Monday, October 12, 2009

Learning from mistakes in business blogging: a short series of thoughts for library blogs, part one

Blogging is a learning experience for me. Blogging for the library even more so given it has some challenges and issues I don't have to deal with in my own blogging. For instance, the issue of image or appearance is more important in an official library blog. Actually, that could be a post topic in the future, but I have something else in mind today.

Even though I am not advocate of running a library like a business, when it comes to blogging, businesses and libraries both worry about the image they convey to the world at large. In my case, I know that I can blog about a topic. I can say certain things about that topic in my blog that I could never say in the library blog. Same exact topic, two different takes. In the end, I may not be a fan of the "run libraries like businesses" crowd, but I know I can learn a thing or two from the business world. This brings me to this blog post by Josh Catone, writing for Mashable, on "Top 5 Business Blogging Mistakes and How to Avoid Them." When I read it, I knew there were some lessons for libraries here. In some ways, you could replace the word "business" for "library," and a lot of the advice would be applicable. That's kind of what I did, and I would like to share it with my three readers.

The first mistake that Mr. Catone points out is "treating your blog like a press center." I am not sure how libraries can get away from this. A lot of library blogs I have seen, and I admit that my experience is not a scientific measure, are dedicated to library announcements. In fact, a lot of what I do fir my library's blog is event announcements. I do try to use a more casual voice in writing those posts, but you can only be so informal before your administrators, or worse, your campus information office, notices and decide to have a word with you. In other words, you have to find a balance for your voice and tone: not too casual, but casual enough to attract and keep readers. Catone also suggests that you "share your thoughts on your industry, share insights into the the day-to-day work life and processes at your company, and provide tips and tricks you have learned during your time in business." These are all really good ideas once you modify them slightly for libraries. For example:

  • Thoughts on your industry can be writing about librarianship, what we do, dispelling some of the stereotypes, so on.
  • Tips and tricks is good advice. In an academic library, providing students with research tips and ideas is always good. Another thing I have tried to do is highlight specific resources. For example, we have a semi-regular feature on my library's blog called the Reference Book of the Week.
  • Another idea is to seize on current events. I personally think that the library should serve as a resource to educate. For instance, we have done posts about Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the Honduran coup. Those posts are examples of topics of interest that we can, via our library blogs, provide good basic information about. I do enjoy doing those kind of posts, but sometimes they can take a bit of time to compile items for links, evaluate them, and write the post.
Time for me remains the common challenge when it comes to blogging, both personally and for work. This leads us to the next point, which we will discuss in the next post.

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