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Archived Tweets at the Library of Congress

by on February 28, 2013

Tweets have made it to the Library of Congress (LOC) and now the real work sets in as archiving begins When the LOC started working on this project the goals were to preserve tweets from the start of Twitter to 2010 (additional tweets are also to be provided on an ongoing basis); to create a method for processing incoming tweets that require archiving; and to create a structure to organize tweets by date.LOC has achieved these goals, so now they move into the next phase of the project which is to make the information they have collected useful by creating an effective method for accessing the Twitter archive[1].

As our culture changes it’s good to see the LOC changing with it, though there does seem to be more potential for problems. In an article in the Chicago Tribune on January 8, 2013 Rex Huppke explored the useless nature of archiving tweets.Another view of on archived tweets was presented by the Library of Congress presents, in a blog by Erin Allen on January 4, 2013.The fact that is there is real research potential for the future. Both sides are important to consider but regardless of what is being said Twitter is being archived so we as public librarians must be ready for it. Issues that may be important to note follow:

Considering the vast amounts of Tweets that are sent on a daily basis (half a billion) the space needed to house this archive may be substantial.

The LOC states that this project will provide information on research and scholarship for researchers. While the library is working on a method to search tweets with more ease Twitter is also working on the possibility of providing Twitter users access to all of their old tweets[2]. With both working on finding ways to provide access I wonder what the difference will be in the method of access.

Also as a public librarian what does the term researcher mean to library of congress? Will librarians be given access and will they be able to share it with their patrons? If they aren’t able to share it with patrons is that censorship? In short what rights might be infringed upon by limiting the information to researchers?

The LOC hopes to have their Twitter archive available soon ____. I look forward to new developments in this project and eagerly await seeing how this new research tool will be made available and how it will be utilized by public librarians and our patrons.

[1] Library of Congress. “Update on the Twitter Archive At the Library of Congress” January 2013

[2] Rex W. Huppke, “A tower of babble, built out of old tweets: Twitter archive is too massive for Library of Congress to offer searches,” Chicago Tribune (Chicago, IL), Jan. 8, 2013.