Monday, June 05, 2006

Presentation Notes: On Subject Librarians and Their Blogs

I am trying out the "Presentation Notes" label for the title to see if I can better organize these types of posts, ones based on a specific presentation, as opposed to a conference, book, or article. It's mostly for me to be able to find things later if I search them.

The nice thing about presentations that are preserved on the Web is that you can go and watch them later at your leisure. The HigherEdBlogCon took place back in April 2006, but it was a somewhat busy time for me, so I was not able to attend virtually at the moment. However, the site has the presentations available, and I have a little bit of time to look at some things right before the first summer session starts. I had the site's feed on my Bloglines, so when they announced something of interest to me, I clipped it as a reminder for later. I am now going through some of those clips. If you already attended the Con, you may want to skip the post then. Now, there is some debate about the value of conferences going on and about the importance of socializing at such events. The social part I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, I believe in the value of meeting like-minded colleagues to discuss issues of common interest over an adult beverage On the other hand, I really don't give a **** about drunken debaucheries in a professional setting. I will leave it to the pundits and A-listers of the biblioblogosphere to hash it out. Find some examples of that discussion here and here. Just take this as the notes of one of the folks who cannot afford to do the jet set and barely has the time to do something synchronously. Asynchronous works for me, but it may not work for other readers, so I leave it to them to decide.

Anyways, back to this. Last week, I had a chance to watch Ms. Kristin Johnson's presentation on "Subject Librarian 2.0." I learned a few things, and I found myself thinking about my own library and some possibilities. I also forwarded the link to one of my colleagues. Maybe something will come out of that as well. So, here go some notes and thoughts:
  • Things a subject librarian can do with a blog: describe new resources, announce upcoming events, explain trends, and detail services, and some other things.
  • The prompt for the presenter was to find a good method of communicating with her faculty. It needed to be a method that caught their eye enough to get their attention, but it could not be too annoying, or they would stop paying attention. Blogs could meet this need.
  • A blog can help reach more faculty, especially the adjuncts. She was also prompted by the fact that she only did one newsletter in six years or so. The newsletter was well received, but it was time consuming, and it was "paper intensive."
We put out a library newsletter every semester. It does take some time to produce, so we aim for useful information and some pleasure items. Obviously nothing too time sensitive goes in it. My library recently embraced blogs. I don't think we'll give up the newsletter just yet, but we probably won't increase its frequency since we can use the blogs, or we should be using the blogs. Our current problem is that posting to the library blogs is erratic. On a bright note, our Engineering Tech Librarian seems to be doing well with her subject blog. However, overall, our blogs need more promotion. More importantly, they need content, and they need for that content to be provided by more than "the usual suspects." In my ideal world, all my colleagues would be posting to the blogs we have now, maybe some of them would create one for their subject areas. In the real world, if they are not posting themselves, be it for lack of time, motivation, comfort with the technology, blogs just don't work for their objectives, etc., they could be pointing out ideas now and then for those that do post.
  • The presenter posts to her blogs once a week.
I think this could work for us, if the library as a whole could muster some commitment (I am so going to get into hot water for saying this).
  • The presenter posts on things such as: new books, highlights of reference books, updates on Wikipedia and Google, pleasure reading posts, and what she calls "semi-rambling posts that I try to fit into information literacy. . . ."
I think part of why the library's blogs seem to languish here is their formal tone. I just don't see anyone post a "semi-rambling post" anytime soon. I don't think I could do it, on the library's blogs that is. My few readers likely know I can ramble fully now and then in my own blogs. I have certain parameters I set for myself when it comes to blogging (part of those parameters are here). I also have a sense of what topics to address on my blogs. In terms of the big picture, I am pretty informal and relaxed. I just don't get that vibe on the official library blogs. I am not saying the lack of vibe is intentional. In fact, my boss would likely disagree or wonder if I am pulling this out of left field, to use a polite term. Let's just say the not-so-polite term rhymes with "grass" and leave it at that. Nevertheless, the formality made it in there somehow. What I know is that I could take some of Ms. Johnson's ideas and use them for outreach in my subject areas. A question for me is: do I use what my library offers, or do I go the maverick route? Each option has advantages or disadvantages. For now, I just want to think it over a bit.

Some preliminary thoughts include the need to have a consistent template. In this sense, activating a blog(s) on the service our library uses would address this nicely. On the other hand, if I create something, I can likely make it something nice and not be tied by having to conform to "the campus look." The "campus look" actually is one of the things that hinder our website, but as it is something we have no control over, no sense in talking about it. Another thought is that our blogs (the subject ones) lack links to useful subject-related links. By this, I mean websites related to the disciplines or to library-specific resources. Now, this can be easily corrected. I don't maintain any of our subject blogs, but I can certainly find ideas and forward them. As for my areas, making the blogs myself would allow me to select links.

On a side note, I don't have many links on my personal blogs. For one, I have avoided having a blogroll to avoid giving a sense of favorites. As for LIS links, it may be something to think about. I think part of it for me also is my guess that a lot of people (ok, the few people) who read my blogs may be doing so in an aggregator anyhow, which means they don't actually visit the blogs' sites, so there's less of a motivation. I just have a couple of things that are personal, such as my L-School and MPOW, and some buttons. As I said, maybe it is time to rethink that.
  • The presenter announced her blogs via e-mail after the summer at the beginning of a fall term.
I am thinking that here's a possible idea for my setting if I move swiftly. An announcement on e-mail would feature how to access the blog, the purpose of the blog, and asking readers for input via comments and suggestions. This comes from her suggestions.
  • Later, the presenter surveyed her faculty using a survey tool created on SurveyMonkey. She asked about use of the blog, effectiveness of the blog, and reader preferences. The questions were brief.
I would definitely want to do this after I created any new subject blogs. In fact, I am thinking we should probably do something like this for the blogs we have now. We've had them for close to eight months. It may be time to see what we can learn.
  • From the presentation, I gathered that Ms. Johnson e-mails an announcement to her faculty when there is a new post to her blogs.
I wonder if this would work for us. On my end, I just would like to know if any of our faculty is reading our blogs, and if they do, do they go to the site or use an aggregator.
  • Subject blogs should be practical and focused. They need good marketing. One may need to allay some faculty fears or resistance if they see blogs as "diaries." I found it interesting that she entitled her blogs "news pages."
This presentation certainly gave me some ideas to work on. I think I have more questions now, and it looks like I have some planning and exploration to do.

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