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Author: Jessica Lacher-Feldman
Title: Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books as a Model for Publicity, Outreach and Promotion of Digital Projects and Online Resources in Cultural Heritage Institutions and Academic Libraries
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
February 2007

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Source: Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books as a Model for Publicity, Outreach and Promotion of Digital Projects and Online Resources in Cultural Heritage Institutions and Academic Libraries
Jessica Lacher-Feldman

vol. 10, no. 1, February 2007
Article Type: Article

Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books as a Model for Publicity, Outreach and Promotion of Digital Projects and Online Resources in Cultural Heritage Institutions and Academic Libraries

Jessica Lacher-Feldman

Public and Outreach Services Coordinator/Associate Professor
The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, and
Project Manager for Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books
The University of Alabama


In an environment where special collections libraries and other cultural heritage institutions such as museums, historical societies, and academic libraries are faced with opportunities and expectations to develop digital resources using rare materials, digital content developers in these institutions are often left with a chasm between the ability to create a stellar product and the ability to get that product out to constituents. Using the digital project, Publishers" Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books ( as a foundation for experience and as an example, this paper outlines methods and techniques for outreach, marketing, and promotion of digital projects and programs.

.01 Introduction

Marketing is "the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services, to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals."

American Marketing Association

In an environment where special collections libraries and other cultural heritage institutions such as museums, historical societies, and academic libraries are faced with opportunities and expectations to develop digital resources using rare materials, digital content developers are often left with a chasm between the ability to create a stellar product and the savoir faire to get that product out to constituents. Information professionals may in fact be the best people to develop information resources, but they lose sight of the efforts needed to promote and distribute those "goods" to users. The notion of "If we build it, they will come" does not work-even in an era of spiders and web crawlers. It is the responsibility of digital content developers in cultural heritage institutions to look beyond "building" and to seek out new and old, innovative and fundamental methods of promoting the resources they develop. This article serves to aid those developing these resources to stop asking the question, "We built it; now what?"

In an effort to create top-notch digital projects within cultural institutions, digital content developers often become mired in the work to develop the project without spending enough time and effort to be sure that efforts are being appreciated and understood by constituents. The assumption that users will assuredly locate and use digital projects to their maximum potential is simply not possible. This notion can only hurt developers and digital programs within libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions. It was decided at the very dawn of the Publishers" Bindings Online project (PBO) that building and promoting of the project were to be closely linked.

Publishers" Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books, located on the World Wide Web at [1] is a digital project that seeks to present the world with images and information about the nineteenth century book using innovative delivery methods, including a fully searchable database as well as galleries and teaching tools that add value to the database and its contents. Part one of this article will discuss methods used to promote cultural heritage digital projects, and will describe some of the techniques and practices used by participants in the Publishers" Bindings Online Project to publicize and promote that project. This article serves to provide best practices and practical information for those who develop digital projects in cultural heritage institutions by describing specific practices and methods available using both conventional methods as well as incorporating new technologies, venues, and resources.

.02 About Publishers" Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books (PBO)

Publishers" Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books (PBO) is an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)  [2] National Leadership grant-funded project. The grant was awarded in 2003 with The University of Alabama Libraries  [3] as the lead institution and The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries  [4] as the collaborative partner. PBO has strived to create a useful and innovative product for a broad range of constituents including students, scholars, teachers, artists, librarians, archivists, collectors, and lifelong learners.

The importance and significance of the PBO project goes beyond providing digital access to nineteenth and early twentieth century book covers. Much of the impetus for the project centers around the notion that all academic libraries have within their holdings books bound in 19th century decorative bindings. PBO seeks to strengthen the growing interest in and create broader awareness for this "common" object called the book. There is a great need to develop sensitivity to these books and their significance.

.03 The Significance of Publishers" Bindings

The era of the Publishers" Binding marks a period in history where there is a shift from the hand bound to the commercially bound book. The PBO project period covers 1815-1930, and represents a broad spectrum of styles and subject matter represented on the book covers.

The images, motifs, and styles on the bindings themselves are a mirror of the interests, thoughts, concerns, and styles of the periods they represent. Each book cover tells the viewer something about the past. These bindings are important in their place within the fabric of American history and culture, but efforts to present these bindings in a collection that is representative of the era as a whole and to make them available virtually, via the World Wide Web have been limited to date. Online catalogs and exhibitions, although important, only offer a small sampling of bindings, and can often be ephemeral in nature.

PBO is an important digital collection of publishers" bindings, as well as a host of additional resources that both borrow from and complement the database. The value-added materials stand alone as well, offering important information in a host of areas including literary, historical, and artistic movements and themes that can be adapted for scholars in many areas.

Project participants include subject experts on the 19th century book; metadata specialists; special collections librarians; digital project developers; and other members of The University of Alabama Libraries and University of Wisconsin-Madison General Library System faculty and staff. The diverse backgrounds and interests of these participants brought intellectual strengths and abilities needed to see the project to fruition.

