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Richmond-Upper Clarence Regional Library and Instagram for local studies

This is a guest post by Ngarie Macqueen, Richmond-Upper Clarence Regional Library.

The Richmond-Upper Clarence Regional Library (RUCRL) was established in 1978, and supports the information needs of around 32 000 people in the Richmond Valley and Kyogle Council areas in the Far North Coast area of NSW. These areas include: three country towns, smaller villages, rainforest, river, ocean, and farming areas. At this time, the RUCRL does not have a separate local history policy, although it is a recognised part of the collection development policy. We are currently exploring options to be able to support a digital local history repository for our library service, and were therefore very enthusiastic to take the opportunity to participate in this trial, to be able to explore a new way of looking at local history knowledge,  and to gain an understanding of our area that we may better support our local culture as well as our  knowledge of ourselves.

The process has been smooth so far, with huge thanks to very supportive member of our IT department, Ellen at the State Library,  our regional library manager, and the open and helpful information given by the Icelab team who were involved in the setup of the project. This support has made the process seamless, stress-free, and enjoyable.

One of the issues raised by this process is that Instagram is used on mobile devices using the internet, and we are in a lower-socioeconomic regional area where access to good quality internet and devices is not always easily accessible. There are individuals living in our area who currently have no access to mobile phone reception, and only have access to the internet via expensive satellite internet plans, if they can afford it. This means that these individuals  may be less likely to upload photos to social media, particularly from their location, if they are living in these outlying rural areas. In addition, most Instagram users are under the age of 35, which means that a large percentage of the population is not using this social media tool which will also play a role in the variety of content of the images that will be available for harvesting.

Another important issues has been in deciding on the list of hashtags to use for the image harvesting process. Hashtags can be viewed as a folksonomic approach to connecting online content. Hashtags are a way to brand and market an organisation, as well as supporting engagement, connection, or simply for future recall. Hashtags can be broad, such as #libraries or very specific, such as #librarybooksmell. Taking all this into consideration, I took the time to research the locations, towns, activities, and cultural groups and festivals that make up our area as a starting place to begin image harvesting process. I was working towards creating an image collection that would be as accurate a reflection of our area as possible.

Another issue that has arisen during the process so far, is the use of terms that are specific to our area, yet not specific enough. The Bundjalung nation covers an area from around Tweed Heads in the north, to Yamba in the south and out to Warwick in the west. Though the use of  #bundjalung in our list has retrieved some wonderful images, it has also delivered many images from a wider geographical area. I have had to make decisions as to whether we should include some images that may not be located in our local government area and how this changes the collection overall. I have been spending time looking at the location where a photo was taken (if that’s available), or looking at the additional hashtags used on the image to get a clearer picture of the suitability for the collection on an image by image basis.

Will our image collection contain cows and farmland? Yes.


Does any other town hold a cattle comp in the Main Street? #casinobeefweek

A post shared by Susanna Freymark (@susannafreymark) on

Will it contain beaches, oceans and country towns? Yes.But it will also be more than that. We’ve already been able to add in photos from the devastating flood event that has occurred earlier  this year. Although the flood has meant so much loss for many in our community, this image harvesting and archiving process means that we have records for future use. Images that can be utilised by those wanting to have an idea of what has occurred. Not simply what someone has written about the experience, but a more personal account of what they saw, and what they chose to share, at the moment in time in which it occurred.

The Richmond-Upper Clarence Regional Library images can be seen here