Know Your Crowd: A Case Study in Digital Collection Marketing
Digitized special collections and institutional repositories present unique challenges to libraries struggling to identify marketing strategies that will entice patrons to these services. These collections, which do not have the same mass appeal as full-text articles or author book readings, still must attract use. This case study explores an academic library’s attempts to actively market its digital special collections. They advertised their collections via published marketing materials, a library services fair, and a photography contest. The results were that high-quality, intense, marketing for a general population does not work for specialized digital collections because the subject areas are too narrow for general interest. The scope of the audience was also misplaced since the collections had a greater market outside the university than with the local students. The authors looked at digital special collections that were successful to see what worked to market collections to outside users. They found that collections that were connected to external resources that were affiliated with different interest groups were successful with minimal marketing. The method of linking collections to Wikipedia was identified as a simple and effective method that was more effective than linking the collection to more niche sites. The authors conclude that academic libraries should utilize more focused, community-connecting approaches in order to engage the specialized patrons of digital special collections.