Turning Digital Footprints into Useful Research Tips

Imagine using Foursquare for much more than leaving a digital footprint from your last evening on the town or lunch excursion. Using the social media site’s tips tool, researchers can find useful information about  libraries and archives and other places in the field. Are you planning  to visit the Library of Congress for a project and do you want to know which security checkpoints will get you in and out fastest? Or which reading rooms allow you to bring a briefcase or backpack? Do you want to grab a snack while in one of the LoC buildings?

What about the National Archives Building in Washington? Do you want tips on getting in and out quickly? How about getting right to the record groups you want to use?

And then there are the many local, regional, and state research facilities. Wouldn’t it be great to have tips on the best days and times to visit? Where the convenient local restaurants and hotels are located? Who the most helpful staff are for particular topics? What are the camera and scanner policies? Where is the nearest free wi-fi hotspot?

All of these questions potentially may be answered by using social media sites like Foursquare. This morning I attended a TBD.com workshop on social media taught by TBD social media maven Mandy Jenkins (@mjenkins). Mandy’s presentation included recommendations for making the most of social media sites like Foursquare. I just surfed over to pages created for the National Archives and LoC Websites (including entries for individual LoC buildings like the James Madison Building) and while there are tips about wi-fi availability and general impressions, so far there don’t appear to be any practical tips geared towards improving the research experience for Library of Congress researchers.

The National Archives Building in Washington, however, has 11 tips (as of this afternoon). One tip posted by Blasie M. directs researchers to the north entrance; the rest of the tips reflect visitors’ impressions.

Other Washington area research spots, like the Federal Trade Commission (which has a research library), Beltsville’s National Agricultural Library, and the NIH National Library of Medicine all have entries but no practical researcher tips.

I’m not interested in microblogging my whereabouts or my meal plans so I had stayed away from Foursquare until today. Now I plan to start adding tips for the places I use most in my work. How about you?

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