The publishers" binding as a whole is a universally recognized style, although not often identified by non-book people using that terminology. It is often just seen as "an old book," one that has a ubiquitous and almost invisible presence on bookshelves, at yard sales, and in libraries across the country. There is an abundance of books published in the era of the publishers" binding. But as time passes, and the books age, are discarded, or are rebound, there is a need to consider them as important cultural artifacts. While a mass produced title may not hold the same significance as an incunable or 17th century hand-bound volume, these "medium-rare" books produced in the United States are not only beautiful, but representative of Industrialization, and American artistic and creative ingenuity, and provide insight into the minds and hearts of a bygone era. With each passing day, these books become scarcer and more important as keys to the past.

Because so many repositories, both in the US and abroad, hold these kinds of works, there is excellent potential for integration into larger scale initiatives worldwide, such as a portal or consortium. The growth potential for the project centers on several tools developed by the PBO team. For example, as part of the PBO project, members of the PBO team  [5] developed a comprehensive glossary of binding-related terms, borrowing from the terminology used in several important works.  [6] The glossary adds an additional level of importance to scholars using the project by furthering research and learning opportunities, as well as serving as a stand-alone tool to educate users about the terminology and variations in terminology used in describing books.

The PBO project participants developed the PBO project to help promote the notion of the book as artifact and of the role that the images and materials represented on the book bindings themselves play in providing a window into historical, cultural, and industrial periods. This project has visibly increased the general public"s awareness of the importance of publishers" bindings as reflections of historical events, art movements, and the evolution of commercial binderies through the use of the database and the value-added materials included in the project.

This project serves as a model that other repositories can use as a resource with their own collections. The project team looks toward potential future collaboration and contribution for the PBO project itself. This relatively unexplored scholarly field offers a great deal to end users in many areas, including those who have collections of books of this type, held not for their bindings but for the information within. PBO has encouraged interested parties to examine their own collections, and to gain an understanding of design movements and trends both within the United States as well as abroad, such as Jugenstil in Germany, Art Nouveau in France, Arts and Crafts in England, and Glasgow School in Scotland.

PBO"s virtual holdings consist of a collection of materials that not only provides the user with an understanding of what was being read in the nineteenth century but also illustrates the importance of the book as an object or artifact. These titles serve as a microcosm for understanding several historical and literary movements of the nineteenth century, including Westward expansion in the United States during which time Alabama was considered part of "the American West." It allows users to explore the notion of "cult of domesticity," the evolution of the notion of leisure, the shift in the manner in which children were treated in the home, the promotion of education, emancipation and women"s rights, the movement toward the modern, Industrialization and Victorian culture-all as reflected in the books and their binding styles.

The importance of the PBO project is broad and widely felt, but in short, through creating new resources and descriptive tools, PBO has provided a window into understanding America"s first century, both in history and culture as well as in graphic and artistic design. It also addresses the development of a distinctive American style and the movement from America looking abroad for inspiration, to Europe looking toward America for fresh ideas and imagery.

PBO brings together a comprehensive collection of materials through the World Wide Web. In developing the project as it was done, namely by looking at the books as objects, and providing a depth of metadata about each item, the collection is of great use to a broad range of constituencies. The use of an online collection allows flexibility for several levels of searching by one or more elements, such as:

  • Designer
  • Publisher
  • Materials
  • Subject Headings
  • Theme
  • Place of Publication
  • Descriptive Elements (stamping, tooling, cloth, etc.)

There are relatively few books, reference sources, or websites available relating to publishers" bindings.  [7] Until very recently this topic has been of interest only to a small group of scholars and collectors. This project creates exposure and builds understanding, and at the same time provides a definitive online source, both for reference and for research on the American publishers" bindings movement.

To date, PBO provides access to over 10,000 images from nearly 5,000 books, all deliverable directly through the World Wide Web. It has been designed to accommodate users from all ages and levels of expertise through a user-friendly interface, rich with metadata, and provides unprecedented searching capabilities.

.04 PBO and Its Audience

The audience for a comprehensive online collection of nineteenth century publishers" bindings with reference and research components includes three major categories of audience which can be best understood as follows:

  1. Students and Other Learners: This includes students of the book arts, librarianship, and special collections librarianship; lifelong learners; the general public; and K-12 students.
  2. Scholars and Researchers: This group includes scholars in book arts, historians, art historians, scholars of industrial art and design, and literary scholars.
  3. Practitioners: This group includes industrial artists, graphic designers, librarians and descriptive bibliographers, antiquarian book collectors and dealers, centers for the book members, book binders, conservators, and book designers.

.05 PBO and Major Project Activities & Deliverables

The key project activities and deliverables, as outlined in the grant narrative  [8] for the PBO project, are as follows:

  • Select up to 5,000 items that are representative of nineteenth century decorative bindings.
  • Develop a model controlled vocabulary of terms describing the representative publishers" bindings selected. Use the structured vocabulary and classification system of the thesaurus to develop Dublin-Core  [9] based descriptive metadata for publishers" bindings included in the PBO database.
  • Develop a comprehensive online glossary, complete with images of visual elements and techniques as well as information on binders, designers, and printers. These will be described and explained to meet both the reference needs of advanced scholars and the information needs of students and interested lifelong learners.
  • Digitize up to 10,000 images of nineteenth century bindings (including covers, spines, and end papers) from up to 5,000 items to populate a web-accessible database.
  • Create user-friendly educational resources accessible via the World Wide Web that will meet the diverse needs of students, teachers, and lifelong learners.
  • Develop a model for publicity and outreach activities to introduce a new online resource.

