I am going to talk to you today about our experience at Massart launching and maintaining a blog other web 2.0 technologies to communicate with our users and promote our collections and services. And talk a little bit about marketing the marketing.
This is our blog Visual Resourcesfulness. We officially launched April of last year and in true MassArt fashion we did it with just a little planning and no money. We have a small staff of three full time employees when were lucky, and two until the economy turns around. But never the less we decided last spring it was finally time to raise our internet profile so we also established Visual Resourcefulness (click) a facebook fan page and a delicious bookmarking page to compliment it. All three services work together, linking to each other and meeting different information needs. The blog however is the flagship, we’ll get back to the particulars about on the blog itself but first I would like to give you a little bit of background on the project and tell you why we decided to launch it.
Last fall with the retirement of single art history faculty member, the slide era at Massachusetts College of Art and Design finally came to a definitive end. We had not made new slides for anyone in over a year and that one lonely faculty member was the last to teach exclusively in analog. Some studio faculty or adjuncts will occasionally still check out slides but this is rare. Until very recently first year students were required to make slide presentations and were required come to the slide library at least once in their college career, now students are allowed and encouraged to use digital images for their presentations. We are not getting the bodies in the door. Our opportunity to educate students and faculty about our services in person has greatly diminished. Our scanning services and computer station bring in the regulars, but the others do not have to cross our threshold to get images. What they don’t know is that they could be finding the images they want easier and of higher quality if they had our help. We have been working vigorously on our digital projects for a number of years, and our collections are strong but noticeable consequence of going digital was not having patrons visiting the slide library in person. We needed a way to keep patrons connected to make up for some of that lost face time.
The digital era has provided also us with some great opportunities to support our patrons new ways. Our digital collection has been driven primarily by the art history department, and fullfilling image orders for them takes up the majority of our time and effort but now supporting the Art Makers and designers is easier than ever with the uncanny amount of image resources available on the internet. Teaching with images in all disciplines is growing in importance and we are the ones that can provide our patrons with whatever the latest and greatest thing out there is. A blog provides a dymanic virtual space of our own to collect and broadcast these new off-site yet readily available collections while still promoting our own.
In the presentation “How Libraries can survive in the New Media Ecosystem” Lee Raine said something that is as appropriate for Visual Resources collections as it is to libraries. He said “Think of yourself as an information hub – an aggregator and a linker to others who have useful, interesting material. --- Links are the currency of the internet, partnership/affiliate relations are the norm. That's how you build social capital.” We have really tried to embrace this attitude.
So here is how it all works together. Our facebook fan page is the most casual of the sites we maintain. We post tools, and fun videos, articles that might be of interest to our patrons, anything every remotely art or design related, but don’t require more than a sentence or two to explain. Next is visual resourcefulness. This is our facebook’s more mature big brother. The posts are more in depth, more in tuned to the curriculum, our own digital collections, and campus but we still keep a relaxed tone, try to draw in humor when we can and remember that most of our target audience the wonderful undergraduates of MassArt. The last chain in our operation is the all business delicious page. We save everything here. It serves as the reference collection for our virtual operations. Each of these pages references the others and all can be subscribed to either through RSS feeds (for the blog and delicious) or becoming fans (facebook and delicious) to keep us connected to patrons. In this technological climate we’re working in today a project like this is in perpetual beta, there are always changes that can made, re-tagging items, re posting blog entries, changing banners cross posting items. This is the nature of the beast, and it is what makes readers come back and keep thinking of us.
Visual Resourcefulness despite all the work we’ve put into it, did not come with a built in readership. Over the past year we have had to go back in to the real world to promote our blog. This is a big part of the perpetual beta aspect of this kind of marketing campaign. I will admit that our statistics are not going to break any records, but they have been steadily rising over the past 11 months. During orientation sessions I plug our blog, during bibliographic instruction sessions I plug our blog, on every research guide I write I plug our blog We reach out to faculty members any why we can. They are our greatest patrons and they are the gateway to the students. I am a terrible schmoozer, but I am pretty good at teaching so his year I have had many opportunities to provide faculty instruction, whether it is in during their department meetings or during our first very library technology fair, and at each of these sessions I have included our blog in the list of resources, right along side our local image database and ArtStor. I think we are that important. Keep posting. I am guilty of ignoring this one. I am the primary poster and when things get busy blog posting is often what I let fall to the wayside, but I try to remind myself that not every post has to be a masterpiece, this is a temporary medium, and it is more important Really all of this is classic outreach for a new place. Blog gives us something to point to, while we can beg and plead for patrons to visit us in the library, they may never do it because they no longer have to enter the library to get the images they need, the chances are greater that if tell them about our blog and how great it is they might visit it next time they are sitting at their computer. Here are a couple more ways that we have tried to market our blog.
If you haven't noticed by now, we have developed a logo. The marketing department at my college would be very upset with me if they heard me use the words brand and logo, but it’s true, and we are putting on everything. That fellow with the camera up there is our facebook mascot, I found that image on the Library of Congress flickr page. Last summer we designed a sticker with our unofficial logo and our blog’s address. Originally we intended the sticker to be included with the orientation materials that the library hands out to incoming students for them to use as they please. But because of misprint that would have gotten us in even more trouble with marketing, this year the stickers were put on 400 reusable water bottles.
We have some amazingly talented student workers that bring some great skills to our department and we try to take advantage as often as we can. It is a win win for both of us, the students get to work on creative projects while at work, and create a something for us that they can put in their portfolio for the future. The videos make the blog richer and because they are student made than can be submitted to our campus TV station, MassArt. So far we have two student made videos. One student, a film major, created our first video using captivate and the narration talents of our lovely moderator. She created a walk through of our main library webpage. Captivate is not an intuitive software, like all adobe products there is a learning curve, but if you have someone with the skills, or are willing to but in the effort to learn, it can create really great results. Our second video which is hot of the presses was made by an animation major. Other low cost options for marketing include sending out a facebook ad, designing flyers for the
I am going to leave you today with an example of a video that I made. It was originally it was posted last year but because I am a good Boston Irish girl and I am away from my home town on Saint Patrick’s day, I have tweaked the original to suit the day. Thank you so much for listening.
Caitlin Pereira Massachusetts College of Art and Design Utilizing Blogs to Improve and Market Resources 28th Annual Conference of the Visual Resources Association Atlanta, Georgia March 17, 2010
The Problem The slide is dead, long live the (digital) slide! <ul><li>Faculty are no long using the slide collection </li></ul><ul><li>Current students have never, and likely will never use the slide collection </li></ul>
Think of yourself as an information hub – an aggregator and a linker to others who have useful, interesting material. --- Links are the currency of the internet, partnership/affiliate relations are the norm. That's how you build social capital. - Lee Raine, How Libraries Can Survive in the New Media Ecosystem (http://www.pewinternet.org/Presentations/2009/How-libraries-can-survive-in-the-new-media-ecosystem.aspx accessed May 1, 2009)
<ul><li>Quick notes, fun stuff, updates </li></ul><ul><li>Resources worth talking about </li></ul><ul><li>Updates to our local database </li></ul><ul><li>Campus and area events </li></ul><ul><li>All resources and tools that we find along our way </li></ul>
Building readership <ul><li>Shamelessly plug your blog </li></ul><ul><li>Be where the faculty members are </li></ul><ul><li>Keep posting even when you are busy </li></ul><ul><li>Classic outreach with a virtual space </li></ul>