Libraries with genealogy and local history collections spend a great deal of time and effort in collecting, preserving, cataloging, indexing, digitizing, and providing access to their materials. However, these activities may be wasted if potential researchers are unaware of the existence of these materials, or are lacking the knowledge and skills to navigate the materials. Many libraries have long used traditional methods to market their collections, such as printed newsletters, and to educate their patrons, such as printed handouts and face-to-face workshops. These methods are increasingly expensive, time-consuming, and limited in their audience reach.
This paper describes a wide variety of social networking tools as they are already being used by genealogy and local history libraries to publicize their collections, services, and activities; to provide new forms of access to materials and services; to instruct their users in general research methods or in the use of specific materials; and to collaborate with researchers, other libraries, or other organizations. For each type of tool, the paper defines the tool, provides an example of the tool, identifies one or more genealogy or local history libraries already making use of the tool, and outlines the tool’s potential benefits and drawbacks.
Blogs are being used to alert the public in an easy, timely manner as to special library events and the additions of new items or databases to the collection, while simultaneously providing a mechanism for feedback from patrons. Wikis, such as the FamilySearch Wiki, make it possible for libraries to harness the specialized research knowledge of its users to help other patrons. Photo and video sharing sites, such as Flickr and YouTube, are being used by libraries to showcase their historic photo archives to a wide audience or to publish video tutorials. Social bookmarking sites, such as Delicious, are enabling libraries to create easily accessible sets of useful links to Internet resources and to see what websites patrons are already using. Book sharing sites, such as LibraryThing, are providing a new way for collection development librarians to more quickly identify possible additions to genealogy collections by examining what materials are already held in personal genealogy libraries.
Facebook and Genealogy Wise are examples of social networking sites that can be used by genealogy libraries to create a virtual fan club. Google Wave is a tool that combines several types of social networking features that can be used by libraries to manage projects and events. Podcasting tools make it possible for libraries to inexpensively create occasional or regular audio programs that give a human voice to the library and that can be enjoyed by patrons while they commute, exercise, or engage in household chores. Screencasting tools such as Jing can be used by genealogy and local history libraries to quickly and easily generate brief online tutorials that highlight a particular collection and explain how to use it.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/drew_smith/3/