I wanted to pass along this paper by a library school student at Catholic University on blogging in libraries. Our own blog and Elizabeth Periale figure very positively in the work.—Martin kalfatovic, Head, Digital Services Division
Blogging in Libraries, Stephanie Maxwell, November 9, 2010
Like many aspects of life, libraries can always count on things to be constantly changing, and often the mark of a successful library is the ways in which they handle, manage, and react to a constantly changing environment. Although this applies to many aspects of the library, the evolution of technology is certainly one of the most crucial and defining challenges that libraries have to work with and respond to. Libraries have gone through many changes when it comes to technology over the years—automation, self-check-out services, website adoption, online catalogs, and adopting habits to the now ubiquitous nature of the internet being some examples. In today’s internet- and technology-driven society, the question of Web 2.0 is one that many libraries of all types are grappling with—how can libraries use Web 2.0 technology to better reach and inform their users, improve the services the library provides, and remain relevant in today’s society? The ways that people interact with and receive their information is changing and the ways that libraries are interacting with their users is changing as well. Alton Chua and Dion Goh introduce their study on Web 2.0 applications in libraries by saying,
To move in tandem with the rapidly expanding universe of digital information resources, libraries all over the world are striving to offer high-quality online experiences on their websites. Meanwhile, a number of libraries, particularly those in the United States, are shifting their perceptions of users from mere information consumers to producers and architects of information. (203)
One such Web 2.0 tool that is being utilized to offer a new kind of library experience is blogging. New blogs pop up every day, but do these blogs have staying power? Are they effective for the purpose, mission, and users of the library? What are the positive and negative consequences of beginning and maintaining a blog? Although blogging may seem like a very straightforward task for a library, there are several issues to be considered and weighed before implementing a blog and libraries must consider these issues before beginning one.
First, it may be helpful to define “blog” in order to fully understand the concept. One of the simplest and most concise definitions of a blog can be found in Lu and Lee’s article, “Demographic Differences and the Antecedents of Blog Stickiness.” They define a blogs as: “websites with articles and commentaries displayed chronologically” (Lu and Lee 21). This is a very basic definition of a blog and while it captures the format properties of a blog, Amanda Etches-Johnson, author of the article “The Library Blog: Serving Users and Staying Relevant,” writes, “Much like the rest of the Internet, a weblog is in fact different things to different people, and that is what makes defining it so problematic” (32). The blog as “thing” has a very simple and solid definition, but what a blog is or means aesthetically and contextually to a specific institution or user can vary greatly by blog. For libraries in particular, it is important to first address their definition and idea of a blog before actually implementing one. There are different types of blogs that libraries around the world have instituted, and David Lee King and Stephanie Willen Brown give examples of what libraries can do with blogs: “communicate with your patrons, start conversations about various topics, promote new books, videos, or what’s new at the library, deliver an internal staff newsletter, offer subject guide current awareness, reach customers where they are” (36). Defining the purpose of the blog seems to be the first step in the creation of a successful blog—having purpose can drive the postings and the motivation for maintaining the blog.
Because of the seemingly constant inundation of Web 2.0 applications and features in daily life, it may seem as though every library should already have a blog. Etches-Johnson even says,
Librarians were surfing even before surfing became a metaphor for trolling the Internet, and blogs provide the perfect format to present that material … . It is not surprising then that creating, maintaining, and reading weblogs feels like a natural extension of what librarians have been doing for most of their professional lives. For most librarians who maintain weblogs on a regular basis, publishing content to their blogs is part of an established personal ritual of keeping current by reading through library literature, listserv subscriptions, newsletters, zines, and other blogs. Sharing that content rises out of the collegiality that is such a defining principle of the library profession. (34)
This is certainly true—for centuries, librarians have been “filtering” information for users, letting them know what is good information and alerting them to reliable resources while also promoting their collections. In this light, it seems that the question would be, “Why not have a blog?” In fact, in their study on Web 2.0 trends in libraries, King and Brown claim that libraries have to blog and use other Web 2.0 tools because, “ … these tools are relevant to the next generation, and if libraries are not using Web 2.0, they will lose those patrons as they are already using these tools with eBay, Amazon, and even within newspaper websites” (39). If a library does not have a blog, does that make it irrelevant in today’s society? I do not think that this is necessarily true, and rather, believe that all libraries should at least consider blogging, but must weigh the implications of doing so.
There seems to be a general consensus in the library community on the most positive aspect of blogging, and this is best summed up by Etches-Johnson when she writes, “Apart from offering fresh library content on a regular basis, weblogs provide all the necessary tools to turn a library website into a collaborative network that encourages, and indeed thrives on, community participation and interaction, two of the cornerstones of the library as a community institution” (37). A library blog can provide a place in the “cyber-world” where people can seek out and form communities based on their interests as well as provide a place where users can interact in their own library experience, informing it based on their own proclivities. Also, King and Brown recognize the importance of the interaction between the librarian and the user that a blog can better foster when they stress the importance of a blog’s ability to support commenting options (34). Often, the librarian in the library can seem removed from the user—at the library, they are behind a desk and computer and they may be seen in a very professional and often harsh light, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but for some users may make them unapproachable. The introduction of a blog, however, has potential to break that barrier between user and librarian, allowing a librarian to possibly share their own personal experiences and interests with users and allow those users to respond to and converse with librarians. In this vein, another positive consequence of a blog is the exposure of the collection. No matter the type, size, or location of the library, a blog can be used to showcase the collection, alerting the community to new acquisitions, unique materials, and resources provided by the library. The blog can be used as a method of constantly making current and possible users aware of old and new resources, encouraging the community to use the library and what it has to offer.
To be continued, tomorrow …
Chua, Alton Y.K., and Dion H. Goh. “A Study of Web 2.0 Applications in Library Websites.” Library & Information Science Research 32 (2010): 203-211.
Crosby, Connie. Effective Blogging for Libraries. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010.
Etches-Johnson, Amanda. “The Library Blog: Serving Users and Staying Relevant.” Last One Out Turn Off the Lights. Ed. Susan E. Cleyle and Louise M. McGillis. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2005. 31-44.
King, David Lee, and Stephanie Willen Brown. “Emerging Trends, 2.0, and Libraries.” The Serials Librarian 56.1 (2009): 32-43.
Lu, Hsi-Peng, and Ming-Ren Lee. “Demographic Differences and the Antecedents of Blog Stickiness.” Online Information Review 34.1 (2010): 21-38.
Periale, Elizabeth. Personal interview. 2 Nov. 2010.