The University of Alabama Libraries has worked extensively in the area of outreach, marketing, and publicity. Using PBO as the "test case," the project will test the effectiveness of selected strategies for marketing and advertising. Information about the resulting model will be published.

.06 PBO and Adaptability, Scalability and Sustainability

The PBO team worked with a mind toward providing a model for other repositories both large and small, both in the U.S. and abroad, to use aspects of the PBO project to better understand and work with their own collections. This notion of adaptability lends itself to a need for marketing the resource broadly, to ensure that other institutions are aware of it and its uses.

Through the PBO Project Manual  [10], a roadmap for the project and its methods presents to the public, including both organizational and technical guidelines. In addition to the project manual, endeavors such as this article were devised as a form of outreach/publicity guidelines and best practices as part of the PBO project model. It is the goal to provide models for other libraries that seek collaborative relationships and strong outreach efforts surrounding future digital projects.

It is the intention to look beyond the initial grant period (October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2007) for PBO to look toward serving as a gateway for repositories wishing to contribute their holdings to a large, searchable virtual collection. Many smaller institutions do not have the resources to support in-house digitization projects, but would benefit from working with a library rather than a commercial vendor because of both costs and opportunities for growth and learning. With potential future collaboration, a portal or consortium for publishers" bindings with PBO at the core is within the realm of possibility and probability. PBO holds limitless potential in its sustainability. Other institutions, both large and small, will be able to develop and create their own digital collections or to contribute to this project. It was the intention when initiating this project that consideration would be made to look towards the development of a portal for the study and appreciation of publishers" bindings.

Section Two: Promoting Digital Projects: A Model and Methods for Publicity and Outreach Activities and the Promotion of an Online Cultural Heritage Resource

This section outlines specific methods and concepts for promoting digital projects in cultural heritage institutions and academic libraries. The foundations for many of the activities are based in the activities of public relations officers but are geared toward project participants and project managers. The basis for this concept is that those actively involved in the project have the best understanding of the project and therefore are the best people to initiate promotional activities. The activities center on key project participants, but references are made to outside personnel who might serve as conduits and assist with the promotion, outreach, and marketing process. This is meant to serve as an overall guide to developing and executing timely and effective promotional activities throughout any digital project or program, regardless of size, budget, or content. This section relies on successful practices and endeavors initiated through the PBO project.

.07 Digital Resource Development: New Frontiers

The shape and efforts of cultural heritage institutions has changed dramatically in recent years. Digital projects and programs have become a part of daily and ongoing activities. As digital projects move from happening in a proverbial vacuum to more unified digital programs, additional ongoing effort is needed to assure that users are finding and using new resources. Generating interest in endeavors, as well as marketing repositories and their resources, is a necessary part of those projects. There are many relatively new ways to meet those challenges and they are outlined here in broad strokes, adaptable to virtually any digital project.

.08 Creating an Outreach/Marketing/Publicity Plan

At the outset of developing any project, it is necessary to keep in mind how the project should be promoted from its earliest stages. This is an activity that should be planned for and included in any grant project, or when allocating time and personnel to activities for a digital project. This work will require time and planning and should not be seen as an afterthought. Creating a plan will require time, as will seeing that plan through.

Creating timelines and benchmarks is important to any project, especially those which receive grant funding and need to adhere to specific timetables. This will require the use of a planning calendar for implementation of the project. It is important to add a component that both documents and anticipates the outreach, marketing, and publicity endeavors involved with the project.

With the PBO project, part of the marketing plan was inherent in the progress of the project. As the project developed, more activities relating to the promotion of said project could be developed. It is clear that not every promotional activity will be known at the outset, but in knowing where the project wants to go, and by gaining administrative buy-in to this component of the project, there will be more opportunity for success.

While the plan may be skeletal at first, going through the activity of consciously developing a timeline for promotion will allow for all participants to actively think about promoting the project and discover new ways to do so. This should be revisited by key personnel on a regular basis. Using the overall timeline as a guide, it is critical to work into the project specific promotional events, releases, and other activities.

It is also useful to identify one key person within the group developing the project that can serve as the point person and spokesperson for promotional and outreach endeavors. This does not mean that every activity needs to be taken on by this person, but this individual should help in initiating and facilitating these activities, as well as documenting them for reporting and other purposes. For the PBO project, the project manager serves this purpose. Logically and logistically, a project manager is in an ideal position to serve as the key contact as publicity coordinator for a project because of his/her involvement both with day-to-day activities as well as the overall and long term activities and goals. All project participants should take initiative and opportunity to promote the project as well, reaching out to people and groups within their own circles.

As information professionals, being aware of and taking advantage of available resources seems like a natural extension of work. With this in mind, it is also critical to look toward resources within the institution and parent institution for assistance. Media relations and other departments exist to help promote institutions. If ready access is available to a media or public relations office, this resource should be brought in from the very beginning to help brainstorm activities, seek out venues and opportunities, and involve them and give them a stake in helping promote the parent institution through this project. With a digital project, as with any group or collaborative endeavor, all participants should feel accountable and able to promote the project.

