(it is humbly suggested the appropriate background tune for this title would be “Riders on the Storm” by The Doors…)
Last week at the Utah Library Association annual conference Tracy Medley and I gave the presentation “Pilots on the fringe: flickr as a tool to promote digital collections.” Our curiosity with putting objects from the digital library into social networking spaces was first piqued by the hugely successful pilot project the Library of Congress and flickr started in January 2008. Having a few thousand photos with little descriptive information, LOC had teamed up with flickr to make the images available as part of an experiment in social networking. LOC continues to add 50 new photographs each Friday to the collection.
We created a pilot project similar to LOC’s in Fall 2008. Over the coming months it was surprising to see that such a small collection, with only a couple hundred images, would account for such huge statistics. In the roughly 6 months since launching the Marriott Library flickr Collection there have been over 9400 views of the images. The success of the pilot was so sudden, and off the charts, that whole new sets of questions quickly arose—how should we fold this into digital production? How much of any given digital collection should we add to flickr? What other avenues (both inside and outside of flickr) should we develop?
The equivalent to flickr for photographs being YouTube for video, led us to wonder if putting video highlights from our Moving Image archives in YouTube would garner similar interest. In April 2009 we launched a Marriott Library Channel. An experiment still in its infancy, videos receiving a fair amount of traffic so far are footage from 1968 of Robert and Ethel Kennedy at Salt Lake City Airport, as well as footage from the 1934 University of Utah vs. Utah Agricultural College (Utah State) football game.
Selecting material for YouTube and flickr that is likely to have a high degree of interest, tagging the content so that it is optimally discoverable, and getting the word out about the collections, using both traditional and Web 2.0 applications, will be important priorities. A key component of Web 2.0 is in its integrative nature; fully exploring a tool like flickr or YouTube means using it in context with other Web 2.0 applications like facebook, twitter, WordPress, Yahoo! Maps and delicious.
Predicting which of these Web 2.0 applications will have ‘legs’ in the future is a bit like being both a weather forecaster and soothsayer, we can be reasonably certain of possible outcomes, but in the end we are still making a prediction. While some of these experiments ultimately may not have longevity, the pilots are demonstrating there is measurable interest and appeal in making available, in a variety of Web 2.0 venues, aspects of a library’s services and collections…you might think of it as a sort of cyber-bookmobile.