– 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 20

Thing 20 for 23Things for Research is: blogging, tweeting or posting a link to something you’ve written; and thinking about bibliometrics and altmetrics. Re posting links through various media – well, I do that for blog posts all the time. Tick. And I’m doing more of it now than before, because the Twitter-Facebook interface, whatever the nice app was called that let you post tweets straight to Facebook by simply ending a tweet with #fb (Selective Tweets, I think) is not working. Neither is Facebook Notes, otherwise I’d set it up so that each post went to the Balliol Archives & MSS Facebook page as a Note. Instead, I have to do the old-fashioned clunky thing of posting a link. Well, at least it’s fairly reliable, and I know straight away if it hasn’t worked.

I don’t follow site stats particularly closely, but I do watch the common search terms. ‘John de Balliol’, ‘medieval manuscript images’ and ‘archival paper clips’ get LOTS of hits. A large part of the reason for blogging here is to point enquirers to a concise explanation of part of their question, so it’s not entirely casting bread upon the waters. The same is true for the Flickr site – I’m pleased we’ve had 75,000 views or so, but anything I put up is for easy access by an enquirer who has asked for that material specifically, usually after an initial enquiry and advice via email conversation. After that, it’s handy to have already in place for anyone else who asks about that thing in particular; outreach via random Flickr searches, Google hits etc is all jam for the stats, but doesn’t usually generate actual interest in or enquiries about the collections.

Is this right? Should I change the basic way I work? Probably not. A college archive has fairly parochial collecting policies, and enquiries are about a certain range of topics. Every enquiry is individual and unique; there’s a certain amount of generic information – for instance, I have a standard response to requests for names of OTC members who came through Balliol in WW1 (we don’t have them; here’s why), and the recent post about Brackenbury heraldry came out of two different queries about Hannah Brackenbury – but there’s always something in an enquiry that needs a specific individual answer. Could I improve how I use the blog and Flickr though? Does more information online bring about better understanding, or more misunderstanding and half-information? How should it be structured? People don’t read websites anymore, apparently – my own experience certainly bears that out. So is blogging a more effective way to get small pieces of dense and structured information out there? I hope so. Does online presentation answer enquiries or prompt more questions? those are points worth at least being aware of.

Now, the meat of this Thing: bibliometrics and altmetrics. These measure traditional citations and new ways of referring to (mostly scholarly) works in order to demonstrate Impact. I don’t publish scholarly articles as part of my job, but it would be very helpful to be able to track citations of Balliol manuscripts in books, journal articles and online publications. One of the problems with metrics is that they cannot evaluate the quality of citations, but I’d be interested in just knowing they’re out there. I’m reading the recommended DH3 post: a Google Scholar profile sounds to me as though it might be more relevant than, say, the LinkedIn and Academia.edu ones I tried earlier. I can search for keywords to find citations up to now, but then I should probably set up a profile to track future ones. Can I search for sets of keywords rather than my name? Best would probably be ‘balliol manuscript’ and ‘balliol library’ – both, to catch as many citations as possible that may not use one or the other. Possibly ‘balliol MS’ as well”. and how comprehensive is this search? presumably, becoming more so by the day.

I also looked at the recommended presentation by Elizabeth Eva Leach – better set of slides here. The links DO work but, as I found out purely by accident, you have to highlight them first – a new one to me. They are unresponsive if green but live once they turn an eerie glowing blue!

And now to start the Google Scholar hunt…

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