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* Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Making the Most of the Blogosphere

I finally found my notes from last month's talk at the Internet Librarian conference. It was really Greg's show, and he did a fantastic job talking about how to make the most of the blogosphere from an information foraging perspective. (His Powerpoint presentation is here.) He sent me his slides ahead of time, so I knew he had covered all of the bases. Therefore, I decided to talk about the flip side of the coin, making the most of the blogosphere for your library's blog. Here's the abbreviated version.

I think librarians are getting pretty good at blogging. We've been doing this for a while now, both professionally and personally, and we're one of the most well-represented professions in the blogosphere. Whatever your library job, there is a blog for you, and we have a healthy record of the different types of blogs that can help any type of library. For the most part, library blogging 1.0 has consisted of announcement blogs ("what's new"), and that's appropriate. Yes, we've also seen some innovative uses (subtle information literacy lessons, book clubs, reviews, etc.), but now I think we're ready for the next step; I think we're ready for library blogging 2.0.

  1. The first thing I'd like to see happen in the next round of library blogging is what I call "the key of we." I am sick and tired of library web sites (and newsletters and press releases) referring to everything in the third person. "The library" isn't putting on that program, "the library" isn't pleased to announce that big piece of news, and "the library" sure as hell isn't providing that great new service. Who is doing all of that? You are. We are. We make up the library and its services, and it's time to start using language that reflects this.

    One of the best things about blogging is the informal tone, the voice that comes through. When you write in the third person, you kill that voice, and we desperately need it. Library web sites are too formal, too staid, too impersonal. Blogging humanizes library sites, and we need to take full advantage of it. TNT movies to the contrary, librarians know that the networks are missing the best reality show of all, the day-to-day at the library. None of that vitality comes through online, but blogging (and especially moblogging) can change this.

    Name one library site (an institutional one, not a personal one) that gives you a sense of the people behind it. It's tough, isn't it? On the other hand, I've had people tell me that they feel like they're in my head or that they know me before we meet just from reading my blog. That's what library blogging 2.0 needs to jumpstart.


  2. Some other things that could be part of library blogging 2.0 if we kick it up a notch:

    • Pioneer the integration of SFX and OpenURL in blogs (Shane Nackerud at the University of Minnesota is leading the charge on this one).

    • Integrate our virtual reference services into our blogs. Some libraries forget to link to their VR service altogether, but take it a step further. If you post some statistics, a link to a news story, an announcement about an event, whatever, include a link in the blog post itself so that someone can ask further questions.

    • Metadata, metadata, and still more metadata. Let's show the blogosphere why it's so important.

    • Keep sneaking in more information literacy lessons and pointers.

  3. Overall, though, we have to be more creative in taking better advantage of the currency of the web (in this case, of the blogosphere) - the all mighty link. Blogs are all about buzz: links, conversations, citations, comments, trackback, and links. Oh, and links. We need to be more proactive at spreading our message and services via blogs. In other words, we need to get buzz.

    When you think of the biggest library stories that made the rounds of the blogosphere this last year, what were they? I'd say the two biggies were OCLC suing the Library Hotel and SFPL's decision to implement RFID. (Note that I'm concentrating on stories about libraries, not library reactions to non-library stories like TNT movies or the PATRIOT Act.) Both were negative buzz that could have been mitigated in part by institutional blogs written in an informal tone that humanized their side of the story.

    Some ideas to illustrate how libraries could go about generating buzz:

    • Find your local bloggers and treat them like the press. For example, if I worked at Chicago Public Library, I would let Chicagoist know about new events, services, and resources that would be of interest to them. I'd ask them to link to my virtual reference service, and I'd be a reference resource for them. Make sure they know about all of the various databases they have access to thanks to your subscriptions. And in the spirit of the blogosphere, I'd link back to them from my site. This isn't just a strategy for big, public libraries, either. To help generate library buzz (and even to help improve pagerank), universities have student bloggers who can help generate library buzz; school libraries have blogging teachers, parents, newspapers, and community members; and even corporate librarians may have internal bloggers or marketing bloggers.

    • Moblog your events to actually show people using your services. Show the fun! The quality of cameraphone images is so crappy that you won't have to worry about any legal waivers. ;-)

    • Blog your statistics and your projects. Blog user comments.

    • Work more with your local newspaper. When they do an in-depth story on something, blog some resources for further exploration. Go teach them about RSS so that you can display their content on your site and (more importantly) yours on theirs. If they are blogging, get them to link to your virtual reference service. Keep after your ILS vendor until they give you RSS feeds out of your catalog so that you can display new materials on other sites, like the newspaper's. (Imagine a feed displaying the newest library items about Iraq next to their stories about the war.) While you're at it, make sure they know about your databases and the full range of services you can provide.

    • And finally, treat your blog as a new information channel. In fact, treat it like you do your newsletter. Devote specific resources to it - staff, time, design, consistency, etc. And of course, do it all in "the key of we."

Blogging itself is easy - it's the content that's hard. Except that we have lots of great content if we just look around us. Have some fun with it, tell some stories, take it to the next level.

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