Back to the reference idea. I found this interesting because of the setting I work in. I am in a small enough setting that I get to know my students very closely. I am also a blogger, so I am pretty comfortable with the tools that Mr. Matthews describes. So, the idea is appealing because it presents me with another way to get in touch with students, and one that means they don't have to come see me (or any librarian at the desk). I think it can work here with some small tinkering. Mr. Matthews used Xanga and LiveJournal as the tools to locate student blogs, and he searched on the basis of students listing his institution as an affiliation. For monitoring, he used Bloglines, but I am sure that any other reader librarians use will work ok as well. I use Bloglines (and I have a Newsgator account, but I use that mostly for some news services and as a backup for when the Bloglines plumber shows up), so I am used to that interface. He mentions using the keyword search option for feeds, which is something I have not explored, since I usually just use the feed reader to read blogs, but it seems like it would be useful. Here's another incentive to explore some more. Mr. Matthews created accounts in Xanga and LiveJournal for his study. He discovered that students react better to a librarian than to a generic username from an institution. I guess even online, the human touch is important. At this point, I don't have accounts in those services, but I may consider doing so now. What I did wonder is how this could apply to users of MySpace and Facebook. I know MySpace allows for some blogging. Can content from those social services be picked up as feeds as well? I will have to do a little investigating on that regard. The reason I wondered is that based on some observation, I gather that a lot of our students use services like MySpace and Facebook a lot more than they would use LiveJournal or Xanga. On the other hand, students are known to use various things. This would be the question I would want to ask.
There are a few quotes from Mr. Matthews paper that I want to make a note. Not only are they neat ideas, but some of them fit with my own service philosophy. As often happens when I make notes like these, these are just things I want to remember for later. These come from Mr. Matthews' paper:
- "Instead of forcing patrons to interact with us, we can enter their domain and seek new ways of providing assistance. By monitoring blogs, librarians can step beyond their traditional role and serve as teachers, mentors, and counselors" (2).
- "By submersing myself in this environment, I was able to detect and respond intuitively, before the patron considered contacting the library" (3).
- This quote is in the context of Mr. Matthews responding to a blog post where a student was anxious about some classwork. "Additionally, I was able to address the noted anxiety and offer assistance with the assignment. Rather than waiting until it was too late, I was able to interact with the patron early in the semester and to suggest appropriate resources and research techniques" (3).
- The context of this quote is on responding to criticism about the library on student blogs. "Reading student blogs enables librarians to better understand user expectations and provides a chance to correct misunderstandings or to sympathize with unfortunate encounters" (4).
- "Blogs allow us to interact with students in their natural environment, and to provide timely, meaningful, and intuitive assistance. Reaching out to students creates a personal connection. It allows them to see us as allies, rather than as part of the academic bureaucracy" (4).
And by the way, Mr. Matthews has gotten a couple of comments on his blog, and he replies describing a bit more the process he follows, so definitely go over and read it.