Far from the Madding Crowdsourcing Arena?


Sometimes you just need the right tools. Reaching out to more people through crowdsourcing can improve the quality and effectiveness of your project!

Even if you aren’t a t-rex with hopelessly short arms, chances are you have other limitations that might prevent you from being able to create the kind of historical event project that it truly deserves to honor its significance. And how could you unless you were there? Chances are, if you’ve been tasked with creating a digital collection for something as important as a war, you might not have lived through it and are only curating materials and details as best you can to piece historical facts together as best you can. Some museums and historical societies have taken to crowdsourcing as a means of combining firsthand viewpoints, primary sources such as letters and diaries provided by survivors or loved ones, and even sound clips into projects to bring them alive and help viewers better bond with and relate to the events that they are sharing with the public.

war-diary-450x263Crowdsourcing has numerous advantages. As mentioned above, the personal stories and documents, such as letters and diaries, give a human touch and attach significance and realness to an event that people empathize and bond with. Information that impacts us on an emotional level is more enjoyable to learn and more difficult to forget. What’s more, institutions who allow the public to assist with such projects may find that it has the potential to “create a sense of pride and ownership in cultural and information institutions” (Ellis, 2014, p. 4) when people are allowed to contribute and be a part of something that’s meaningful to them.

It is also a way to gather a great amount of information in a shorter period of time. Crowdsourcing electronically is essentially calling to action anyone who has useful information who would like to volunteer, as opposed to one person or a small group going out on their own to research and collect facts from scratch. The project leader then compiles the information submissions and manages the feedback in whatever way best suits the project needs.

It is difficult for some to accept the validity of information gathered through this technique. For instance, “many librarians, archivists, and museum directors think of themselves as the gatekeepers of information” and “Inviting the public, both educated specialists sand unvetted users, to create metadata, content, to transcribe historical documents or, in any way substitute their own expertise for that of the information professional, may be viewed as threatening to the experts’ paradigm and certainly, at the very least, his livelihood” (Ellis, 2014, p. 5). Crowdsourcing is not appropriate for all subjects, but for projects where the focus is centered on a human experience, involving voices of those who know more about it than you can benefit the final product and increase loyalty in your institution because you’ve reached out to include others.

Organizations such as Zooniverse host citizen science research projects where everyday people can launch or participate in people-powered research. Think crowdsourcing might be a nice social experiment for your next digital project? Check out their site and see how you can benefit from using the voices and experiences of those outside of your company’s walls to add a human touch to your subject matter.


Ellis, S. (2014). A history of collaboration, a future in crowdsourcing: positive impacts of cooperation on British librarianship Libri, 64(1): 1-10. http://www.crowdconsortium.org/wp-content/uploads/A-History-of-Collaboration-a-Future-in-Crowdsourcing-Positive-Impacts-of-Cooperation-on-British-Librarianship.pdf


Game On! Playing Around with Gamification Techniques in Social Media


Games aren’t just for kids. We all love a little healthy competition here and there, and marketing experts are finding that consumers are drawn to social media tools that offer some of their favorite aspects of gaming. How can information professionals get in on this action? Let’s find out!

Defined simply, gamification is adding aspects of games such as challenges, points, rankings, badges, etc to an everyday activity. Companies such as Nike have famously done this with the Nike+ app that, if you can believe it, actually helps people find enjoyment in walking and running! Gamifying an activity motivates and engages users, if done properly, and gives them incentive to complete a task that they might otherwise not complete because the gaming aspect makes it more fun or compelling. Even something as minimal as the point and badge system helped Foursquare become a success.


Some libraries have tip-toed into the gaming arena by adding their destination to Foursquare, a search and find app that allows people to find nearby places of interest based on their current location. This app allows you to check-in to participating locations (you can also add one if it is not included already) and earn badges as they play. More check-ins equal more points, with leaders being declared the Mayor while they’re ahead. Players can learn tips about that location in the app, so libraries could populate it with useful tips that they wish players to learn who might be utilizing the app on their mobile device. For instance, highlighting that you carry new releases of DVDs on the 3rd floor, or mentioning that New Books are highlighted in a separate location. Anything that might be exciting, interesting, or just essential for users to know can be added to your tips. Foursquare used to connect directly to social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter, but the newest version has done away with this feature.

Pro: You can highlight important facts and events for your library and patrons may have incentive to come because they want points.

