Author: Laurel A. Clyde
Publication Information: Rollingsford, NH: Chandos Publishing, 2004
Subgenre: Library science, Internet, Weblogs and blogging, libraries
On a side note, I am listening to Pandora as I am typing this. Eurythmics came up, followed by Erasure. Now, on to the booknote.
On initial reading, this book is already showing its age. Though published in 2004, a significant portion of the information it provides and the details it describes are already dated. This is not the author's fault, but it is simply a reflection of the fact that the blogosphere has grown and changed dramatically since the book's publication. I think this is pretty much a risk for books about the Internet and cyberspace.
Having said this, the book does have some useful elements. First, readers can get a sense of history, where things come from. Second, it does provide some useful tips for beginners. The book looks at almost every aspect of blogging from rationales to tools to management. It then applies this to the library world. For libraries, and librarians, considering whether to have a blog or not, this book provides some guidance.
What I found most useful was in "Chapter 7: Managing the Library Weblog." The rest of the book I read quickly, scanning most of the way. A lot of the stuff I knew already, and it is probably material any experienced biblioblogger knows. However, chapter 7 made me pause and think.
I paused because the chapter provides questions to keep in mind when setting up and then maintaining a library blog. We are talking here about an official library blog, not the one a librarian like me would keep for personal reasons or professional development. However, I did find myself thinking about my own blogs, revisiting the question of purpose and thinking about maintanance, keeping the blogs interesting and up-to-date. I have learned that it is easy to set up a blog, but it takes work and commitment to keep a blog active.
I also paused because I thought about my library's blog (the main one is here. This one we use for news and announcments. Do note we have three other blogs, which you can find linked at the main blog). My library said yes to the question of whether it should have a blog or not. The book chapter suggests some things to consider about planning and implementing a blog. One suggestion is to identify potential users. For my own blogs, I have a somewhat reasonable idea of who reads them. It is not a perfect idea since now and then I may run the Technorati search (or other tool) and find a rare link that seems odd (ok, not odd, more like, hmm, how did that person find me?). However, for the library's blogs I wonder. They are linked on our website, so any user can get to them, but do they really? Also, in classes where I may mention casually that I have a blog, I get a good number of students asking what is a blog. Some of them probably don't know, but I think a good number of them have seen blogs. They are just not aware that what they saw is a blog. I am thinking, as one example, many of the users of MySpace. I use this example because I had a student ask me in relation to the blog reference, "is that like MySpace?" I replied that it was. Yes, we could get technical, but why would we in that case? At any rate I wonder how can my library's blogs reach the students if many do not know what a blog is. Education and marketing seem good answers, but they are only a start.
What about the faculty? I know many use our databases remotely, so they visit our website. Do they look at the blogs while they visit? Now this I would like to know. What I could do for starters is to ask the faculty in my subject area.
Then, there are decisions about content. When my library decided to implement blogs, certain content decisions were made based on what the blog was for, say news versus business subject area items. Clyde gives a list of possible content sources, which include:
- "content created within the library, for example news items related to library activities, functions to be held in the library, news items in the library, new items in the library collection, media releases generated by the library, book reviews written by library staff. . ."
- "content and links selected from among the material available on the Internet. . ."
- "content provided by readers of the weblog, for example through comments on posts. Other content provided by readers might include book reviews, local news items, information about Internet resources or other information relevant to the topic or theme or readership of the weblog" (151).
In regards to ongoing maintenance and management of a library blog, Clyde gives some things to consider including:
- "ongoing evaluation of the extent to which the weblog meets user needs. . ."
- "regular updating of content. . ."
- "training of library staff and users. . ."
- "ongoing publicity and promotion of the weblog" (158-159).
- "staff time necessary for monitoring the weblog and responding to comments, e-mail messages and other queries. . ."
- "staff time necessary for creating weblog content. . "
- "staff time necessary for supporting any interactivity. . ."
- "costs of continuing professional development activities for library staff (if necessary). . ." (160).
Clyde additionally gives ideas for promoting a library's weblog. She mentions that listing in directories and search engines is a good step (161). As someone who took the time to do some of this, I have mixed feelings. I don't think it makes that much of a difference since directories vary greatly in quality; search engines for blogs may be getting better, but even Technorati leaves a lot to be desired. However, it can't hurt to register in some appropriate places. Other ideas on promotion from Clyde's book:
- "Ensure that all stationery used by the library or information agency, all business cards and all e-mail electronic signatures carry the URL of the library weblog" (161).
- "Create print materials that will advertise or promote the weblog--for example, small brochures, bookmarks, stickers, postcards" (162).
At the end of chapter 7, Clyde addresses evaluation of the weblog project. She says that for weblogs the evaluation will be mostly formative (ongoing, at stages). Two of the questions to ask when evaluating your weblog:
- "Is the weblog fulfilling the aims that were established for it? Are those aims still appropriate?"
- "Who is actually using the weblog and why? Are they the people for whom the weblog was originally designed?" (164).