– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Things 1- 3

This term as part of my Continuing Professional Development – which means keeping up with what’s new and potentially useful in fields relevant to my work – I’m trying out the Bodleian’s 23 Things for Research, part of OUCS’ ‘engage: social media michaelmas’ programme.

So here are my activities for Things 1-3:

Thing 1: I read up about the 23Things project and looked through the schedule for 23 Things for Research. It contains a number of social media things I’ve heard of but haven’t investigated, so at least I will be learning something.

Thing 2: I already have a blog, evidently. Here we are. It’s amazing how quickly blogs have become part of everyday life.

Thing 3: the assignment is to write ‘a short piece about your experiences with social media and what you hope to get out of the 23 Things for Research and the Engage: Social Media Michaelmas programme’.

I am really not at all sure about the worth of social media for archives/libraries/special collections. I’m not sure they do anything new for us. Maybe they do old things better. Maybe I’m just ignorant and it’s about time I plugged in! Are they part of what we really do, or are they just talking about what we really do, or is that a valid distinction in this brave new world of access, outreach and impact statements? Do social media help to make our work ‘count’ more or count faster by making it more visible and accessible? Or are they a waste of time, talking about work, whether that’s answering individual enquiries, scanning old photographs or some proper old-fashioned cataloguing (paper & pencil or digital) rather than getting more work done? I’m still on the skeptical side of the fence. But I certainly think I can’t knock it ’til I’ve tried it, hence 23 Things as a structured and semi-guided way of investigating the potential value and best ways to use some of the media available, and an opportunity to think about the impact of the rapid changes in how we work and how we communicate what we do. And perhaps to evaluate where the balance may lie between doing work and talking about it!

As you can see from the menu on this blog, I already use Twitter, Facebook and Flickr (perhaps Flickr is not exactly a social medium platform in the same way? but it’s closely linked to them) to make at least some of what I do more immediately visible and accessible for all researchers who have access to the internet. The bulk of what I think of as the core of my work these days (very simply, access and preservation) is done using electronic media as the most effective tools available: replying to enquiries by email (posting the substance of some of those replies here for a wider audience),  making catalogues and other descriptions available online, and creating and posting digital images of original manuscript material in a reasonably organised way that’s linked to our online catalogues. But I’m an amateur in all these things, and if there are better ways to use them, or other/better tools I could be using in addition or instead, then I’m all for finding out about it. That’s part of the job. Maybe there is a 23 Things for web design, mine is content-rich but design-dismal…

The rest of the engage schedule of courses and talks looks good, but very busy indeed, and occupied as I usually am for the whole of weekdays I doubt I’ll get to much else, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it and will certainly get all I can out of 23 Things.

I will jump ahead of this week’s Things to say that I have also done Thing 4, to sign up to the 23Things for Research list of participating blogs.

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