A snapshot of a corner of my ‘library’. I like to showcase treasures from friends, and little finds I’ve acquired. Totally not boring!
How do most people perceive libraries? Fusty, musty, quiet… Popular culture is rife with stereotypes about what libraries are like, even though times have changed. When you think of a library, you might think of physical resources that need to be accessed… physically. By this I mean, you go to the library and check out the resources you need, take them off, do your thing, and return them. This is changing in so many ways, with electronic databases, e-books - the list is evolving as we speak, I am sure.
The Smithsonian Libraries tumblr really made an impression on me, for a few reasons. I’ve worked in different capacities on knowledge translation and exchange strategies. Making knowledge assets available to people can be a dry, dull affair, or it can be engaging, thought-provoking and fun. There’s a case to be made for each of those approaches, and everything in between. What impressed me about the most was how the Smithsonian posts were tailored to the demographic and protocols of Tumblr as a site, and yet still accessible to the general (non-Tumblog owning) public. They’re not just posting pictures from their library with a matter-of-fact description; instead they use all of the tools available to them to make the content interesting and engaging.
The descriptions, which are the key textual area of a post, are often humorous. The writer takes it a step further by inserting offbeat and irreverent tags, often linking to the content and creating a more complex and complete joke. That is some savvy blogging - which also has the effect of disrupting what our preconceived notions of ‘libraries’ and ‘librarians’ are like.
Smithsonian Libraries also turn some of their images into interesting, smart, and funny gifs (moving images). Now, a moving image is appealing for all its own reasons, but on Tumblr, a good gif is like a form of currency. An effective gif is not only reblogged as the original image, but are also repurposed and inserted into conversations (to emphasise a reaction to content). The humble.gif runs rampant on Tumblr, for better or worse. To engage in creating .gif files that are original and creative is a great way of engaging people in what could be perceived as ‘boring’ content - historical documents. It brings them to life, and ideally, increases the likelihood of re-blogs.
So hats off to the Smithsonian Libraries tumblr for a stand-out collection and some great knowledge translation and exchange strategies!