It is commonly accepted that libraries have two front doors --a physical door to the library space and a virtual front door to a collection of online resources and services.
Content curation offers librarians a potential paradigm shift to a new dimension of access and visibility--moving beyond the virtual front door towards a ubiquitous presence embedded in the information ecology of the user. Emerging content curation tools offer a platform for engagement, collaboration and communication with an audience that is not determined by institutional, geographic, or demographic boundaries but by a shared common interest and information need.
Libraries and librarians do not have a monopoly on content curation--indeed in an online environment it could be argued that all organisations are publishers and all individuals with a social network presence are potential curators. Identifying, contextualising and annotating content for re-dissemination through online communication channels is as much a social as an economic imperative.
Content curation is a tool for companies, organisations and individuals to engage with an audience, build profile and strengthen recognition and branding. For libraries and librarians it is absolutely critical that they are clear about the audience that they are trying to reach, the areas of common interest they share with that target audience and their information needs.
Librarians need to be mindful of how the library or librarian role is currently perceived and understood and to use the curation opportunity to shape those perceptions and understandings with their audience. What distinguishes excellent content curation from noise or spam is the knowledge and expertise of the curator in selecting, contextualising and adding value to content that has true relevance and resonance to its target audience.
Building trust. Establishing your reputation as an expert. Demonstrating credibility and integrity. Building your influence. These are all legitimate objectives in embarking on content curation. However before setting out on your journey you must have a well defined scope for the content that you will curate and a strategy for maintaining and building your online presence and linking it to your overall library marketing strategy. How does your content curation strengthen and communicate your library brand or profile? How does it generate traffic-both physical and virtual-to your library, its resources and services? How does it extend your sphere of influence with key stakeholders and decision makers?
Marketing is not about promoting, advertising and selling a product or service. Marketing is about engaging with customers, understanding their needs, developing products and services that meet those needs, and building channels for communication and participation.
Simple rules to follow include: keeping your content up-to-date, fresh and relevant; sticking to your defined niche and area of expertise; and connecting with users in their spaces: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, email listservs, and Scoop.its etcetera. Your curation must be visible and infinitely shareable.
It is important to understand that engagement and communication is a two-way process and you must also be listening to your target audiences' messages and participating in their conversations.
Beyond curating for your students and teachers, content curation could be used to market the school to its local community--and the librarian could raise their visibility and profile within the school by taking the lead on such an initiative. Content curation has the potential to be a marketing tool for your school, for your library and its services, and indeed for you as a professional within the broader library and education sector. Becoming a recognised leader in content curation within your school may also open the door for opportunities for library-teacher collaboration to assist teachers and students in developing their skills in content curation.
Librarians tend to be very good early adopters of new technologies and there is certainly a wave of excitement within the library community about content curation. However the key is not the technology or platforms themselves, it's about how we position ourselves within our target audiences, aligning our content curation with a clear understanding of their information needs, and having a defined strategy for leveraging the content curation opportunity to raise our profile and influence within our schools.
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Content curation strategies to boost your online business
Content curation: definitions & context for content marketing
Marketing library services using web 2.0
Marketing libraries in a web 2 world
A marketer's guide to content curation
Peter Murgatroyd, Programme Adviser, Services to Schools National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga O Aotearoa The Department of Internal Affairs Te Tari Taiwhenua