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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 14.0° F  Overcast
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Follow Friday with the UW Digital Collections: @UWdigiCollec
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Every Friday, Twitter users (or "tweeters," if you want to be colloquial) suggest feeds for other users to follow. It's called "Follow Friday." In Madison, an active community of bloggers, journalists, marketing professionals and others has sprung up, communicating with 140 characters or less.

Melissa McLimans and Vicki Tobias, librarians with the UW-Madison Digital Collections
@UWdigiCollec

Description (140 characters)

Links to bizarre WI historical photos and documents, accompanied by funny captions. Educational, cool, and strange with a dash of nostalgia.

Recent Tweets:

Africa and the US may be vastly different, but we can agree that food on a stick is a good thing: http://ow.ly/2l6Qq

Condescension, pride and old timey sexism in this 1927 article about UW Engineering at the State Fair: http://ow.ly/2kWQW The trifecta!

Here's the Prince of Siam in a biplane. Also pictured, dude in awesome beret: http://ow.ly/2hfbp

The librarians at the UW-Madison Digital Collections like to view Twitter as a tool for outreach. Melissa McLimans says, "It's an easy way to reach out to users and potential users to highlight little gems in our collections."

And these gems are really quite outstanding. A few times a day, Melissa and Vicki tweet links to items in the vast collections owned by the university. "We like the stuff that's unique, odd, rare, and inexplicable," Vicki explains. Melissa adds, "We're the type of people who embrace the bizarre, and that matches up with the people who use Twitter."

Vicki and Melissa are part of a social media group on campus that meets monthly. The group's membership has tripled in size in the past year. Vicki and Melissa have definitely seen an increase in the use of the digital collections since they first began their Twitter use a year ago. "More people know about us now," Melissa says. Vicki adds, "Because of relationships we've formed with the Twitter account, we've raised awareness of the existence of the digital collections. More people request to use the images in local publications now than they did before, and I think that's fantastic."

The UW Digital Collections Twitter feed is also, according to Melissa, an amazing representation of the Wisconsin Idea; they are using university resources to provide people around the world with these historical images, newspapers and other documents. "There are 70,000 images in our online collections," Melissa says. "I remind myself daily about the amazing things that are in there."

The digital collections are a great resource, but a lot of people don't know they even exist. Vicki notes, "We don't really have the opportunity to interact with our patron base like a traditional librarian would. This is the first time since I've been in this job that we've actually connected with people who use our stuff."

The feedback has been impressive. Some Twitter users simply @ reply (or "write back to") the @UWdigiCollec account with comments like, "Neat photo!" and "I've been there!" Sometimes, the librarians note, people correct them, and this helps improve the collection. "And they're usually right," says Melissa. Receving an @ reply and responding to it is much less formal and time-consuming than replying to an email, so they can have a more casual and fun relationship with their potential user base.

Why should you follow @UWdigiCollec on Twitter? Vicki says, "If you follow our Twitter feed, at some point, you'll find something appealing to you. Discover our collections, enjoy them, and then use them for the way you see fit." Melissa adds, "We're fun and we're accessible and we show a picture of Madison and of the state that you might have not seen before."

Find the UW Digital Collections on Twitter at twitter.com/UWdigiCollec

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