Cons: Anyone can add tips, so if you have poor customer service or shoddy wi-fi, it could show up on this list!


Some libraries have used sites such as Mozilla Open Badge to create virtual icons called badges to award students or patrons who have attained certain achievements or goals. These badges can typically be shared on social media sites as a mark of one’s credentials and accomplishments. The following is a brief list of possible ways that libraries might award badges to increase patron participation, just as examples:

  • Scholar! (attending 3 instruction workshops)
  • Avid Reader! (checking out more than 25 books in a given period)
  • Rebel! (supporting the right to read if checking out a banned book during Banned Book Month)
  • Library enthusiast (attending a special library event)

etc… Marketing your badging system would then be essential so users know what they must do in order to earn these tokens. Some libraries may also choose to provide perks if certain goals are achieved, such as a gift card to a local business or the campus bookstore if a certain number of badges are accumulated in a given period of time. Very important events might also have their own collectors badges to further encourage attendance and participation.

Pros: Easy to create and fun to collect.

Cons: May not interest all user groups.


Many libraries have also made an effort to create their own full-blown games and launched them on their websites and social media pages. These video games are perhaps the most time intensive and costly, requiring a great deal of skill and technical knowledge to create. Subjects cover a variety of topics, such as teaching proper citation to helping users understand the basics of library research. Success of this option depends on the difficulty level and playability of the game, meaning players needed to find it both challenging (but not too difficult) and also fun. Free alternatives to paid game design include MIT’s Scratch platform, but it is limited in capabilities and players who are not excited by the game may cease to continue playing.

Some games also take the form of digital novels or choose your own adventure stories. This can be done for free in places such as Google Apps, which then allows you to provide a link in social media sites. Google allows the option to save the user’s email address as their login to the game, so libraries would be able to track the success of the players and assess which answers were chosen correctly.

Pros: A creative way to help students learn material that they might not otherwise find engaging.

Cons: Can be costly and take a long time to develop with success not guaranteed.


You, too, can YouTube!

In class, I’ve noticed a lot of people automatically think of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram when considering social media sites that information professionals should be taking most advantage of, but YouTube has plenty to offer too. Libraries and Museums are using the video hosting site in a variety of ways, from web tutorials to general outreach. So if you’re feeling a little ancient when someone mentions staring a YouTube channel for your library, don’t worry. I’ve curated some samples below from various institutions that are using it effectively!

Don’t look so worried – let’s learn this together!

Promoting the Importance of Libraries

New York Public Library started a great series called Library Stories in which some of their patrons and staff shared what the library means to them and why it’s such an important place in their lives. According to their site, “The mission of The New York Public Library is to inspire lifelong learning, advance knowledge, and strengthen our communities. Through the pursuit of this mission, the Library touches the lives of thousands of New Yorkers every day, and every interaction creates a story.” Library stories explores the way each story is relevant to the library’s mission.

Highlighting the Collection

The Natural History Museum in NYC took to YouTube to share an audio slideshow of the book Rare Treasures from their Special Collections Department. Other libraries have used the site for a similar purpose, showing off interesting holdings, such as a collection of tiny books and other oddities that patrons might not otherwise know existed in the Stacks.

Training Purposes

Departments within the library itself sometimes create videos, such as this creative effort by Columbia University to add interest to subject matter that students might not otherwise find very engaging. Other libraries have created tutorials for patrons to easily navigate standard library services, such as a new website, popular databases, proper citation, renewing books online, and more.

Book Reviews

Some librarians have taken their expertise and love of books and reading to the Web and have started their own Youtube channels on behalf of their libraries, where they review books from their collection and recommend their top choices. These videos often involve brief plot summaries, ratings, and personal critiques.

Other Options?

What other options are available to libraries or museums looking for a creative way to utilize YouTube? Some users have begun posting interactive “choose your own” adventure games that link a series of videos that share a narrative and proceed depending on the viewers choice of action. Though I have not seen any library related stories so far, I can easily imagine an education library adventure that involves students attempting to navigate their way through the stacks and encountering various storybook-inspired adventures along the way! This option would, of course, require staff who are proficient at writing and a crew interested in acting out the roles assigned, but it seems a promising and engaging addition to any library or museum’s YouTube channel! I look forward to seeing one in the future!

