they saw hope pass by... the power of photographs

Sometimes all of this talk of new technology -- especially web 2.0 technology -- can dilute the intent, the purpose of using it in the first place. To help soften the noise around a couple technologies and offer some straight talk about how to use them, this past Monday, TechSoup offered a free webinar on Twitter and Flickr. I was tasked with answering questions in the chat area, and had the opportunity to learn how others were using these technologies, and in particular, how they were using them well. Among some of the stories, were how Twitter was used to provide instant updates during the aftermath of the earthquake in China and how Obama uses Twitter to share information about his campaign. I learned how non-profits, like the Humane Society, are using Flickr to make their work more visible, to connect their networks, and to put a human--or furry--face on their mission.

The latter is something I think about a lot, especially as more libraries are using Flickr to promote programs, to illustrate the value of libraries, and to spotlight the patrons--the people--who visit and benefit from the library's resources. Photos can tell quite a story, and sometimes that story isn't made clear until it is caught on film. One of my recent favorite Flickr sites showcases old photos of Nebraska libraries. What a terrific way to share an archive from the Nebraska Library Commission. The photos open a window to history using technology, and offer a new perspective for those, in the case of these NE photos, who may live in a Nebraska town, or who are interested in old library buildings, or who, like me, happen to have grown up in Nebraska.

This brings me to what caught my attention this weekend as I read the New York times and viewed the photos taken from the train that carried Robert F. Kennedy's coffin. Intially, this particular photographer wasn't focused on chronicling the people waiting near the tracks, but began taking photographs once he recognized the constancy and the gravity of entire communities standing, waiting, to see someone they admired so, and someone who filled them with hope. The photos are powerful, moving, and evocative, and when shown with the photographer's audio commentary, extraordinary.

So what does this mean for libraries? Unintended stories often surface in photos, and often weave a richer tale than words alone. Do you use photos to tell a story? Did you capture a series of seemingly disconnected moments, and then weave a story by rearranging the photos? Are you making hese photos available to the public? Please share your experiences with us, and be sure to include how you use photos to tell a story about your library.