.09 Promoting the Project in the Media: Generating Interest and Press

Long before any of the actual work is done, it is critical to begin to create interest and anticipation for the project itself. Developing an initial press release and seeking out media outlets locally will draw positive attention to the project and create an initial buzz that will help to solidify and motivate participants.

For the PBO project, the project manager developed a press release as a general announcement. This was distributed and publicized on both campuses of the two project participants, The University of Alabama and The University of Wisconsin-Madison. Because the project is funded by a prestigious National Leadership Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the focus of the initial release was on the receipt of the grant and a general overview of the plans for the project. The purpose of such promotion is to gain the attention of administrators and other stakeholders who have an interest in the institution and its success.

The initial press release should explore the plan for the project but emphasize the overall goals and the successes so far. Quotations and remarks from high-ranking officials from the parent institution will help generate interest and add credibility to the project. Future press information will delve into the actual project but a focus on the "why" and anticipated outcomes will poise the project for future success.

.10 Media Blitz and Direct Marketing

With a project that has uses for very specific audiences, it is critical to make connections with those audiences in order to insure that they know about the resource and its value. For PBO, it was important to be sure that people from the art, art history and graphic design areas knew about the project. In order to assure their knowledge, and to seek out promotional opportunities, a direct marketing campaign can be undertaken with minimal effort and time. By seeking out and focusing on specific publications and individuals, a personalized letter with a small giveaway item (for PBO, a PBO bookmark) can bring a project to the attention of an editor or reporter. This kind of marketing can lead to a feature story or sidebar, or may lead to greater contacts as well. This kind of marketing is best undertaken toward the end of a project, when more features are available and the site is more complete. This is also an excellent time to partner with a media relations office in the parent institution.

.11 Branding the Project

With any project or product, creating an overall look is critical for ongoing recognition as well as consistency. Web-based digital projects are no different from cereal boxes and soda cans in that respect. Key personnel, especially those with a creative edge and a mind toward design, should work together from the beginning to experiment with some overall looks and styles that suit the project. For the PBO project, it was paradoxically both easy and difficult to come up with an overall look. It was easy because the project itself is so visual that finding visual items from which to choose was not a problem. It was difficult only because there was so much from which to choose. Taking cues from the materials used in the project is the first step in creating a "brand." It helps to create a style sheet, naming fonts, colors, specific graphics images, and other pertinent aspects of the "brand" and to make it available to all participants. With branding, consistency is critical, the goal being that people will begin to recognize the product immediately and remember the project. For the PBO project, academic presentations using PowerPoint included the same use of graphics, fonts, and colors, providing a seamless transition between presentation and demonstration. Giveaway items and other aspects of the project all "matched," providing consistency that allowed ongoing association by users.

.12 Understanding Audiences and Constituents

With any press materials, it is critical to understand who might be interested in the project. For an initial release, the focus is not on the content of the project itself, but in attracting positive attention to the institution and to pique the interest of stakeholders and constituents. If the project has been initiated as a result of a grant, the focus should be on the grant itself. If the project comes out of a specific need that the institution is able to fulfill, the focus should be on the project team"s ability to fill that need. As outlined in the first part of this article, PBO had from the beginning a strong sense of its audience. Future promotion and assessment continue to provide insight into shifts, changes, and growth in the audience as well as exciting developments within the project itself.

.13 Seeking Feedback and Reaching Out via Email

At the very beginning of the project, it is critical to create a URL and an email address that is both memorable and sustainable. For the PBO project, was chosen as the URL and was chosen for the email address. If the URL is to be part of a parent organization, it is critical to work with the systems or computing department to be sure that the architecture will support web statistics software for keeping track of user visits to the site. Tracking statistics is critical to understanding audience and traffic, and to aid in creating accurate reports on use. By placing PBO at the top level of the University of Alabama Libraries web architecture, analysis of use is easier to assess.

Using a URL and email address established at the beginning of the project, the project team can seek out feedback by prominently displaying the intuitive email address. A simple web form for anonymous feedback also provides users additional opportunities to comment on the site and provide feedback. Project participants should monitor email on a regular basis and look toward ways of incorporating suggestions. Anonymous feedback, while not allowing for follow up or additional comments, does provide users with opportunities to speak their minds and express freely their thoughts on the project.

The email address will also allow for initiated individuals to provide comment and assist with the project. For PBO, a few very knowledgeable individuals submit comments on a regular basis which have a direct impact on the accuracy of the site. Working with these initiated individuals allows the project to improve, while creating strong and organic ties within the community of the very people the project was developed to reach.

Using email as a method to reach individuals and groups is an easy and extremely quick way to get a message out. By creating a mailing list or email list for those interested in the project, updates can be sent out with minimal effort. Listservs that relate to the project provide excellent venues for announcements and information about said project. For example, specific email announcements relating to subject-specific developments in PBO were sent to H-Net  [11] listservs in that discipline. The result was subject-specific exposure and new audiences with a built-in interest in the subject matter.

While inundating individuals with messages about a project is a mistake, well planned and well written emails to targeted audiences at key points during the project is a timely, inexpensive, and sensible endeavor.

