Live from BookExpo America, the publishing trade show where Ann Romney and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar alike come to meet their reading publics. (No, but seriously, they were both here today.)
For many who were unfamiliar with Tumblr, the mobile-friendly blogging platform developed in 2007 recently went from “what?!” to “WHOA” after its big-money purchase by search-engine granddaddy Yahoo! Tumblr sponsored a panel at BEA full of librarians who use Tumblr – representing libraries in Chicago, New York and Connecticut. Molly McArdle of Library Journal moderated with a strong assist from Rachel Fershleiser, who works with libraries and bookstores for Tumblr’s strategic outreach team, and who encouraged anyone starting a library blog to expand their scope beyond Instagrams of pretty shelves, into all the areas of interest a library can cultivate.
Here are some tips from her and the rest of the panel for starting your library Tumblr (and by extension, really any institutional blog):
- Use tags, including the librarian-community tag #tumblrarians, to include your posts in public search and discover new readers. (Apparently there was a very fierce debate over what the appropriate portmanteau was.)
- Include some personal tidbits along with book- and library-related materials and special events, to give it a human face. Angela Montefinise, PR and marketing director of the New York Public Library, said the NYPL’s Tumblr humanizes its institution and makes it seem more accessible by, for example, posting cat-related items from their collections (the Internet loves cats) or a discovery of a 1930s photo of Harlem featuring a man who looked just like Jay-Z. Kate Tkacik of the Bank of Montreal library in Chicago even surveyed her followers to ask non-librarians why they read her blog, and found out that many of them, even if they didn’t work in the library field, just enjoyed her personal comments or were fascinated with the library profession in general.
- Posts about events on Tumblr are often easier to create and update than main websites. Prior to working at Tumblr Fershleiser started a blog on there for Housing Works Bookstore here in New York, which she describes as “the first bookstore on Tumblr.” Her posts attracted the attention of the Time Out New York writer who was responsible for updating their blog and events calendar, so a disproportionate number of their events made it into the magazine. It’s also a great way to attract patrons who are in Tumblr’s young, predominately female demographic. McArdle said that most of the followers of the Library Journal tumblr are between 20 and 35, busting the stereotype of the grandmotherly old librarian who doesn’t know how the computerbox works.
- Finally, don’t be shy about starting a blog even though most of the population you serve doesn’t seem to read blogs or be aware of Tumblr. Fershleiser described a meeting she had with Sesame Workshop about their blog and online presence, where she was informed that their mission was to “Educate children and families wherever they might be,” even if “Sesame Street”’s audience isn’t ready to start their own blogs. (Yet.)