The Blogographic Record

Social media and libraries.  They don’t necessarily seem to go together, do they?  Sometimes we forget that libraries are key parts of the community, and not just places to check out materials.  As pointed out by Terri Bennett, the director of the Webster Public Library in New York, “the more human we look, the more we personalize our services, the more connected we will be to our patrons” (Brookover 2007, p. 28).

However, in terms of social networking, blogging is probably the tool that makes the most sense for a library to utilize at first glance. They are simple, require nothing more of the blogger than a command of the English language, and can reach patrons who can’t physically come into the library.  They are searchable–so if a patron is trying to find information in Google, the library’s blog might come up as a resource.  They are even useful internally; perhaps you can’t have a department meeting, and you don’t want to clog up your inbox.  “Tools such as blogs can offer enhanced methods of organizing information—from searching to categorizing, to updating, to responding to, to embellishing with added links, to uploading files and preserving the information for future use and retrieval” (Rodriguez 2010, p. 112).  Blogs serve to inform not only patrons, but also library staff.

Yet there are also problems with blogs. The main issue is the time factor–regular updates and maintenance are necessary to keep blogs alive and spam-free.  Someone would need to read every blog entry and comment to assure that nothing untoward shows up (Oguz & Holt 2011, p. 174-175).  How do you decide what to blog about?  Do you just update patrons on new materials, new programs and exhibits?  Or do you highlight other things–like local authors, local events, little-known resources?  Do you blog as if you are being asked a reference question?  Do you want to provide blogging opportunities for patrons, or just staff?  While it may be easier after the decision is made, you must make sure you have the resources beforehand.  Do you have enough bloggers?  Do you have enough bandwidth?  Do you need to use an outside blogging tool, like Blogger?  Julia Rodriguez (2010) provides a great table to outline the benefits and problems with using your own or an outside site’s blogging “equipment”:

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From this table (p. 117), we can tell that you really need to have an IT department to host the blog on your own website, but doing so gives you some great advantages over an outside-source blog.  Another problem is the addition of more social networking outlets.  Why post an entire blog about new materials when you can just mention it on Facebook or Twitter, which are faster to read?

So how are libraries using blogs?

Public libraries are probably the most likely to utilize social networking.  They can involve the community in library programs through advertising on their blogs.  Some examples can be found at the New York Public Library, the Ann Arbor District Library, and the Austin Public Library.  You can see that each library has a different format for their blogs.  NYPL allows you to search by blog, by subject, and by blogger.  The main blog page has the latest blog posts.  AADL has separate places for each of its blogs; the main page lists recent posts from the Events Blog, Exhibits, and the Director’s Blog.  You can search by blog, by subject, but not by blogger.  The APL allows you to search by month, by subject and by blogger.  Their main blog page seems to include recent posts.  All of these libraries include content on recent publications, recommended books and authors, and library events.

But academic libraries also use blogs. In one survey done by Draper and Turnage (2008), the majority of respondents said that they use blogs to discuss news and events. Many also said that they used their blog for marketing. Some also used blogs for “internal communication, posting book reviews, posting LibQUAL comments and posting patrons’ suggestions” (p. 19).  The WSU Library System has its own blog which highlights library events and news, and new resources.  You can search by subject and by month, and the main blog page includes recent posts.  However, comments are typically closed with all entries, unlike with public libraries’ blogs, which encourage commenting.  Duke University Libraries blogs include library news, events, exhibits, and 17 other library blogs by subject geared towards both faculty and students.  You can search by blog, subject, blogger, month, and even subscribe to the blogs.  Comments are allowed, and one blog especially encourages students to become involved in the library blogs.

School libraries utilize blogging technology to inspire discussion between students, and also between students and teachers.  Blogs can be useful to learn the reading preferences of the children.  They are also useful if students feel uncomfortable asking certain questions or requesting certain materials in front of other students.  The Springston School Library’s blog features content readers’ advisory, school news, and education.  You can search by subject and month.  Unlike public libraries and university libraries, school libraries tend to use outside websites for their blogs.  Springston uses Blogspot (Blogger).  Similarly, the Murray Hill Middle School Daring School Library Blog uses Edublogs.  It also uses blogging to help with readers’ advisory, school news, and allows commenting.

Even the Library of Congress has a blog.  It includes information on exhibits and new acquisitions.  It also includes posts on authors (usually American authors), and allows you to search by subject, month, and blogger.  Surprisingly there are only three bloggers, and none of them are librarians.

Overall, it seems that many libraries use blogging as well as other social networking (Twitter and/or Facebook) to promote library events and to provide information about library news.  However, blogs are much more useful for more information, such as readers’ advisory, researching tips, and things that cannot be explained in the space of a status update or a tweet.  They are also better for promoting community involvement, as it is easier to comment on a blog than on a tweet.  However, they are a lot more labor-intensive, as it takes longer to write a blog post, and you have to monitor blogs for spam and other inappropriate comments.

Resources

Ann Arbor District Library (2012). Retrieved from http://www.aadl.org

Austin Public Library (2012). Austin Public Library Blog. Retrieved from http://library.austintexas.gov/apl-blogs

Brookover, S. (2007). Why we blog. Library Journal, 132(19), 28-31.

Draper, L., Turnage, M. (2008). Blogomania. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13(1), 15-55.

Duke University Libraries (2012). Duke University Libraries News: Events & Exhibits. Retrieved from http://blogs.library.duke.edu/

Kendall, C. (2012). Springston School Library Blog. Retrieved from http://springstonschoollibrary.blogspot.com/

Library of Congress (2012). Library of Congress Blog. Retrieved from http://blogs.loc.gov/loc/

Mandal, P. S. (2011). Blog and its role in library and information services. DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology, 31(3), 155-158.

The MHMS Daring School Library Blog (2012). The MHMS Daring School Library Blog. Retrieved from http://daringlibrary.edublogs.org/

The New York Public Library (2012). NYPL Blogs. Retrieved from http://www.nypl.org/blog

Oguz, F., Holt, M. (2011). Library blogs and user participation: a survey about comment spam in library blogs. Library Hi Tech, 29(1), 173-188.

Rodriguez, J. (2010). Social software in academic libraries for internal communication and knowledge management: a comparison of two reference blog implementations. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 15(2), p. 107-124.

Wayne State University Board of Governors (2012). WSU Library System News. Retrieved from http://www.lib.wayne.edu/blog/

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