.14 Evaluation and Assessment

Part of gaining a stronger project is the notion of continual evaluation. By incorporating both internal reviews and external assessments to monitor progress on individual parts and the overall project, the resulting product will be more successful and more efficacious. By conducting regular focus groups to evaluate the functionality of the site and the usefulness of the content, the project participants will have a better understanding of what works and what does not. Project participants can also build on standard practices for usability testing and project evaluation through the capture of anecdotal commentary and quotations, and use those for promotional purposes. It is understood that digital projects should be developed and improved by the project participants based on the expressed needs of user groups and then evaluated by those same communities. By taking this kind of evaluation a step further as a basis for promotional activity, this will ensure greater project success.

PBO used a survey to solicit information from its users. In the summer of 2006, a brief survey  [12] was made accessible through the PBO homepage and was sent to three listservs. The anonymous survey results were used for reporting and to gain a greater understanding of PBO"s audience and their expectations. Regular assessment through surveys, focus groups, and other means is critical in the development of a quality digital project, but also allows an opportunity to promote the project itself. Providing users or potential users with a survey forces them to look at the product in new ways and can create interest that might not have been there previously.

.15 Monitoring Search Engines or Googling Yourself

For good or ill, the phrase to "Google someone" is now in common use. Search engines are powerful tools that allow examination of where a resource is being cited, referenced, used, and discussed. For example, by using Google  [13] to search for the name of a project, one can see where it has been referenced. From the information found through Google, a project team can use that to better understand its constituents, glean information about how the project is being used and cited, and additionally, document its dissemination. For example, when using Google with the term ["publishers' bindings online"]  [14] the results give insight into the project and its dissemination. A Google search for the standard term "publishers" bindings" in quotation marks yields approximately 21,000 hits  [15]. Of the first ten hits, five of them related directly to the Publishers" Bindings Online project. A search done at the same time for the full name of the project, "publishers" bindings online, 1815-1930: the art of books" yields 304 hits, and the shortened and often used name "publishers" bindings online" yields 600 hits. Using Google, the top two search results for the very standard descriptive term "publishers' bindings" are from the PBO project, namely the PBO homepage and the PBO galleries page.

Exploring these references, it is useful for project participants to note references on blogs, and on library and other sites across the world. Documenting the use of a project website on other sites also serves as an excellent talking point for reports and press-related materials. For example, based on monitoring web references, the project teams could make a statement in a report to IMLS  [16] in March 2006: "The project has been referenced, reviewed, or mentioned by several dozen known websites and blogs from across the US and around the world, including sites in Finland, Spain, Germany, Japan, and South Africa."  [17]

.16 Dissemination: Remembering the Basics

It is critical to focus local efforts on all aspects of promoting the digital project, but it is often the most basic local activities which might be ignored or overlooked. Providing access to digital resource through the institution"s online public access catalog (OPAC) is a logical extension of outreach and marketing endeavors. If the institution is not in the practice of cataloging free online resources, this is an ideal opportunity to test this model. For Publishers" Bindings Online, the resource is a database as well, and is listed as part of the online database resource section of The University of Alabama Libraries website. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has provided a MARC record for the site in their OPAC, as has The University of Alabama.  [18]

Metatags or metadata in the HTML pages allow for spiders or crawlers to access information about the project that may not exist within the content of the pages itself.  [19] Metatags within the home page are critical to getting the project picked up by crawlers and spiders. Within the metatags of the PBO project index page, terms used include:

PBO, books, publishers, bindings, University, Alabama, Wisconsin, library, decorative, artistic, database, controlled, vocabulary, thesaurus, bibliography, art, deco, nouveau, eastlake, egyptian, revival, gothic, japonisme, neoclassicism, orientalism, poster, style, rococo, visual, literacy, gold, stamping, bookcloth, confederate, imprints, sarah, orne, jewett, wyman, whitman, lafcadio, hearn, will, bradley, margaret, armstrong, thomas, maitland, cleland, decorative, designers, john, feely, frank, hazen, hazenplug, amy, sacker

These words provide web crawlers with terms that pertain to the PBO project that might not appear on the index page of the site. This will allow individuals doing web searches to hit the PBO site using their search engine and perhaps access the site for more information.

.17 Dissemination and Scholarship

One of the most solid and productive ways to add credibility to any project and to reach audiences of initiated users is to seek out opportunities to present on aspects of the projects in academic settings. An outgrowth and logical component to any digital project development is to seek out venues appropriate to the content of the project, as well as the vehicle for delivery, and other areas where those interested in like subject matters and delivery methods would attend.

For the Publishers" Bindings Online project, the project manager has submitted several proposals for full panel and single paper presentations. The project manager and other PBO team members, including student participants, have presented at conferences for the Society of Alabama Archivists, the American Association for History and Computing, the American Historical Association, and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Preconference of the Association of College and Research Libraries. Additionally a full panel proposal was accepted for the Society of American Archivists for the 2007 conference in Chicago. Project participants at both the University of Alabama and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have also presented to small groups and in conjunction with relevant bibliographic instruction courses in history, American studies, and music.

