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LibAnswers helps libraries win the race!

Here’s a “too good not to share” story from our friends at Albuquerque/Bernalillo County (ABC) Libraries, who published a LibAnswer that received 11,000+ views in 5 days.

An online trivia contest (“Outwit the West” – top prize: $1 million dollars) recently caused an internet sensation, and a patron submitted one of the questions from the contest to ABC Librarians via LibAnswers’ SMS service. The question was:

What horse won the 800 yard Christmas Day race between Perico and Dude in Fairview NM in 1886?

Before they could respond to the original SMS, ABC Librarians started seeing the question crop up in multiple channels – through LibAnswers, phone calls, and emails. And the answer was ambiguous: The race was scheduled in Fairview, NM on Christmas Day, 1866 – but was won, by Perico, on January 10th, in Chloride, NM – and the library’s considerable archives offered no information on what happened in between.

What happened next is a great example of jumping head first into social media. Using LibAnswers, ABC Librarian Anne Lefkofsky was able to quickly publish the info the library had on the race. The answer’s URL was shared in contest discussion forums, and it spread like wildfire. As trivia hunters asked for more details, library staffers updated the answer with more source materials. When patrons called the library, staff emailed them the answer with two clicks. Meanwhile, LibAnswers’ built-in Search Engine Optimization meant the answer quickly rose to the top of internet search rankings.

The real-time statistics in LibAnswers let the ABC Librarians know how popular the question had become. Within a few hours of posting, the answer had 500 hits; by the next day, 5,000. Driven by the popularity of this topic, ABC Librarians created a new LibGuide that compiled links to climate data, maps of the towns involved, images, and user link submission. Not long afterward, a librarian from the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library in Santa Fe, NM submitted a link to a photo of the elusive newspaper that explained exactly what happened on Christmas Day, 1886 in Fairview, NM. Pretty amazing, right!?

The end result? Eleven thousand people found the ABC Libraries LibAnswer, which now linked them to a resource only available at another library. Talk about librarians using technology to improve services and collaboration! When we contacted David Hurley (Digital Services Manager at the ABC Library System) about the story, he put things in context: If those 11,000 hits saved the time spent answering a hundred phone calls or emails to our Special Collections library, then LibAnswers paid for itself with one question. And us? We’re really pleased that LibAnswers and LibGuides got to play a small part in a success story like this. Way to go, Albuquerque/Bernalillo County Librarians – you rock!

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