Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blogs for Libraries

The librarians who want us to create and maintain blogs on our library sites are aware that creating a library blog and providing regular updates to whatever blogs or webpages we setup is going to puzzle or cause concern - even stress - for some library staff and some patrons.

Staff members who are enthusiastic about establishing the first RSS Feed know that more library Feeds will likely follow.  These staff members should be careful not to establish more Feeds than willing/interested staff can update on a fairly regular basis and respond to patron comments in a timely fashion.  You need to be honest about how much staff time is likely to be involved and how within budget retraints, the library staff can carryon their regular tasks while adding this new feature to various staff members duties.  Staff morale must remain a priority - care must be taken as duties are re-assigned to some staff to free up other staff to look after the blog(s).

You don't want to build up patron expectations and then provide disappointing service.  Blogging is not for everyone and is not a task to be foisted onto reluctant staff members as an onerous task.  You will need (a) skillful writer(s) who enjoy(s) looking after the blog(s) and has the time to do so.  The Library Board will need to be reassured that the posts will enhance the reputation of the library - most of the time, and will need to accept that some controversy will no doubt still arise from time to time.  The Library Board will also have to understand that even writing a few well-worded paragraphs can involve time spent re-drafting/re-wording before posts get published.

It is important that someone have the time to check the library literature, library websites, blogs and talk with staff at other libraries that have had RSS Feeds for years so that you start your RSS Feed with the benefit of their experience and an idea of best practices and good policy guidelines.

Staff will have to inform their patrons that the library is getting or now has an RSS Feed and interest/encourage patrons to subscribe to our RSS Feed.

It is probably a good idea to develop a strategic ongoing/evolving plan to communicate information re how the RSS Feed can benefit your patrons and how easy it is to subscribe to a Feed and to use a Feed.

This plan should be verbal and visual - conversation with patrons by Circulation/Reference Staff, orientation sessions, notices on your library webpage, posters, mail-outs, flyers, radio & community TV announcements etc.   It will be important to obtain patron feedback from patrons so the plan can be adjusted/improved over time.

Some patrons will already be familiar with RSS Feeds and will probably become your first subscribers.  Other patrons - especially older patrons will not only have no idea what any "Feed" is - they may be concerned that the next step will be to reduce services that they presently enjoy.

I can see where it is more convenient for the library staff than mass mailing or emailing out flyers to the patrons.  Also lots of blogs are free so there is less cost for paper, printing and postage etc.

Also they want us to want feedback.  Patrons have to feel welcome to comment and be interested in the comments of other patrons.   Moreover, these comments have to be reviewed prior to posting to weed out comments that would offend some of the other patrons.  "Moderating" the comments is controversial. 

Guidelines will have to be established so there is definite and consistent policy re what comments will not get published at all and whether a particular comment should be deleted.  Some sites require people to log-on/register before they can comment - others allow anonymous comments which shy patrons or patrons who want to remain private may prefer .  The Library staff and Library Board will also have to deal with such re-occurring feedback issues.

I looked at the  Ann Arbor District Library website - http://www.aadl.org/
because it was mentioned on http://meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress/2006/05/10/libraries-in-social-networking-software/
as being "so cool" and "encouraging feedback". 

However, I didn't like the website at all myself.   Today's events were at the bottom of the page when I thought they should be at the top.

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