By: Jessica Showalter
The Penn State Altoona Eiche Library has a large special collection of over 500 WWII-era letters written by former students and faculty members, and we have been exploring ways to draw attention to this collection as well as our other archival holdings. Because this collection centers on WWII, we decided to build a social media campaign for the anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944.
We ran the campaign from June 4-8, 2018 on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The week before the campaign began, we published an announcement about the campaign on our social media channels to build excitement. We also shared a news release with our local Penn State Altoona news liaisons.
During each day of the campaign, we posted an excerpt from one of the WWII letters. We chose five letters that specifically mentioned the preparation for, fighting of, or aftermath of D-Day. Four of the soldiers were former students, and one soldier was a faculty member. We also did biographical research on each of the letter-writers to add more context.
Keeping in mind the importance of visuals for online writing, we created an eye-catching template for the quotations. We found a public domain image of D-Day using Wiki Commons, which we used for the background. Then we superimposed the block quote from the letter and added an attribution including the soldier’s name, branch, and letter date. The attribution text box was bright blue to add some more visual interest. We used the same photograph, typeface, and shade of blue in our other announcements to keep the style consistent across the campaign.
Retweets and shares from the social media accounts of Penn State Libraries, Penn State Altoona, Penn State, Penn State Altoona History Department, Baker Mansion, and others gave us a much-appreciated signal boost.
Some of the comments we received:
• “Jim was in my class at AHS. I knew him well.”
• “Check out this wonderful initiative from our friends at the Penn State Altoona Library.”
• “What an awesome treasure at the Eiche Library at Penn State Altoona!”
• “It is good to share our history! Especially since we are PENN STATE!”
• “Great idea for a social media campaign coming from our Libraries colleagues at @eichelibrary.”
• “Follow @EicheLibrary to see more powerful images of #DDay on the 74th anniversary of the Allied Invasion of Normandy.”
Although we often hear that Facebook is a dying medium, especially for the under 25 age group, we had a robust response on Facebook, particularly with alumni and current faculty and
staff. For a campaign focused on bringing attention to archives that might be useful not only for students but also for faculty, staff, or local history researchers, we still think Facebook is a useful channel.
Obstacles we faced include having small numbers of followers and running the campaign during the summer months when less students are on campus. In the future, we plan to explore ways to increase followers and run campaigns focused on other topics, perhaps
library services or our archival sports-related items. We may also consider sharing campaigns of local interest with local news stations.