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Final Thoughts

While there may be many advantages to having a blog, it is important to consider whether or not this is the right type of social media platform you should be using in your library.  Just because everyone else is doing it, does not mean that you should too.

You have to consider your target audience and what the key messages are that you want to send. Depending on what exactly you are trying to get across or accomplish, other social media types such as Twitter or Facebook might be better for the job.

Finally, to get a blog off the ground you need a talented writer.  You need to find library staff members who can write succinctly and will be consistent in their updates. Blogs can quickly fall into the habit of being boring and mundane if not written well and updated regularly.  Evan Williams, the creator of Blogger, describes blogs like this – ‘the blog concept is about three things: frequency, brevity and personality.’  Only blogs that are interesting and insightful will be successful.

To Blog or Not to Blog…

We looked carefully at the pros and cons of using blogs in the library and (with a little help from our friends) created a short video to share our findings!

Unfortunately, one of the cons of WordPress is that it doesn’t allow video embedding with its free site…but here is a handy link to our video on photobucket:

Library Blogging – Pros and Cons

If videos aren’t for you, here’s a quick summary of the Pros and Cons:

Pros:

  • Great for marketing and advertising the library
  • It can present the same information as a website but in a more friendly way
  • Visitors can learn about and see images of the library before they visit – encourages them to visit and helps them find their way around
  • Free – inexpensive to use
  • Easy to set up, no in-depth technical knowledge required
  • Simple to maintain and customise
  • Editable and quick to update
  • Searchable via archives, tags or the search box
  • Freedom of thought – you own your own blog so there are no restrictions on what you can write but as a library blog, it needs to be professional

Cons:

  • Freedom of speech can also be a con as people can blog about anything, even if it is uninteresting or irrelevant
  • There are lots of blogs out there so it can be hard to get noticed
  • It can be time consuming to maintain a blog
  • They can be difficult or time consuming to regulate – both the posts themselves and comments posted by readers
  • Possibly a trend – will it last?

Top 10 Blog Features

Okay, so now we know what a blog is – what can a blog do?

Our Top 10 Blog Features and Functions

 1.       Instant Publishing – Easily Edited!

You can publish a blog in minutes meaning the latest news or advice can reach library readers instantly and blogs can be kept up to date simply by editing posts to amend information if it becomes inaccurate.

2.       Themes and Customisation

Blogs are easy to customise using one of the hundreds of free themes available or by designing and uploading your own headers like ours:

This is a great way to market the library brand and can be changed to advertise library promotions, promises or events.

Blogs can also be ‘hosted’ on webpages giving even greater flexibility with design.

3.       Sharing is fun!

Blogs can be easily shared via Facebook and Twitter so that information and news can be disseminated quickly across different social media platforms – potentially reaching more readers.

Using the ‘Press This’ feature, other people can also blog about your blog! You can also ‘press’ other blogs on the web that you find interesting or useful so that they appear in your own blog!

4.       Discussion

Blogs enable commenting on each post made, meaning that the content can easily be discussed by readers and questions can be posed and answered quickly.

This is a useful feature for educational blogs in particular as ideas can be shared and developed within the blogging community.

5.       Make it Multimedia!

Blogs are a great platform for displaying information using multimedia.  It’s quick and simple to insert photographs or other images, links to other blogs or websites, quotes, presentations and videos!  Such features can really make a blog stand out to readers and make getting the information out there more fun and dynamic.

6.       Polls

Linked to both discussion and multimedia, one great feature of blogs is the ability to embed polls into posts.  This is a simple and quick way to ask readers to provide either opinions on your blog, suggestions about the library or feedback about the blog or library service. (And there’s always the comments box for those who choose ‘other’ to explain their views further!) This is very useful for library marketing and reflection on whether projects are working successfully.

We’ve added a poll to our blog and would love you to give us feedback on- line after the presentation.

7.       Widgets

Widgets are small but useful applications that can be added to the sidebar or footer of your blog to provide extra information or entertainment!

On WordPress alone there are over 30 widgets to choose from – on our blog we decided to include:

  • a calendar
  • a countdown to our presentation deadline
  • a list of our blog’s authors
  • a tag cloud, showing our most used post tags (showing readers what subjects we like to write about most and helping them locate posts they’re interested in!)
  • links to the blog archived posts (making posts easier to navigate and locate!)
  • images from our flickr account
  • options to follow our blog via e-mail notifications or RSS feeds
  • a feed from our twitter account (keeping content in one place to save readers time)
  • a blogroll linking to our favourite blogs
  • Blog stats – showing how many visitors our blog has had (a good way to monitor blog effectiveness)  Stats can also be obtained via the main blog website (on wordpress this is via ‘dashboard’)

8.       Searchable

As well as readers being able to locate posts of interest via the tag cloud widget and the archive, blogs are also searchable – making navigation simple and effective.

9.       ‘About Me’

WordPress blogs also come with an ‘about me’ page which is a useful place to put permanent information about library services (such as opening times, telephone numbers and contact details) and useful links (such as, subject librarian pages, useful journals or websites – including the library catalogue).

It’s simple to edit and works much like a webpage.

10.   Mobile Technology

Many blogs have now developed mobile apps that can be used to access your blog on the go.

The use of mobile technology by readers is on the rise and providing information that is easily accessible via a blog app will make it easier to get information and advice disseminated quickly and effectively.

Why blogging?

Libraries and librarians can use blogs for a number of purposes.  For example –

  • Some blogs are used for marketing reasons.  They promote library resources, new books, events etc with the aim of encouraging readers to make better use of the library.  For example, the University of Sunderland has created a helpful blog for media students, informing them of regional events and library resources.
  • Some library blogs provide news and updates for information professionals eg. Library-related news, events and resources.  http://lisnews.org/
  • Some blogs provide a forum for online discussion, either about books and library events etc, or to give feedback about how their library can function better.  A staff member in my library recently suggested creating a blog where students could give feedback about the library, and leave suggestions for improvement.
  • Other blogs focus on upcoming releases in publishing and entertainment.  This is more common in the public library sphere – for example, http://sjcpl.lib.in.us/blog/

Blogging 101

What exactly is a blog?

We are all familiar with the term blog – we have each contributed at least one post to our own Oxford Graduate Trainee blog , so this will be a very brief introduction to the concept of blogging.

Simply put, a blog (‘web log’) is a basic website which can be updated on a regular basis with messages and posts.  Readers of the blog can then communicate with the author by commenting on any posts he/she publishes.  Originally blogs were used as a type of online journal, written by just one author.   In more recent years, blogs have become popular with many businesses and institutions, as they provide an easy and effective way to market/promote their organisation and they also encourage online discussion and feedback.  They can be written and controlled by one person, or have a number of contributors (like our trainee blog, or this blog which Louise and I have created).

Blogging is a type of social media which has become particularly popular in the library world.  Many librarians have their own, personal blog which they tend to use for personal and professional development reasons.  CPD 23 Things, for example, is a learning programme used to introduce library staff to some of the technologies relevant to libraries.  Those who take part it in it record their progress on a blog.  Today we are thinking more about corporate library blogs, ones set up by individual libraries or organisations to promote their resources or to encourage online discussion with readers.

Examples of blogging platforms:

  • WordPress
  • Blogger (powered by Google)

  • Tumblr