[Guest Post] LetterMo Goes to University
February 16, 2016 in Journal
It was a Goulet Pens email that first caught my eye–a message about stationary (for which I am a total sucker) and matching envelopes, and a note on how these items were currently available for sale “…just in time for InCoWriMo!”
I had never heard of InCoWriMo, so I did what any fountain-pen and stationary obsessed librarian does–I Googled it. When I read all about InCoWriMo, and next about LetterMo, I was totally hooked–I love to write letters, I have a ton of vintage fountain pens that I love to use, lots of pretty coloured inks, and a veritable overstuffed shelf of cards and writing paper/envelopes that I could use. The question wasn’t if I was going to participate in LetterMo, the question was HOW was I going to do so?
If I chose to simply write my own letters that would be fantastic in and of itself–a fun thing for me to do all on my own. But my job as an academic librarian at a very accepting and open-to-new-ideas library means that I can frequently blur the line between what I want to do for myself, and what I can do in my office and count it as “work”. I put on my thinking cap and started pondering–and didn’t immediately come up with any ideas. It wasn’t until a day or two later while talking to my art librarian colleague that I mentioned my interest in LetterMo–and casually let drop that my initial interest in writing letters was spurred on by the Griffin and Sabine books by the amazing author/illustrator Nick Bantock.
Now, my colleague, being a good 10 years younger than me, had never heard of Griffin and Sabine before, which in my mind was a true travesty! We consulted our library catalog and much to my delight and amazement despite this being an academic library, we had all three volumes of the first Griffin and Sabine trilogy.
As I was walking to the second floor to pull the books to show her, the idea suddenly occurred to me: what if for every day in February, I was to not only write and post a letter, but to also call attention to a ‘famous’ letter found in one of our library books? I could write up a daily post on the library’s Tumblr account, and post pictures, include links to the library catalog records for that book, etc. And all of a sudden, that was it. I could write my letters and make the whole endeavor academic at the same time–highlighting various titles in our library collection and bringing our student’s attention to some (hopefully) new authors they had never seen or read before.
February is just about halfway over, and so far I have been able–by the skin of my teeth!–to keep up. Every day, I have posted about a ‘Book of Letters’, and included various pictures of the book’s cover or title page, and a snapshot of a portion of the letter itself. I have also written and mailed at least one letter every day, and likewise through our social media outlets have included snapshots of each letter, envelope, stamps, stickers, or wax seal–depending on what each letter does or doesn’t have and what I think folks might like to see the best.
I daily put up tweets on the library’s Twitter account highlighting whatever has been detailed on that day, and also have been adding several pictures to the library’s Instagram page on a daily basis as well.
While I cannot yet say for certain that I have inspired dozens of our students to begin writing letters, I can happily say that the response (at least via our Instagram site) has been extremely positive and gratifying. Every day the Instagram account gets upwards of 25 ‘likes’ from a wide variety of folks, and we have been averaging 1-2 new followers every day since February 1st. Official student groups have started to follow us, the Chief of Police of our town regularly likes our photos, and libraries from all over the world have been giving us a virtual thumbs-up.
When February is finally over, and March 1st rolls around I am not too sure what I will do. Survey our students to see how many actually saw and/or read the posts? Ask via Instagram if folks would like to see this again in 2017? Ask if anyone out there would like to write to me c/o the library? I haven’t yet decided what will be the best to do, but already know for certain that LetterMo2016 has been an extremely fun and gratifying event–and that even if I don’t do it in the guise of work next time around, I’ll be participating in LetterMo2017 for sure!
(After all, I did give in and bought new writing paper, envelopes, stickers, and wax seal stamps for the project, so it isn’t like I will run out of fun supplies anytime soon!)
If anyone is interested in following along for the rest of the month, follow my library’s Tumblr account and our Instagram photo feed. If you feel so inspired, please do join us–the more, the merrier!