One of the benefits of “social distancing” and working in a digital environment is the expansion of your special library’s or museum’s online presence.
Be on the lookout for new opportunities to expand access points! Lectures and webinars are the perfect opportunity to enhance collection and item level records and add to finding aids.
Whether you organize and maintain one or dozens of online offerings, particularly lectures and webinars, you are most likely drawing in a broader and perhaps unanticipated, audience. And they, in turn, are seeking information from your online catalogs.
Expand and Refine Access Points
The programs serve as catalysts to expand and refine access points to coordinate with online programs. Program presenters expand participants’ knowledge and encourage exploration of your materials on that topic, geographical area, artifact, time period, or person. Better yet, by their very personal nature, lectures and webinars drive viewers to become interactive, to question the topic, and dig for meaning and context.
Consider the needs of your new visitors, particularly those who explore and research through online programs, links, and marketing materials. They are undoubtedly seeking information about your collections in subtly different ways than your internal clientele or regular researchers.
The logical starting place is the records for items referenced in lectures, webinars, and book talks.
- Review the questions and answers while listening to the vocabulary used in the queries.
- Make a list of terms and subjects that are not present in your catalog and finding aids.
- Identify these broader or narrower terms, natural language references, or subtly nuanced descriptors.
- Discuss this list of terms with your catalogers with an eye to expanding access points in the online catalog.
As you add digitized items and create new, targeted online exhibits or co-located collections:
- Link the talk, the captured video, associated blog posts, and even the event announcement to the lecture or webinar topic, and, of course, appropriate catalog records.
- Add natural language subject headings and attach subject tags to enhance access to the collections.
Utilizing Enhanced Access Points
Now that you’ve added new access points, subject headings, and natural language tags to catalog records and finding aids, it’s time to utilize them. Exploit the enhanced audience and client base grown through your online programming.
Begin with targeted follow up email to online program attendees. Provide links to the curated online resources used in the program. Include information about accessing more materials and images of artifacts on the same topic with vocabulary drawn from subject headings and natural language tags.
Encourage this new client base to participate in upcoming programs on similar and tangential topics. Use the vocabulary of these newly enhanced access points to market the collections, the Special Library, and the Museum. In this way, you encourage researchers to mine the institution’s resources for their own projects.
Don’t forget to exploit this opportunity by asking participants to join the organization, purchase a membership or book about the talk, or make a donation.
One example of enhanced access points in the wake of exhibits is found at the Library of Congress “Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote” exhibit commemorating the suffragist movement and suffragists https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2021/03/was-my-female-ancestor-a-suffragist/. The blog and exhibit https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/women-fight-for-the-vote/about-this-exhibition/ include links to the collections and images, along with names of suffragists and terminology for searching the Library of Congress’ vast online resources.
Summing It Up
A benefit of expanding access points is shedding light on tangential and hidden collections. Increasing awareness and disseminating information about the collection is essential for the continued viability of libraries and all cultural institutions. It is vital that we continue to connect to our client base and new members through online catalogues and easy to use, enhanced access points.
Miriam Kahn, MLS, PhD
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