medical librarian is very different from my own, regularly shares and publicizes lots of relevant literature which is not medicine-specific.

What all of these profiles had in common which displays their worth are the following (in no particular order):

  • A fairly significant number of followers (although I understand that this can be faked)
  • A well-established posting history on topics of interest to me…which is of a professional tone
  • Authority:  I either knew of the person or institution from outside of the SN world, or was able to verify that they are an expert in their niche area with a quick Google search.  It seems that the ability to judge authority in Twitter has led to additional tools such as Twitority (which doesn’t seem to work for searches such as ‘library’, ‘libraries’, or even ‘Bieber’.  🙂

Here is an interesting blog post which summarizes a study by Carnegie Mellon University talking about the ways in which people assign trustworthiness or authority in the world of Twitter.  It is interesting to note that elements of website evaluation (a much-loved topic for information literacy librarians) combine here with social capital theories to form a complex landscape of evaluation.