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Brooklynology — Brooklyn Public Library’s Special Collections Blog

Brooklyn Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Joy Holland, Division Chief, Brooklyn Collection, j.holland@brooklynpubliclibrary.org

Problem Statement

Special collections and the work of special collections librarians remain a mystery to many who might benefit from their collections and staff expertise. How does a library go about demystifying its special collections and emphasize that they are not simply for scholars or professional genealogists?

Innovation

Brooklynologywas conceived as a way to connect with those many potential library patrons and web users who have an interest in Brooklyn and its history yet remain largely unaware of the depth and variety of our collection. As a secondary benefit librarians are able to convey their engagement with, and enthusiasm for their work and the collections under their care. Between three and four librarians add content to the blog engine when inspiration strikes, ensuring that at least two blog posts appear most weeks, and sometimes more. Librarians dig into vertical files, reports and images that would rarely see the light of day yet are visually arresting or otherwise worthy of interest. Some notable blog posts have included information on cyanotypes and their creators; original research on the Black population of Brooklyn in the 1860s; a short history of the National Recovery Administration in Brooklyn based on items in our collection; and discussions of the strange custom of Tom Thumb weddings; of minstrel performances; and of the work of Brooklyn Daily Eagle puzzle master Sam Loyd.

By connecting our collection to the blogosphere and to social networking sites, we attract interest from people outside of our regular customer-base.

Progress

The blog's readership numbers have grown steadily over the two years we have been writing for it. During its first full month of operation in November 2008 the blog attracted an average of 64 visits a day. By March 2009 the number had risen to 188 per day and total visits for that year amounted to 128,000. Now at the end of March 2010 our statistics are hovering around 600 visits per day, a level which, if sustained over a year, would produce close to 250,000 visits. This has been achieved with very little emphasis on marketing. Only a few months after its inception, Brooklynology won an honorable mention in the NextArchives Best of the Web awards. The more content we add, the more likely we are to be picked up by search engines. Around 40% of our readership comes from outside of the U.S., with strong showings from Germany and measurable responses from China, Switzerland and Panama.