Tool: The Blog

  • What:
 A blog (contraction of the term web log) is a type of website maintained by an individual or organization with regular entries of content (events, commentary, links, resources) usually shown in reverse chronological order. The ability of readers to interact by leaving comments is an important part of most blogs. A blog can be used as a primary website, be embedded within a larger website, or act as an add-on to an library's web presence.
  • Why:
Blogs can act as a space to humanize the library's web presence.  They can be a code-free way to refresh content and post up-to-date information. Provide an informal space for public to interact with eachother and with the library.   
Tip - Blogs have RSS feeds that you can easily use to push the content out to other social networking tools. This process can be automated. 
Tip - Search engines index the web, including your blog.  You can feature resources you want found with posts and tags and make it easier for your patrons to find library resources even when searching from the Google search bar.  You can push information out where your patrons are and bring  them back to your website and catalog from your blog.  
  • How:
 Choosing Blog Software: There are many different options for what blogging software you choose to use. I've worked with Wordpress, Blogger, and have been learning Drupal (a full CMS).  I'd recommend Blogger for those concerned more with content rather than style, those just wanting to get started, or those with little to no web experience. Wordpress might be best for those with some web experience and wanting more flexibility.  Drupal would be best for those with solid web skills and wanting to fully integrate the social nature of the web into their website. A wiki could also work for some blogs, especially those with many contributors and focused on discussion and collaboration.  I've used PBworks successfully.  Also take into consideration creating your blog in the "cloud" or hosting it on your library's server. 
Other people have weighed in on the blogging options:

"Blogging 101: Which Blogging Software Do I Choose? " CMS Wire, Eric Brown (07/09/2008)
"Blogging Options for Educators" Support Blogging.com (active Wiki in support of educational blogging)
Use your blog to... Promote a special event at the library. Highlight an underused resource.  Introduce a new staff member. Tell the library's story. Review a new book. Display local history. Explain a new library policy. Request feedback from your patrons. Market the library's value. Push the face of the library into the blogosphere. 

Get 360 support from staff: Define how blog fits with mission and goals of the library. Ask different staff members to contribute different content.  Tell the entire staff about blog and have them promote it to the public.

  • Who:
Blog as website: Butte-Silver Bow Public Library (Wordpress) Comments are not permitted but links to Facebook and Flickr in the sidebar give space for community interaction.

Blog embedded within website: Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (Drupal) Within the homepage a number of blog like posts are featured. See the scrolling content: Featured, Books, Guides, Movies/Music, Gallery, Kids, and Teens.  Each post shows the librarian blogger, allows comments, has tags and RSS feed.

Blog in addition to website: The Missoula Public Library while having a relatively static website (I've heard rumors of a digital branch in the works) has links in the sidebar for Facebook, Twitter, and their blog.  The blog is simply called Blog: Missoula Public Library (Blogger). Here is a post promoting an email reference service and the anonymous comment that followed.   

Next Post: Tool: Facebook Fan Page

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