Recently, a colleague of mine stumbled across North Cumberland Historical Society’s webpage while cataloguing. Rather than a static website, they’ve decided to use Wetpaint, one of the many options for wikis. I think this is a very clever idea. What really grabbed my attention is that, right on the front page, they announce that this is a website that can be built together – by the community and the members of the historical society.
I’ve always been an active member in my local historical society, and I’ve found that while there is a plethora of knowledge among its members, there are others in the town who also have stories, knowledge and mementos that contribute to our town’s collective history. By creating a website that allows the community to contribute to it, they have opened the historical society to the entire community.
Students can contribute while working on class projects, inviduals working on their family’s geneology, and citizens who remember the town as it was “back when” will have a venue for contributing to this website.
This is a terrific example of social software being used to build a community, and making it the community’s organization, rather than an organization for its members. I applaud the historical society’s ability to let go of the reigns and loosen the control that many organizations have trouble with.
This same concept can easily be applied to our own library websites and catalogues. And, I know that many of you are attempting to do just that.