Where Research is a Delight!
HeardTell, the North Carolina Room blog was born on July 7, 2013 at Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, North Carolina. HeardTell‘s mother was Susan Toole and she was assisted in the delivery by N.C. Room staff Ann Wright, Betsy Murray and Zoe Rhine.
Susan was working at Pack as an intern for her library degree. For one class she needed to assist a public library with a technological advance, such as creating a blog. I nabbed her. At the time, I had never read a blog, and am not sure I could have said exactly what one was. But Susan sat us down and with much patience taught us what we needed to know to steer the thing. She met with us over several months and we planned and talked and talked and worked with Ed Sheary, then library director, on how to have a blog on a county website.
I researched other local history collection blogs like Forsyth County’s Public Library blog, and their use of WordPress which Susan was familiar with. I was quite taken by the blog at UCLA and also Brooklyn Public Library’s Special Collection’s blog, Brooklynology. The Brooklyn library was looking for ways to demystify its collection and reach a wider public audience to let them know the collection wasn’t just for scholars or professional genealogists. They also saw the blog as a way to get to the people in the community who were interested in the city’s history. And the blog was a way for the special collections staff to convey their enthusiasm for their work and the collections under their care.
I wanted our new blog to have a name fitting to where it came from–something southern, colloquial. We ended up with an index card with about 15 possible names some of which were: News Bits, News Bites, Bits & Pieces, Intelligencer (Ed Sheary’s suggestion), You’ns Do’ns (Ed Sheary’s suggestion), Whimmy Diddle, Listen At, Rattle Trap, Run Ago, A Straddle, Say What. . .we were getting closer. Then I landed on “heard tell.” If you hear tell (of) something, someone tells you about it. “Have you heard tell anything new about Asheville history?” It had a nice connection with the oral story tradition.
One of our initial concerns was marketing. How would we get people to know about the blog? Susan said, “If we can get patrons to go to the site one time and be intrigued enough to sign up, then that will go a long way.”
Our first post was Local History Woo on July 7, 2013 which was about one of many supernatural occurrences we have had in the NC Room. [*Woo-Woo (or just plain woo) adj. “concerned with emotions, mysticism, or spiritualism; other than rational or scientific; mysterious; new agey.”]
A year later we created a Facebook page to use as a driver for the blog and it has worked very well. A note to readers: Facebook will not automatically send you every HeardTell post. So if you want to be sure you see every one, sign up for it on our WordPress blog site.
We aim at posting once a week. By the end of our first year 3,437 people had viewed our blog. In 2014 we had 14,988 views. In 2015 we had 26,186 views, which brings us to today, December 2, with 52,591 views. We have posted 175 posts.
HeardTell‘s top five posts (click on any to read):
#1 Ever Wonder How Asheville Got To Be So Cool with 12,904 views.
#2 Stone Soup: An Entirely Different Approach to Social Services with 1,784 views.
#3 Grace: A Community That Got Absorbed by an Avenue with 1,645 views
#4 South Slope: The Demolition, 1926 with 1,156 views
#5 1980s Asheville Revisited with 1,139 views.
Many thanks to former Preservation Clerk Betsy Murray for her early enthusiasm in the blog and for her many great posts. Some of her exceptional early posts that I recall, in our early readership days were:
Post by Zoe Rhine & Creative photography work by Ione Whitlock.