Before you begin a digital project there are a series of questions you should ask. Usually, questions regarding users and marketing are glossed over, but they important and, in my experience, too little effort is spent on them.
Who Are Your Users?
A catchall as to whom will benefit from a digital collection is: scholars, teachers, and students. This one sentence response may be for an internal project proposal or just a simple justification; however, it’s useless. Are you building a collection just to build it, because it interests you? Or, are you building a collection to create a resource for a specific group of people? How does a college student interact with online information versus an elementary school student? What might a faculty member at a research institution find useful versus a professor at a community college?
HTML and CSS are easy. If you’re taking the time to create a digital collection, why create one interface? The backend is the most complicated. Why not have interfaces designed for your different user groups, instead of one interface that may now leave some of your users clicking elsewhere? Are libraries adopting the use of stories from scrum? If not, why not?
The Field of Dreams Mentality
Just because Google and Bing will index your site, doesn’t mean you don’t need to proactively market your digital collection. Researchers, students, librarians and community members will not randomly come across the resource you created. If you build a collection with a group of users in mind, you need to reach those users afterward through a sustained campaign. How do you do that?
Okay, you can email a listserve and tell your mom, but you need to do more. Does your collection have a blog? Do you and your project members actively use social media to promote the collection? Have you reached out to public radio and television stations? Have you visited schools and given demonstrations or lectures? Do you write Wikipedia articles based on your content? And, instead of doing this stuff once, do you actively publicize the collection?
These are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear from other librarians about their process when developing digital collections and how they market them afterward.
If you’ve been involved in digital library collections, who are your users and how do you market your project?