Posting With Purpose


When thinking of acquiring followers for your social media site, be like the t-rex. You don’t want to be too sedentary with your activity – he sees his prey through movement and lack of posts may cause current followers to lose interest and newcomers to view this as a sign that you will not provide the current information that might be seeking. In other words, you will fail to be seen as a web presence. Nor do you want to be to sporadic with posts, sharing memes and adorable pictures of LOLCats just because they’re popular and you think people will like them. The t-rex is not very agile and will not be able to follow that scattered pattern, and neither will your audience. Instead, determine what your brand is, what you wish your viewers to take from your site, and focus on creating interesting content that meets those goals. Anything else will distract them from your purpose and probably send them fleeing to an easier meal to digest.

This is not to say that you cannot post fun content when you want to. On the contrary, viewers will love you if you can find a way to marry fun and appropriate material in your posts. This may involve some creative thinking as you think of a way to tie a picture or a story into your library or museum and your holding and services. But always keep in mind what your goal is with a post and make sure that every message remains true to that mission!

As an example, let’s say that I really liked this image, which I do and thought my followers on Facebook might giggle when they saw it.


It would not necessarily be appropriate for a library’s social media page, unless you find some way of connecting to your mission. If my mission is to highlight my library’s collection, facility, and services, I might include the following text with this image:

“Feeling like you’re falling just short of achieving excellence? Ask a Librarian how you can find the books you need to achieve your desired goal.”

Perhaps that’s not the best example per se, but you get the idea! Other ideas might be including the call number of a relevant book on the subject matter or directing students to an appropriate service area, like Academic Advising. Your page should be lean and mean without any fluff! Every post should be focused on your goal – even if it involves a little imagination to get it there!

Some social media platforms may be more limiting than others if you wish to explain the meaning behind your post and tie in its relevance. For instance, Facebook will allow you enter a lengthy text while Twitter is restricted to 140 characters. Instagram gets even worse because most followers only care about the visual itself and don’t pay as much attention to the caption. So consider your platform and your audience, and try your best to be focused in all you do to keep your readers interested in all the exciting things you surely have to tell them!


Choosy librarians choose GIFs


The new trend in libraries is switching to online access for many journal and monograph titles. This not only addresses the issue of what to do when space is limited, but also offers information access to users who cannot make it to the physical building. However, many people have a devotion to print books and do not want them to become a thing of the past. Like it or not, nothing symbolizes a library more than a good old fashioned book! One reason this fact may not be more obvious is that patrons are not always aware of the richness of their own library’s collection. Throughout the next few months, I will explore various ways that librarians are creatively using social media to highlight unique works within their stacks to draw awareness to holdings and improve usage statistics.

Perhaps the simplest way is with the use of GIFs. A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, is a way of creating short animations at low resolution. These are easily made and make for catchy graphics on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. Got an interesting book, map, score, or other item you would like your users to discover? Find a clever way to turn it into a GIF!

The University of Iowa created a series of GIFs to show off some hidden paintings on the edges of some of the books’ pages located in their Special Collections Department. Just a few stills looped together created an animation of the beautiful artwork that patrons might not otherwise have been aware of. Advertising these GIFs on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc would surely be of interest to art students, book lovers, historians, and more!


This example shows how many monographs are unique works of art in themselves and have the ability to draw patrons in, which an e-book would not be able to do. Works like this should not be lost because it’s part of our history and something that lends itself well to a visual display on social media.

There are plenty of sites available that allow you to make free GIFs, though you may have to decide whether or not you wish to have a logo or watermark in one corner. Sites typically will remove this mark if you pay to create an account, and some even indicate that paid customers can have the option of having higher quality GIFs produced as part of their fee. A few free sites I’ve stumbled across include imgflip.com, makeagif.com, and giphy.com. It’s as easy as adding images or video clips, editing to size, then downloading the finished product to your computer. The file can then be uploaded to whichever social media site you wish to advertise on. Enjoy making engaging visuals for future posts!



Libraries are not going the way of the dinosaur!

Welcome to my LIS 503 blog! Many feel that libraries and books are a thing of the past, soon to be extinct like our Jurassic Era friend here. I’m sure anyone who has bothered to scroll down to this point feels otherwise. I will attempt to post musings, news, videos, and illustrations to show how the industry is using social media to revitalize the image of libraries and librarians and spark new interest in their collections and services! Enjoy!