– 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 10

Today on 23Things for Research we have Facebook.

Facebook is not new to me; besides my own profile, which is entirely personal, I run a page for the Medieval Manuscripts Appreciation Group as well as Balliol Archives and Manuscripts. I use these mostly for passing on information from other sources, noting updates on this blog and/or Twitter, posting notices about exhibitions or other relevant events, and so on. I try to post fairly regularly, but updates aren’t particularly frequent and the walls are not chatty. I hope it’s another way of making more of what I do more visible and approachable. Liz McCarthy of the Bod has put together a presentation about ‘Facebook Pages that Work’ – it’s quite likely I could get more out of mine. Does this mean reaching more people and getting more Likes, or is there more to real effectiveness on Facebook…

This presentation includes one of the most useful things I’ve absorbed on 23Things so far, and something that perhaps could have been emphasised at the beginning. To quote slide 5: ‘Social media isn’t cutting edge anymore – it’s just part of how we communicate.’ This is how the world works these days – it’s new, it’s changing, it’s unlikely to remain in its current state, but if for no other reason than that LOADS OF PEOPLE USE IT ALL THE TIME, libraries and archives need to as well. We can jump up and down all we like about being sidelined by our institutions, ignored by researchers who don’t know how to do research ‘properly’ anymore – but if we are not using social media at all, an indeterminate and growing amount of our perennial invisibility problem is our own fault.

Yes, it’s time-consuming. No, it’s not exactly part of the job description. But we have to do it anyway, and we have to do it effectively, because otherwise the torrent of information rushing past everybody is so enormous that we will get lost in it. And have no (buzzword alert) Impact. Oxbridge college archives are lovely places, full of ledgers and quiet and medieval title deeds and ponderous thoughts. They are gateways to a rich and exciting past, but the gates keep changing, and most of them are now digital portals too. From this to this, if you will. Sometimes both at once. Colleges are creaking and jolting into the 21st century, carrying up to 8 centuries of non-disposable history with them. It doesn’t happen evenly. Archives have the full weight of that historical heritage. But they should be at the forefront as well.

Things to do now: update the timeline – I thought the facebook timeline thing was quite stupid and ugly when it came in, but as it’s there, might as well take a leaf out of Bod’s book (no! that’s against the regulations!) Time to update the cover photo as well.

Thank you Liz – I’m finally on board with eyes and ears fully open!

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