– 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.

Thing 6

Thing 6

Thing 6 of 23Things for Research: Consider your personal brand. The object of the Thing is to test how findable you are online by various means.

I’m the first result for my name on Google (which is the search engine I normally use); the result is for work and there are no more on the first page. There’s one image result, my official picture from my workplace website – fair enough. There are quite a few people with my name on the internet so I’m glad to be visible for work and not very visible personally. I’m absolutely nowhere on Yahoo/Altavista  search or  Bing. I’m no.4 on Dogpile and no.5 on Duckduckgo, again for work. That’s enough – everybody uses Google anyway. I don’t seem to be mentioned at all on Socialmention – good!

But this is predictable, and how I want it to be, because I don’t tend to use my name in public places on the internet. My personal internet use is non-public as far as that’s possible, and my work internet presence generally appears with ‘Balliol Archivist’ or ‘Balliol Archives’ rather than my own name. But my name does appear on archives networks and on every page of our own website as the contact person for our collections. So why don’t those mentions come up? The visibility of my own name is not a great priority. Much more important is easy access to – and (there must be an internet-world name for this) happen-acrossness of the collections I catalogue and curate.

Our collections are – not all, not perfectly, but increasingly – listed on national archive networks including the Archives Hub and the National Register of Archives. They are also – again, work in progress – posted in as much detail as possible on our own website. The other brilliant place to search for personal archives or collections of papers is the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. There isn’t yet a union catalogue of Oxford college archives and personal papers collections as there is for Cambridge (JANUS), but most of us use ADLIB cataloguing software for at least parts of our collections, and we are looking at putting that online when enough of us have catalogued enough ADLIB data to make it useful.

I thought it was important that someone doing rather fuzzy searching online should be able to come up with a relevant hit somewhere on the first page of results. Tests along the lines of  ‘balliol family history,’ ‘X alumnus archives/collection/papers’ and so on did tend to turn up a result for our website on the first page of results, so that’s nice, but I was checking it at work, and I suspect Google Search learns what I search for/use most often and gives me more of that kind of result. I use Facebook, Twitter and the blog to call attention to new/revised catalogues, particular areas of the collections or new exhibitions etc. There’s room for expansion there.

Something I am acutely aware of needing for our website is some kind of statistics collector. It’s not in my own remit to add it to the site but this Thing at least reminds me that I should raise the matter again. I like being able to follow the search terms that register hits on the blog – lots of ‘john de balliol’, ‘medieval manuscripts’ etc and always a few for ‘archivist jobs oxford’ but the consistently recurring term that really surprises and amuses me is ‘archival paper clips.’ I did in fact once write an essay on this topic.

The ‘Exploring Further’ suggestions include providing links from the blog to various social accounts. Well, despite the constant invitations (mostly from people I don’t know) I’m not going to join LinkedIn, but I’ve already linked to the Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts (see right). I’m not going to pursue Google Alerts – though I hope content I add occasionally triggers them for others , I’ve never received an email mentioning them as a prompt. And I haven’t followed up on the suggested readings, though I will probably come back to the one about online presence for academics when we come to investigating social media such as  LinkedIn and academica.edu.

I found this Thing rather tedious, if also reassuring. I certainly don’t need or want a very visible personal profile online. People need to know about the collections I look after and how to contact me about them. We are heading in the right direction, but there’s certainly room for improvement. There must be some catchy acronym for (more or less) Do More Work, Faster…

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