.18 Word of Mouth: Creating a Buzz

According to Mark Hughes" book of the same name, "Buzzmarketing captures the attention of consumers and the media to the point where talking about your brand or company becomes entertaining, fascinating, and newsworthy..  [20] The importance of simply talking about a project should never be underestimated. This can happen in formal and informal settings. By creating excitement and being prepared to talk about endeavors at any time, the project team has opportunities to reach people in many new ways.

.19 The "Elevator Speech"

The foundation for publicizing and promoting anything lies in a deep and profound understanding of that idea, good, or service and how it functions. But there is also a need to present this information on the head of a pin. Sometimes known as "the elevator speech" [21], this is a statement that those involved with the project can make in 15 to 30 seconds that can give the gist of the project to just about anyone. A well-crafted elevator speech should serve to provide people a good sense of what the team and project does, and why anyone would care to know about it.

For example, PBO is often mentioned in this way:

"Publishers" Bindings Online is a collaborative project that provides virtual access to images as well as rich information about a collection of 19th and early 20th century book bindings. PBO is a web-based database and virtual galleries explore the many facets of books and imagery relating to books from 1815-1930. "

.20 Web 2.0: Social Media and Promoting Digital Projects

Web 2.0 is the oft-criticized name coined by O"Reilly Media in 2004 that serves as a buzzword for a new or second generation of web-based services including wikis, blogs, RSS, Ajax, and social bookmarking.  [22] We do seem to be awash in wikis, blogs and podcasts today. Information sharing has taken on new roles as experiences such as social bookmarking sites allow end users to save and comment upon sites they find useful and important.

Software and new technologies have also allowed the PBO team to bring new venues for the project. Using podcast and vodcast technology, PBO is developing a series of vodcasts about aspects of bindings and publishers" bindings to enhance the site and reach new audiences. These enhancements will be available on the site in early 2007. Additionally, a comprehensive tutorial will be available through streaming media on the PBO site in early 2007, with the option of downloading an .mpg4 version to personal devices.

The Sanford Media Resource and Design Center (The R&D) in The University of Alabama Libraries  [23] has a periodic podcast on digital resource development. By the project manager appearing on the show, Saving Often [24] and talking about the PBO project, new audiences again were accessed and an opportunity for a lengthy discussion about the project was obtained with minimal effort. Seeking out these alternative media opportunities cannot only prove fruitful, but by linking to the podcast from the project, additional value has been added to the project itself.

Web feeds, using real simple syndication (commonly known as RSS) technology is an effective way to push out news about a project to users.  [25] New sites such as Feedster  [26] aggregate these feeds through a searchable interface. Creating an RSS feed as part of a digital project site is an excellent method of informing constituents of news about the project. Another Web 2.0 development is social bookmarking. Social bookmarking allows users to save web bookmarks on a site, as well as tag, comment and provide keywords, and more importantly share bookmarks through a searchable interface. One of the most recent additions to social bookmarking sites is [27], which was launched in 2003. Searching the site for PBO yielded bookmarks by twenty-seven individuals starting in early November 2006. By looking at those who marked PBO, and the keywords applied (one user used the term "inspiration"), project participants can gain excellent qualitative data about who is using the site and why. Creating an account and applying metadata pertinent to the entire site through these social bookmaking sites allows for an increase in the profile of the site, and will, in turn, theoretically lead to more PBO users.

Publishers" Bindings Online, as well as other digital projects and resources, are actively promoting through sites such as, MySpace  [28], and Wikipedia  [29]. The application of metatags and key words, the use of related images and the ability to develop narrative, allow for users to find out about project and activities in new ways. While these methods do not adhere to any proscribed library or information technology applications, the audience does not care. Social sites such as MySpace are communities that actively engage users who are largely not on the site for research purposes. By creating a profile in sites such as MySpace, new audiences gain access and information about projects. Adding images and other useful information can increase traffic and buzz.

.21 A Case for "S.W.A.G."

This slang term of illicit origin has come to mean "free stuff"-and for college and high school students, as well as twenty-somethings in general, this free stuff has become a holy grail, both ubiquitous and expected.

"The term [often pronounced and spelled] schwag (or s.w.a.g. standing for "stuff we all get") or refers to all manner of logoed stuff given away by companies to get people to remember them, feel good about them, have their phone number and website at hand and generally make them think about them before any of their competitors. And studies show.... it works!!"  [30]

According to, its origins are in the recording industry, and "the chief difference between swag and regular merchandise is that its purpose is not to make a profit, but to promote the brand/label, and reward its supporters by giving them something cool and unique."  [31]. Buying into the notion of giveaways and looking for ways to create swag that has universal appeal has been something that cultural institutions should consider adopting. While not giving away beer coosies and stress balls, marketing a cultural heritage "product" though swag is an idea which makes great sense. It is especially useful to think about this in terms of the built-in marketability of a product or service that is especially visual by nature.

The Publishers" Bindings Online project is especially visual. Looking at a way to promote the project was one that was important from the beginning. It was critical to look for items that both were inexpensive, functional, and visual, and would have some form of tie-in with the project itself. The most natural choice for an initial promotional item was the bookmark.


