Have you ever wondered how older books were printed? Why do some of them seem to lack exact copyright dates? How were they bound? Well, now you can get your questions answered. According to the September 15th issue of AL Direct, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has just launched a YouTube channel called RBML Mailbag. This gives curious bibliophiles a chance to ask curators at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library all kinds of questions. The first video, which discussed the creation of book plate illustrations, is fun and informative.. At the end of the video, viewers are invited to ask a question, and an email address is provided for that purpose. It’s not always easy for the general public to have access to archival or special collections. Oftentimes, a legitimate research inquiry is required before being given access. This makes sense of course, as the books are valuable and extremely fragile. Whether it’s for genealogy research or a university project, people can learn a great deal from these older manuscripts, and providing better access to them is worthwhile and important. This is really an ingenious idea, and I applaud the staff for doing it!
How can public libraries create a similar program? Public libraries with specialized local history collections can take user questions to highlight their materials. Or, librarians could highlight important items through YouTube videos to increase interest in the collections. This would assist in bringing the library to patrons, and hopefully spark curiosity in something more than the latest bestseller. Creating such a video and uploading it to the library website is a wonderful way to reach users quickly. There is a lot of possibility here; it just takes a bit of planning and creativity. Videos can also be geared toward specific library users, such as teens or college students. Videos could even address general library topics as well. The point is a program like this can be a powerful outreach, educational, and marketing tool. It’s also a different way for people to interact with their libraries. Even though this idea originates from a special collections setting, it could be replicated in nearly any library. I hope to see more episodes from RMBL Mailbag! Has your library tried a similar program?
For more on the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, visit: http://www.library.illinois.edu/rbx/