Using a blog to actually tell people what a library has…

I know that most of what has been discussed here has been stuff like Facebook and Twitter, but having worked for an organization that is, for all intents and purposes a special library, I would say that sometimes we need clarity/transparency more than anything else! This library and archive has thousands upon thousands of items that no one knows anything about and while we try to increase usage, etc., it is very difficult if the public (and most of the people who are already involved) don’t know what all we have. For that matter, I worked there for five years and generally feel like i have a relatively limited understanding of what all the library and archives contain.
I think that one of the things that some organizations are doing really well is using either separate blogs or creating a spot on their homepage that they use as a “blog” to tell people about what they have and/or what’s going on. I frequently suggested that one way to showcase our amazing resources was to highlight individual volumes, files, artifacts, pictures, recordings, etc. I figured that I couldn’t be the only one in the world who would happily read a few paragraphs (more or less) that talked about a collection of letters, a book, some photos, etc.

It’s also very useful from a fundraising standpoint. It is highly unlikely that any one person is ever going to know the entire contents of a collection (certainly not one that is as large as my previous employer’s), however, showing people what we have and why each item is important enables us to illustrate the value of who we are and what we have and do.  Case in point, it is highly unlikely that anyone is ever going to read Robinson Crusoe in Yiddish ever again. However, it is important that that volume is kept as a part of a testament to a Yiddish-speaking society that was highly literate and cosmopolitan. It’s relatively easy to make that argument, but if no one knows that you have the book, they don’t care why you might want to keep it. Having someone write two paragraphs and maybe include a scanned picture of a page of the book or the cover or something showcases that this item exists in the library and that it has value.

Overall, I would think that blogging is an underutilized tool for telling people about collection contents. Just as bookstores have staff picks, best sellers, and new in paperback tables that highlight some of their “collection”, libraries and archives can, and should, more effectively show off the contents of their shelves. I found one of my favorite series of books on the shelves of my high school’s library when I was volunteering in there. They had been there for a while and had never been checked out. I read them, loved them, passed them on to the librarian, she loved them, and in the 15+/- years since then, she has passed them on to countless other people (as have I). It’s true that all of these things take work, but it’s a lot less work to post a paragraph about something a couple of times a week than it is to create exhibits and while museum exhibits can be fascinating, it would be really interesting to see if having a well updated blog about an archive’s contents can bring a similar quantity of traffic.

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7 thoughts on “Using a blog to actually tell people what a library has…

  1. lslattengren

    I love your idea of using a blog to expose people to the resources the library has. I encounter people all the time that are amazed at the things they can access from the library that they had never known – it is important that there is great clarity in collections as you say. I think also about the online resources people can access through their library (like databases) that may be good to highlight in a blog format since users will be reading the blog while online (possibly at home) and if the library’s remote access databases are featured, those can be accessed immediately by the patron.

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  2. J. Andrews

    I agree. People who come to the library regularly for years are still surprised if you tell them about X or Y. ‘I never knew that!’ Some of the first things I tell people is that we have DVDs and video games, computers, and wifi, and free computer classes. And that doesn’t even touch on the ebooks, storytimes, all the other programming, the databases, the puppets..

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  3. Christy Confetti Higgins

    Hi Nomi – Yes, I absolutely agree that a blog could provide an archives library great opportunity to share what they have and engage a community. You make a good non-social example about recommending those books in your high school library and then others telling others about how much they like them. The power of that with social tools is so great and could provide more interest from people around the world for what is in the archives – people around the world that otherwise would have no idea the information existed.

    Sounds like for this example, a combination of blogging and possibly Pinterest could be an interesting combination for sharing what is offered visually.

    Thanks –

    Christy

    Reply
  4. mcnabbarchives

    I absolutely agree! Hardly anybody knows about all or even most of the collections a library or archive has– even the staff! I’ve seen some great use of social media highlighting collections or pieces of collections with “on this day in history” posts and themes like Black History Month. Sharing a photo of a collection with a quote is a great way to get patrons interested in seeing more. And you could make it participatory by encouraging questions and comments, or even asking the audience if they know anything about the collection. Recently I saw one archive (forget which one, sorry) asking the audience to help transcribe some manuscripts. People loved it!

    -Caroline McNabb

    Reply
    1. Nomi

      Using volunteers is a really good idea! The last place that I worked had a number of volunteers – some of whom seemed to be almost more committed than much of the staff – who were in a few days a week helping in the archives. This was particularly crucial because it demanded the ability to read multiple languages and they came in and gave a lot of time and energy to do a job that required a lot of skill.

      Reply

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