The bookmarks themselves adhere to the same design principles of the website and have an overall look and style that complements the site and the project itself. The principle of branding shows through from the website to the bookmark, which follows the same color scheme, typeface, and overall look of the site.

In addition to the bookmark, the PBO project developed a single-page, sixteen month, 11x17 inch calendar. The calendars were distributed locally by the University of Alabama Libraries, and the master files were given to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries to use and brand locally as well. Wisconsin removed the calendar portion, changed the paper type and created an 11x17 giveaway poster. This level of flexibility worked for allowing the PBO site to be promoted both differently and at the same time, coherently.

For the development of ideas for giveaway items or swag, it is wise to look at the good or service itself, as well as the audience. A cultural heritage digital resource will be of interest to students, teachers, professors, scholars, and lifelong learners. Possible swag items include posters, postcards, mouse pads, mugs, and pencils or pens. It is also important to look for an item that will allow the showcasing of the "brand" and concept, and is cute, clever, or thought provoking. It should be something that people want to own.

Non-profits should also look towards the for-profit world for help with the manufacture of these items. Local companies may be willing to donate their services and provide a product or item free of charge.

.22 Documenting Promotional Activities

It is critical to document marketing, outreach and promotional activities for any digital project. For the PBO project, this includes a comprehensive Publicity and Outreach page  [32], which gives users insight into promotional activities, press, and other related items. It is also crucial to include as part of a digital project, an accurate and complete credits page, that gives information on project participants, both current and former, as well as contact information where appropriate. As part of the PBO site, a page also lists the most current new developments by date.  [33] This type of page is the foundation for an RSS feed, which provides information on new features to subscribers to the feed.

.23 Measuring Success and Google Analytics

Success is truly a subjective notion. Satisfaction with a job well done is often enough depending upon the goals of the project. Obtaining grant funding and seeking to meet specific benchmarks is one such way to measure success. It is also necessary to look at numbers, feedback and other methods to determine if the work has made a difference. Current technologies allow for many ways to determine the success of a project through identifying how the project"s information has been disseminated, how it is being used, and who exactly is using it.

There are powerful tools available that serve to help understand audiences, how they are using a site, and where problems, successes, and other issues may be. While this article is not the venue for an in-depth discussion of web statistics software, it merits mentioning a relatively new and free resource available through Google called Google Analytics.  [34] Using web statistics software can provide important insight into many aspects of use. Through the use of Google Analytics, a project team can gain a strong sense of who is using the site, how they are accessing it, and where they are going within the site. Using this information, promotional and outreach activity can be tailored to better suit the site, and problems can also be identified. Included in Google Analytics is extensive information about the product, including a blog-format site for users. The information available through the use of Google Analytics is enormous, and should be considered for any digital project where applicable.

.24 From the Virtual to the Real

Physical (as opposed to virtual) exhibitions are excellent ways to bring a digital project to life in the physical world. The development of a digital project allows for more knowledge about the subject matter, creating an excellent opportunity to link the virtual to the real. For the PBO project, both the University of Alabama Libraries and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have addressed this through the development of physical exhibition with a tie-in to the PBO digital project. By using the database and resources developed for PBO, the exhibit will be easier to develop and will already have an overall look and feel that mirrors the look of the PBO digital project. And by using resources such as a kiosk or workstation featuring PBO as part of the physical exhibit, there is further cross-pollination and promotion.

.25 Best Practices in a Nutshell

Through the development of the PBO project with a constant mind toward promoting and marketing the project itself, some best practices have surfaced which can be outlined here. These directives can serve as the foundation for promoting any digital project or program regardless of size, funding, or content.

  • Build a marketing plan into the overall timeline from the very beginning and continue to revisit it.
  • Develop an overall brand or look-a style with minimal modification but the ability to scale and expand - early on in the project.
  • Identify venues to promote the project both through print and online media, listservs, and other local, regional, national, and international sources.
  • Develop press releases periodically that point out aspects of the project. Look for new hooks each time-a research component, something unique that will get noticed.
  • Create releases custom to specific aspects or areas of the project to be promoted. Use listservs and mailing/emailing lists to promote the project and project team.
  • Look for venues to present the project to potential and current users. Focus on both academic venues and lay venues.
  • Work with teaching faculty and student groups.
  • Develop focus groups to better understand users and solicit feedback.
  • Develop giveaway items or "s.w.a.g." that will get people to think about the resource and use it.
  • Have an "elevator speech" at the ready and create a buzz-word of mouth really does work.

.26 Future Research

As the project expands beyond the original grant plan, and begins to include other institutions and work towards a portal or consortia model, the project teams will monitor dissemination, and old methods of dissemination to test longevity. The basis for understanding successful promotion of digital resources lies with the development of a successful digital resource itself. In order to write about, talk about, and promote actively a resource that requires time and commitment from its users, a product needs to be worth visiting and using. Unlike some grant projects, there is a long term commitment to the Publishers"" Bindings Online project, and it is inevitable and warranted that new research come from the use and long term success of the project itself.

