Helping others help with your message


Helping others help with your message – engaging with colleagues at the National Library of Scotland

My name is Stewart Hardy and I am a marketing officer at the National Library of Scotland. I have primary responsibility for the Library’s social media channels.

stweart with owl

What is the National Library of Scotland? In a word: amazing. Marketers all over the world sometimes have good products to promote, more often they have OK products and, rarely, they have terrible products. In my opinion we have one of the best products in the world: stupendous amounts of knowledge and culture, available to all, and nearly always without costing a penny. How amazing is that? Who wouldn’t want something like that to market?

In fact, the very breadth and depth of the Library’s collections can sometimes work against us. Since starting here, it has taken a long time for me to get my head around the true size and scale of our collections and what we have, why we have it, how it can help and when to promote various things. To put this into context, we have over 26 million items in our collections (it’s better if you say it quickly). I am still nowhere near mastering my knowledge of our collections, but in a way this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I always have expert curators and other staff members to help me.

So. Having established that I work in a pretty special place, now we come to social media. One of the advantages of social media is its power of both immediacy and – I obviously mean this in a professional sense – intimacy, between an organisation and its audience. This comes from the organisation being able to talk to you and connect you with things that matter to you. One of the massive advantages of a Library like ourselves is that whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you live, we will have something of interest to you. Guaranteed.

This goes beyond being able to take advantage of pretty much any trending hashtag out there, to being able to provide meaningful links between you and your cultural, historical, scientific, artistic and, well, geographic world.

But without the involvement of colleagues in the library, it is very hard – indeed near impossible – to bring the collections to life in a balanced and rich way, especially as a member of a corporate department. That is why engaging with your colleagues is vital. At the Library we have tried to do this in two ways:

Number one – engaging those who post on social media on behalf of the Library. At the Library we have several (about eleven) Library and associated Twitter accounts that are generally run by individual departments (and generally by individuals in those departments). In the last year we held our first-ever Twitter forum in which the departmental Twitterers had a chat about social media – insights, techniques, tools, tips, advice. It worked well and was followed up by creating an internal email list for us all to swap ideas, trending hashtags and more. We’ve added to that by building a Library-wide accessible content calendar and began a series of presentations about social media for all staff in the Library. We’re still some way off from being a fully-integrated social media aware organisation, but the little steps above have made noticeable differences. Now, on to:

Number two – go to staff to see the collections and their own work. Curators are the gatekeepers and experts on their specific parts of their collections. They can tell you about and show you parts of the collections you never knew existed.

So far in my time at the Library nothing has beaten walking around our stacks, just looking at the assortment of items we have (and our items are shelved by size and date of receipt so we often have a huge assortment of books, even on one shelf). I have always been accompanied by curators, who have been excellent in pointing out things of potential interest as well as highlighting specific areas.

fanny cradock.png

You can also show those staff members that the public may not see in their usual interaction with a Library, Staff members such as John, pictured here. Not only does this showing provide a platform of exposure for staff but it adds value to our followers, who get to see something (or someone) they wouldn’t see if they just walked in to our building.

behind the scenes
A #behindthescenes poster showing John, an Acquisitions Assistant with the National Library


Finally, seeing some of the amazing work done by our colleagues can help with visualising another purpose for it. The example pictured below is of a composite map of Scotland, made of 24 different historical maps held in our Map Department collections. It was made by a talented colleague called Jenny Parkerson for another colleague’s leaving present. I am sure that most of you who work in marketing would also see this map, see the number 24 and, like us, think ’24, an advent calendar number.’ So that’s what we did. We repurposed this map and made… wait for it… #cartogradvent which ran on Twitter last year. PS – lesson learned we should also have run it on Facebook. Still, there’s always this year.


In summary I hope this post has given you a little insight into the National Library. I would love to write a blog post about our tone of voice further down the line so let me know if that’s something you’d like to know about.


National Library Scotland Twitter

Stewart Hardy’s Twitter

Stewart Hardy’s Linkedin

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