Blogs (from the words “web log”, or an online journal) are like a newsletter, only better. With a link from a website, a library can keep interested visitors informed about what’s going on. These are better than a newsletter because they are free to produce, can contain links, photographs and calendars, and visitors can leave comments, so it’s interactive. Darlene Fichter at Information Today Inc. writes that blogs can help with all kinds of library marketing initiatives, like: promoting events, supporting a library’s users, engaging and supporting community, and building new ties.
But of course things can’t be simple; not everyone likes blogs and thinks they’re a good idea, like this quotation from Michael Gorman, in his article Back Talk: Revenge of the Blog People illustrates:
A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web.
So obviously, like any tool, a blog is not inherently good simply by nature of its existence but contains possibilities for construction if used with thoughtful consideration and intention. Today’s post takes a critical look at some library blogs – from public, academic, school and special libraries – from around the world.
This blog from the Albany, CA Library in Alameda county, shares reviews of events held at the library. You can get to the blog right from the Library’s main page with a click on a large “Read our Blog” icon. The blog is super simple, with posts and pictures and a format that lets you scroll down to find what interests you. They also have clearly labeled links to navigate to other sites, particular user groups like teens, and photos. I would like to visit this library! From reading their blog, it looks like there is a ton of stuff going on, from author readings to film festivals and community workshops. This library strives (and is apparently successful) in being an integral part of the community it serves.
The Rare Books Blog from the Yale Law Library is an example of a current academic blog. This blog is successful by touching on a few of what Sharyn Heili in her article To Blog or Not to Blog on the blog Libraries and Librarians Rock, outlines as the main purpose of blogs: it reaches users where they are (from the library’s main website); it markets and promotes interesting items from the collection; it highlights staff expertise by making use of the rare books librarian’s specialized knowledge; and it is written in an informal way so as to promote trust and relationship between the library and current and potential users.
I like this blog because it’s full of scanned photographs of rare books, all having to do somehow with law and lawyers; I especially like the old comic book covers with courtroom scenes! It’s also full of links to full text articles and the Library’s catalog. If I were a law student at Yale and I saw this blog, I think I would be motivated to go into the Library and see some of this stuff in person. As far as Heili’s main points about the purpose of blogging, interactivity, I really didn’t see any evidence of this on this blog. There are no comments so it’s hard to gauge how useful this is, or if any students or patrons are actually reading it.
The Yale Library blog has all kinds of cool links on it, including this video for an exhibition titled Superheroes on Court! Lawyers, Law and Comic Books.
Let me say that after scanning at least a dozen elementary, high school and district school library blogs from this wiki listing library blogs, I have yet to find one that is interesting, functional or even legible really. Voices from the Inglenook from the Cold Spring School Library in California is the first to really catch my eye, with graphics that enhance rather than distract, a side bar that clearly navigates a reader through relevant links, and brief, clear posts about library happenings. Still, I can’t figure out who the intended users of this blog might be. Certainly not the students, since the voice is clearly an adult one, with the perspective of providing service to children. I guess it’s for the teachers, since it reviews certain books and the librarian’s experience with reading them aloud to children. I’ll never know since there are no comments in any of the comments fields.
Speaking of comments, I’ve yet to see any in the library blogs I’ve reviewed. There are comments from librarians on blogs about libraries, but rarely from user communities that library blogs are trying to reach. Are information professionals blogging to ourselves? Or are visitors to library blogs more readers than commentators? Leave a comment here if you have an opinion on the matter 🙂