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Word of Mouth Marketing: Archives and Special Collections, Mount Holyoke College

                   Know Your History, Save Your History

Project Description

Team Mount Holyoke wanted to raise awareness of their services and holdings, as well as increase the number of student organizations contributing to the holdings of Archives and Special Collections. They recognized that they didn't need to choose and planned their project to serve both functions with an outreach effort to student organization leaders. Team Mount Holyoke focused their efforts on letting groups know that their stories matter, and ASC is the partner to preserve them.

"We're going to let student organization leaders of under-documented and undocumented organizations know that ASC exists, what we do, why it matters, and how we can help them learn about the history of their organization. And, if we don’t currently have any information about their org then we will stress the importance of collecting it." -Leslie Fields, Team Mount Holyoke

Structural details

Goals

To identify student organization leaders of under-documented/undocumented organizations

To educate under/undocumented student organizations about Archives and Special Collections

To increase involvement of student organizations in contributing to Archives and Special Collections holdings

To have the community rediscover Archives and Special Collections and make the library a part of their everyday lives


Audience

Mount Holyoke College student organization leaders and members

Mount Holyoke College staff in the Student Programs Office


Measurables

# of contacts with under/undocumented student organizations leaders

# items collected from 15 under-documented/undocumented student organizations?

Mount Holyoke College
LITS, Archives and Special Collections
50 College Street
South Hadley, MA  01075-1423
https://lits.mtholyoke.edu/research/
asc-research

image of two students, women of color, circa 1970's, in black and white, attending class. Looking pensive, there are open books and papers in front of each woman.

Communication Strategies

Send emails and ASC postcards to the leadership of 15 student organizations that are undocumented/under-documented. (Even determining the contact information for student leadership positions can be a challenge so also contact staff in Student Programs Office if necessary to identify leadership.)

Talk to student org leaders directly about best means for communicating with them. Do they prefer email? Do they prefer that we contact them through their org Facebook pages, etc.?

Dedicate a page of our website to student organizations. Explain why we collect their materials and how these items can be used once they are in ASC. Explain the logistics of making donations, both physical and digital. Keep this updated as a dedicated place to point student org leaders to when they have questions.

Each academic year there are two required meetings that official student organization leaders have to attend in order to receive funding from the Student Government Association. Find out from the Student Programs Office how to get on the agenda for these meetings to make a 5 minute pitch directly to the leaders.

Create and distribute posters around campus that encourage donations. Do this activity after the mid-term of each semester so students have a visual reminder to give materials to ASC before the very end of the year when they are stressed with finals and moving out.

Twice a semester staff a table at the Campus Center with information about ASC and donating materials to ASC.

Send ASC postcards to the 15 student org leaders two weeks before the end of the semester to remind them to donate and to thank them.

And so, how'd it go?

With the assistance of Archives student assistants, we reached out to 15 groups over the past year. We have received materials or had meaningful interactions with 10 groups.   One of the most successful has been with the Association for Pan African Unity (APAU), which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year (2018). I hosted a special event for 24 student members and leaders to review their historical materials and talk with them about continuing to collect their organization's history. Many of the students from this group have since returned to Archives to either review materials again, or to donate new materials.   In addition, as a result of this organized outreach effort, I met students involved in a brand new organization on campus who also donated materials to us. So they weren't on my original list, but we are very happy to have this early contact with them and to start documenting this group from its earliest beginnings!

And how will you keep the momentum going?

Outreach to student organizations is a high priority for us, and we will continue on with the strategies that worked especially well this year: contacting students directly, inviting students to hold organizational events for their groups in the Archives; holding open house events for groups in the Archives; and writing postcards to leaders and members of groups.

And can you talk a little about setbacks, adjustments or lessons learned?

Contacting students again and again in a wide variety of ways has been an important part of this project! I certainly think they know who we are, where we are, and even why it is important to their orgs to document their history -- the next hurdle is getting them to make the time to bring that material to us or to send it electronically, in the midst of all of their other activities and commitments. At this stage of this project, we reached fewer student orgs than was our original goal -- but I feel like we also made deeper and more significant relationships with those 10 orgs than we originally imagined.