Wednesday, May 25, 2005

University of Hong Kong Libraries subject blogs: Email interview

Around late Mar 05, the University of Hong Kong Libraries launched its Subject Blogs site (http://lib.hku.hk/cd/news.html). Here's an email interview with Ms. Gayle Chan, Collection Development Librarian about their blogs. It's an excellent endorsement for library blogs.

When did the HKU subject blogs first get started?
We started to explore the idea after I heard about library blogs at last summer's ALA Conference. At the same time, we were also exploring a better alternative than using the bulk e-mail system to announce our new e-resources, which does not target any specific groups and not preferred by many students and faculty members we talked to.


What made you implement the subject blogs?
Our Collection Development Department is quite young (formed July 2003) and we had launched our website for not very long. Adding blog content in subject web-pages to deliver news and subject resources to relevant departments was considered desirable and beneficial to promote outreach in different subject groups.


What were your impressions of blogging before you started, and how have they changed?
Some of us were concerned about the constant need to find news items for regular posting, but turned out much of information was readily available from vendors or just by keeping abreast with literature or research and development in their assigned areas.


How much has the subject blogs changed the way the same content was delivered?
Some of our traditional ways of delivering the same information include email, newsletter, posting on library web-site, presentations/seminars, and by posters/ exhibition, etc.

Blogs certainly offered a much quicker delivery that can easily be targeted to specific groups. Faculty members/ researchers appreciate very much the added-value in information about current research and development in their field, conference/events announcements, and enhancements of contents in existing resources.


Did you have any feedback from your staff maintaining the blogs, as well as your readers?
Staff found blogs relatively easy to maintain. Readers especially like the feature by subject areas, as it saves them hours of searching via the library catalog or navigating with search engines for relevant news/ web resources in their field.

Blogs are something they can read at their leisure time instead of being bombarded with it.

A comment from a faculty member: "very exciting direction, at least for the engineering link, is that Weblog provides links to some very frontier and rapidly developing fields of engineering, like fuel cells, nanomaterials, and micro-mechanical systems, so that teachers and students can quickly start to get the basic information, to get informed."


How do you measure the effectiveness of the service? How many users are there?
Usage so far looks positive, well over 7000 users in less than 2 months.


And what is this in terms of total campus population?
Total student population is 19000.


Apart from the access figures you quoted, do you know how many subscribers you have via RSS feeds or readers?
We cannot tell how many subscribers, but our access counts includes those read via readers.


How do you see the HKU subject blog developing?
It will be interesting to see if blogging will help to solicit more feedback from both students and faculty/researchers about their information needs, eg. One can submit recommendations on receiving publication announcements. Not sure that our subject blogs will become platform for interactive communication or discussion forum like some other blogs.


Did you have any problems during the development or implementation of the blogs?
Not much, but we could not figure out how to do multi-templates within same blog when we wanted to have different Science subjects.



Other than HKU, do you know if any libraries (public, academic etc) in HK that is doing the same via blogs? Would you say HKU is the first in HK?
I never did a survey and I don’t know that other libraries in HK has done the same. So I believe we are the first.


Would HKU be allowing public posting of comments in the near future? If yes, would you allow moderated or unmoderated posts?
No plans for this at the moment.


Any overall remarks?
Overall, (blogs are) a very effective means of delivering current information to a wider target audience, and enables faculty/ students/ researchers to keep abreast in their fields of study or research.


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