ACA Conference Bites : Stevie, Day 2 – Extending Our Reach

Sandwiches are great. Complimentary sandwiches are even better. Sandwiches are what we were given for our first lunch at the ACA conference. Lest you experience envy at their marbled-rye and thick egg-salady goodness, I will neglect to post a picture here. (Also, I forgot to take a picture.)

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(a salad)

We also had a salad.( I didn’t take a picture of that either.) But both were very good, and lunch provided a great opportunity for all of us poster-presenters to get together and make our plan of action for the next day. It was wonderful to meet the other presenters and put faces to names (and posters). Two of the presenters I knew from my previous life in Montreal, but most of them were new to me. I won’t drop too many spoilers about the actual poster session here — that will get its own post (and there WILL be pictures)–but eating lunch with the people we would be presenting alongside helped a lot with the nerves. They were all super-nice people.

The next session we went to was titled “Extending Our Reach — Engaging the Public with New Media and Old.” Being someone who does a lot of social media work for the University Library’s University Archives and Special Collections (and even some blogging on the side . . .) this was one of the sessions I was most excited for.

First up was Brett Lougheed from the University of Winnipeg who had some interesting and useful observations on the social media employed both at the U of W and at the U of M. He cracked open the discussion with the adage “the medium is the message.” While in many areas this can be a controversial statement, I think nowhere is it truer than with social media. Different social media platforms shape the way in which we share our thoughts–what we say on a subject on Facebook may be very different from the way we cram it into 140 Twitter characters. How we group and share images on a blog will be different from how we do it on Pinterest (I’m thinking the University Archives and Special Collections needs Pinterest in its life–is this madness?).

Some of Lougheed’s tips, tricks, and observations, as based on his years of experience working with social media in two separate institutions are as follows:

  • Be Unobtrusive – Posts should be informative and fun, spaced evenly enough apart that the user is neither over nor underwhelmed.
  • Facebook – Should not just be a place where you share your Twitter posts. There is room for exposition. Use it.
  • Fun Ideas for Facebook
    • Create an institutional timeline using old photographs and   Facebook’s timeline feature << Definitely something I’ll look into doing for the U of S!
    • Actually make use of the photo album feature (Derp. not sure why we’re not doing this).
  • Image Posts Are King
  • Play Off of the Now – If it is Valentines Day, post Valentines Day content. If the Riders are in the Grey Cup, post Grey Cup stuff (if the Riders are not in the Grey Cup, ignore the Grey Cup stuff — it will just make everyone sad).
  • Twitter Audience – Is mostly going to be people with some sort of pre-existing background in archives and special collections, be they contemporaries, or advanced researchers. This makes Twitter a less-than-ideal platform to engage with new users.
  • Youtube – Is good!
  • Blogs – Should be interactive spaces for discussion, and above all, fun!

Some of these are perhaps self-evident, but all were good points to keep in mind, and I definitely came away with some fun ideas for ways to extend our own online presence. Six months, already! It has been over six months since our Twitter feed and Facebook page and blog were born. I’m a proud Momma.

Next up Andrea Martin and Tyyne Petrowski from the University of Manitoba (interestingly, this was a very Central-Western centric panel. Are we really doing more outreach out here, or just more inclined to talk about it?) who shared their experiences using Tumblr to showcase a collection of letters sent home by Frederick D. Baragar during the Great War. I was intrigued enough by Tumblr as an interface for this sort of project that I put together my own Tumblr blog when I got home, just to get my hands in it. Rather than re-hashing their presentation, I will invite you to take a look at From the Somewhere , which is a truly fabulous example of an easy-to-use, easy-to-maintain-and-update blog that allows non-traditional (and traditional) archival users to engage with primary source materials. in a familiar format.

Last to speak was Saskatoon’s own City Archivist, Jeff O’Brien, who was introduced as having been raised in a culvert by a family of gophers. Which sort of set the tone, as such statements will. gopher_wiki Jeff is such an engaging and amusing speaker, and it is always a treat to listen to him talk about pretty much anything (the gophers taught him well.) On this occasion he was talking about his work with local media (and in particular his CTV news segment Saskatoon Stories) , encouraging those working in archives and special collections to make media relations a priority. Requests from the media tend to be highly time sensitive, and so archives and special collections need to make requests coming in from any news organ a “drop everything request.” We should also attempt to anticipate the needs of news entities (if there’s an election coming up, dig up our stuff on elections before they even ask), and never turn down an interview. He reminded us that “everyone likes a good story” and that archives and special collections, being places filled with good stories, are ideally suited for partnership with news outlets whose goal it is to share good stories.

All that being said, I’m afraid I don’t personally quite have O’Brien’s gift for gab, and I am convinced that propping me up in front of a camera for any length of time could only end badly for everyone involved.

After all, I wasn’t raised by gophers.

Dinner that night was catered by Merv’s pitchfork fondue. This is a picture of Merv. With his pitchfork. SO GOOD!

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