Special Collections Blogs : Outreach and Impact

Question C.

Do highly visible blogs open our collections to audiences beyond our libraries’ primary academic audiences and, if so, what implications might this have for our libraries and collections? How do we / can we support the use of our collections by non-academic communities (public school classes, regional historical societies, community groups, genealogists, etc) that find our collections through our blogs?

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Special Collections Blogs : Promotion

Question B.

How do you promote your blog? Can you determine if you’re reaching the readers you intend to reach?

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Special Collections Blogs : How Do You Manage Workflow?

Question A.

If you’re a special collections staff member who uses a blog for professional purposes (define that as you’d like), what kind of work flow issues do you typically encounter creating and promoting your blogs? Do you personally write every post? How often do you post? Is the research and writing for your blog ever burdensome, i.e., in creating a blog are you creating a more work for yourself? Do you have tips for new bloggers about content creation?

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Why So Many Questions?

Magnifying Glass - WikiMedia Commons

In addition to a walk-through of how to set up a blog, the Blog Boot Camp seminar will also hold an open forum for panelists and audience members to discuss and query each other about best practices, issues, and some of the challenges of getting a special collections blog launched and –the sometimes even more difficult challenge– of maintaining one over time.

In preparing for the seminar, we came up with a list of questions that we thought zeroed in on some core issues. I’ll be posting them here, one by one, with some initial thoughts. If you’d like to respond or offer up some reflections, please do! This blog is meant to be a hub for discussion, before and after the 2008 RBMS conference. Feel free to post links to your own blog(s) if you’ve discussed aspects of the question already. And if you’d like to raise an additional question, please feel free to email me so I can introduce the topic at the seminar and here.

After the seminar is complete– and after a mandatory post-ALA holidays!– the presentation we’ve created as well as our supporting documentation will be posted to this blog.

Let’s get started!

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Who Are We? And What Are We Trying to Do?

Introduction - From Punch Vol. 1, 1841It seems like it might be a good idea to provide some more information about the seminar, now that we participants have settled on the form and direction of the session. One of the things we’re hoping to do with this blog is open up the seminar and the ensuing conversation about the role of blogs in special collections librarianship to members of the professional community (and the public!) who aren’t able to attend the actual session.

But before we get to far along, let’s do introductions!

As some background about myself, I started my first blog in 1998 and assisted in the development of the Beinecke’s first blogs, which were created by Beinecke curator (and seminar panelist), Nancy Kuhl. I’ve used blogs for personal and professional purposes, and have taken a keen interest in the use of blogs and other participatory technologies in general society, and by my peers in archival and special collections settings.

In 2006, I moderated a panel on blogs as both record forms and outreach/advocacy tools at the Society of American Archivists annual meeting, a session which I documented with a wiki linking to panelist presentations and posts about the session. At that point, I had done a little digging to uncover which archives and special collections were using blogs and I popped my research into a separate wiki page thinking that it could serve as a launching pad for a user-maintained directory. The resource blossomed and has become international in scope, with sub-sections focused on blogs by professionals, blogs by institutions, collaborative blogs, and of course, a prominent link directing surfers the big kahuna of archival syndicated blogs, ArchivesBlogs.

If you’re curious about the ways special collections staff are currently blogging, scroll down the list and review some of the blogs that have been added. It’s a quick way to get a taste of the way staff at different institutions are experimenting or using blogs. If you, your institution, or a favorite blog should be listed and aren’t, feel free to edit the page and add your link!

Other panelists participating in this seminar are:

Stephanie Horowitz (University of Minnesota), contributor to the Charles Babbage Institute Blog. The CBI blog also integrates a Meebo IM module into its interface; I’m hoping Stephanie will speak a little about how IM reference service meshes with the blog they’ve created at CBI.

John Overholt (Harvard), creator of the Hyde Collection Catablog, a blog that’s documented the cataloging of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Samuel Johnson at the Houghton Library since 2005.

Nancy Kuhl (Yale), founder of the Beinecke Library’s Poetry at Beinecke Library and African American Studies at the Beinecke Library blogs, and co-curator of the Beinecke’s Room 26: Cabinet of Curiosities blog.

Public Domain Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Welcome to the RBMS Blog Boot Camp Blog

Howdy!

This is the first entry in the RBMS Blog Boot Camp Blog, which was set up in early June 2008 to support a seminar at the 49th Annual RBMS Preconference in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles, CA. The blog is being used both as an instructive tool to demonstrate just how easy it is to get a blog up and running, and as a persistent resource for the seminar. (RBMS is an acronym for the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, an organization that supports the work of librarians and archivists working with rare books, manuscripts, and other types of special collections.)

It’s possible that if there is enough interest, news and announcements about special collections blogging– and other experimentation with participatory web technologies– but that depends on interest after the session. Meanwhile, in the next month, I’ll be posting the various questions that panelists in the seminar will be asked, to open up the discussion more widely. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts if you’re a special collections staff person who is currently utilizing blogging in your work or for your institution! If you don’t blog, or are in the early stages of considering how a blog might further your institutional or professional work, your comments are welcome as well.

It is my hope that this blog will be a useful resource for the rare and special materials community! Thanks in advance for your interest and participation.

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