Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Miniature Mondays, Women’s History Wednesdays, a host of animated gifs, and numerous other fascinating finds await followers of the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections Tumblr, which has been named among the top 25 “New and Notable Blogs” of 2013 by the social media outlet.

Colleen Theisen, outreach and instruction librarian who manages the site, uses it to remove some of the “intimidation factor” that accompanies Special Collections. “There’s sort of a veil of secrecy around Special Collections,” she says. “I think the joy the page presents counteracts that, showing something intriguing, fun, inspiring.”

Tumblr’s focus on visual communication offers a perfect showcase for Special Collections, Theisen says: “We have a large collection of artist books and so many of them ‘do’ things. This gives us a way to show a book that opens in an interesting way, for instance.”

fore-edge painting
Summer by Robert Mudie. Photo courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Iowa

Theisen launched the site in early 2012, but it didn’t take off in earnest until late last year. The number of followers grew slowly until a gif of fore-edge painting—previously unknown works of art on the page edges of books—went viral in September.

That growth in followers and the number of people re-blogging from Special Collections were among the factors the led to the “new and notable” distinction from Tumblr. And it’s possible that the shout-out from Tumblr was a factor in the site edging over the 13,000-follower mark this week.

The exposure has led to out-of-state visitors, additional donations of materials, and, perhaps most importantly, connections to far-flung colleagues and fellow book enthusiasts.

“Tumblr allows you to follow topics you’re interested in and communicate with others who share your interests, so we’re communicating directly with a book-loving community,” Theisen says. “Tumblr pages are also indexed in Google, so it’s another way to end up in searches so more people find out about the materials we have in our collection.”