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Discovering Collections, Discovering Communities, a joint effort by RLUK and The National Archives, is fast becoming a must-attend conference for archives and special collections folk.  The idea?  We face tough times and huge challenges: let’s collaborate and find new ways to survive and thrive.  The second in the series was held last week in the awesome setting of Birmingham’s new Library, fittingly rendered in cake form in this picture.

270 delegates, two packed days, a veritable whirl of discussion, one of the most inspiring conferences I’ve ever attended.

Videos of the talks, articles and much more will appear online soon, so I won’t attempt to cover everything I saw and heard and said.  Not least because I have half a Pukka Pad of notes still to re-read and ponder.  Here are the highlights i.e. what I can remember without checking!

& here's the real thing.  Library of Birmingham, from Jo Alcock's flickr stream licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

& here’s the real thing. Library of Birmingham, from Jo Alcock’s flickr stream. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

NEW IDEAS IN SOCIAL MEDIA (PANEL 3).

Speakers: me, Simon Demissie of the National Archive and Peter Findlay of JISC.

I reflected on our social media journey at Bradford – where we are and where we are going … (more on this later – am writing article for Rare Books Newsletter).  Some great discussions followed (on twitter too!).

For many services, outreach via social media is no longer an innovation – it’s mature, core, business-as-usual.  But others have not even started!  How do we get out of the social media in archives echo chamber and encourage those who don’t use it for audience engagement to give it a go?  The access requirements of archive accreditation will help …

How do we measure and evaluate our social media use?  I argue for an “action research” approach to management and objectives: learning by doing or “suck it and see”.  Quantitative measures should look beyond hits/followers and consider engagement – check out Klout as a quick measure (available as part of Hootsuite too).  Think about qualitative and subjective measures too: what conversations were started?  What collaborations emerged?  What are people saying about your activities?

Simon’s talk considered the phenomenally popular Twitter accounts which share historic images, such as @theretronaut and @historyinpics. Archive services can learn from their success while not necessarily imitating their cavalier approach to citation, copyright etc.

Above all, pictures increase engagement.  Even if picture isn’t particularly exciting, people tend to retweet and fave it far more than texty tweets.  Keeping tweets short, simple and not giving whole story away works better than just reproducing a catalogue entry for an image.

Peter encouraged libraries with lots of under-used digital resources, especially images, to consider working with Wikimedia Commons to bring wider audiences.   Worth thinking about!

more to follow …

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