March 20, 2018

Library to Twitter: It's Not You, It's Us

There’s a lot of social media love letters out there, but many fewer that start, “social media, we have to talk…”

That’s why this Dear John Twitter letter caught my eye. Tongue firmly in cheek, Leigh Anne Vrabel of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh owns up to the fact that most of the people following the library’s account were not the people the library was hoping to reach:

Dear Twitter:

We’ve been seeing each other for about a year now, and there are a lot of things we really like about you.

Lately, though, we’ve been thinking about our relationship with you, and as difficult as this is for us to say, we just don’t think it’s going to work out between us on a long-term basis.

One of the main reasons we wanted to hook up with you in the first place was because you had a great reputation. Other people who were seeing you promised us that if we got into a relationship with you, we’d have a brand-new connection to people in our service area. Given that we are always looking for new ways to reach out to city residents, we found this tremendously exciting.

What we discovered, however, was that, despite our best efforts to tag and friend fellow Pittsburghers, we only attracted 228 followers, most of whom were either businesses trying to sell us something, or other libraries and librarians. While we love our professional peers mightily, and everybody has to buy some stuff sometimes, that wasn’t really our goal, and we were a little disappointed. Either the audience we were trying to reach just wasn’t interested in us, or they weren’t in a relationship with Twitter themselves.

Wonderful to see a thoughtful post-mortem on an experiment that didn’t work out.

See the full post for the whole breakup story, as well as another post from earlier this spring that asked, “When Libraries Rack Up the Twitter Followers, How Much is Genuine?

Josh Hadro About Josh Hadro

Josh Hadro (@hadro on Twitter) is the former Executive Editor of Library Journal.

Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.


  1. I’m going to do some shameless self-promotion, now, and say that a) I’m a library student at Syracuse University and b) I wrote a Twitter break-up story, too, for my iSchool’s blog, Information Space. It’s at:

    So now that that’s over, I’m enjoying LJ Insider. Thanks!

  2. Josh Hadro says:

    Fascinating stuff, Shander.
    “I have only one personal friend who still uses [Twitter]. All the rest are on Facebook.”
    The opposite is true for me. I consider Facebook to be a wasteland of once-met acquaintances, while I regularly engage with a variety of folks on Twitter.
    I’m a voracious link-clicker and -reader, and Twitter’s just a far more efficient delivery mechanism in that sense. I want to know what my friends and colleagues are reading and talking about, while I’m less interested in photos of people’s pets.
    Though I have to admit that it’s all just a function of who you follow; I’ve been far more mindful of who I follow on Twitter than on Facebook.

    So, did you actually end up quitting Twitter in the end?

  3. That’s wild that Facebook is for you what Twitter is for me. I love Facebook because it keeps me in touch with people I have a real history with, I guess. But I also don’t become friends with people I don’t really know on FB.

    As for Twitter, I didn’t delete it, but I don’t use it anymore, either. (Actually, I recently spent a month in a rented apartment with a very poor internet connection, and didn’t go online much at all. The initial shock and aggravation was quickly replaced by a sense of peace I’d completely forgotten was possible!)