.27 Conclusions

It is clear that it is not enough to simply create a digital resource or any project without looking for ways to be sure that its constituents or intended audiences know about the project. Without the benefit of publicizing and marketing tools to users, efforts will go unnoticed and unappreciated. For cultural institutions looking to build a digital program and to look beyond stand-alone projects, developing a long term plan for marketing a product is both sensible and necessary. For the PBO project, efforts and activities have allowed expansion beyond the two main institutions to add a small selection of new content for two other institutions. The contacts were made through publicity efforts, and all of the publicity efforts undertaken have proven to serve the project and its constituents well. Promoting, marketing, and providing outreach of digital projects is in fact a function of the project itself. And by working those aspects into the project from the start, the results will be richer and more accessible to all.

.28 Notes

1. Publishers" Bindings Online is accessible via the World Wide Web at

2. The Institute of Museum and Library Services, or IMLS is "the primary source of federal support for the nation"s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to grow and sustain a "Nation of Learners" because life-long learning is essential to a democratic society and individual success. Through its grant making, convenings, research and publications, the Institute empowers museums and libraries nationwide to provide leadership and services to enhance learning in families and communities, sustain cultural heritage, build twenty-first-century skills, and increase civic participation." []

3. The University of Alabama Libraries Website is available at

4. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries Website is available at

5. The staff and students who participated in the development of the PBO project are listed on the credits page, located at

6. The Publishers" Bindings Online glossary is accessible at and contains over 450 terms relating to publishers" bindings and binding history. These terms were compiled and arranged based on terms used and referenced in the following ten key sources: Glaister, Geoffrey. Encyclopaedia of the Book. Oak Knoll Press, 1996; Diehl, Edith. Bookbinding: Its Background and Technique. Dover, 1980; Carter, John. ABC for Book Collectors. Oak Knoll Press, 1998; Gaskell, Philip. A New Introduction to Bibliography. Oak Knoll Press, 1995; Gascoigne, Bamber. How to Identify Prints.... Thames and Hudson, 1986; Gettens, Rutherford and George Stout. Painting Materials.... Dover, 1966; American Pulp & Paper Association. The Dictionary of Paper. APPA, 1940; Osborne, Harold, ed. The Oxford Companion to the Decorative Arts. OUP, 1991; Hunter, Dard. Papermaking: The History and Technique.... Dover, 1978.; Roberts, M. and D. Etherington. Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books. LC, 1982.

7. Part of the PBO project is to provide end users with a master bibliography of print and online resources. This working document is available at

8. The grant narrative, as well as extensive information about the PBO project is available on the PBO website, under the section, "About the Project," accessible at

9. Information about the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative can be found at

10. The PBO Project Manual is accessible at and provides users with information on all aspects of the project. Initially developed as an internal communication and information tool, a public manual was created to provide users insight into the project and its development and to give valuable information about how and why the PBO project functions, as well as specific details about style, format, etc.

11. / is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Web.

12. The PBO survey distributed in summer 2006 is available at

13. Google is accessible at

14. Visit For this exercise, the web search using Google was executed on November 27, 2006, 5:20 pm CST.

15. For more information on Boolean searching and understanding search strategies, visit, part of, a site developed by Laura Cohen of The University at Albany.

16. From IMLS Grant Award No. LG0303004403 2003 National Leadership Grants for Libraries Preservation or Digitization Report 5: October 1, 2005 - March 31, 2006, available at


18. The University of Alabama Libraries" OPAC is accessible to anyone via the World Wide Web at The University of Wisconsin-Madison"s Library site is but OPAC access is restricted to registered users. A keyword search for "publishers" bindings online" will result in the MARC record for the project.

19. A thorough description of HTML and metatags is clearly outlined as part of W3C [] document, on HTML 4.01 Specification, section 7 entitled the global structure of an HTML document, available at

20. Referenced in Hughes, Mark. Buzzmarketing. London, England: Penguin Group, 2005., p. 2.

21. Melymuka, Kathleen. "The Elevator Speech." Computerworld; 4/7/2003, Vol. 37 Issue 14, p. 42.

22. According to Wikipedia, itself a trailblazing resource for this generation of web users, "Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O'Reilly Media in 2004, refers to a supposed second-generation of Internet-based services - such as social networking sites, wikis, communication tools, and folksonomies - that emphasize online collaboration and sharing among users. O'Reilly Media, in collaboration with MediaLive International, used the phrase as a title for a series of conferences and since 2004 it has become a popular (though ill-defined and often criticized) buzzword amongst certain technical and marketing communities."

23. The Sanford Media Resource and Design Center (R&D), part of The University of Alabama Libraries, is a state-of the art digital media lab built for students at The University of Alabama. Through the efforts of the R&D, The University of Alabama community has grown enormously in the past two years with regard to new technologies.


25. A web feed is defined as "a data format used for serving users" frequently updated content. Content distributors syndicate a web feed, thereby allowing users to subscribe to it. []


27. MySpace is accessible at Search for publishers" bindings online to view PBO"s profile.

28. Wikipedia is accessible at for publishers" bindings online to find the PBO project in Wikipedia.


30. From [] Promotional Products for the Human Race


32. The PBO Publicity page is accessible at

33. The New@PBO page is accessible at

34. The site offers extensive information about the product and use as well as support and a blog on the software and its use.