Friday, January 27, 2006

Are librarians ready for blogs?

Doug Johnson asks, "Are Mankato teachers ready for blogs?" (Mankato is the place-name of where he works). His school district plans to run courses for teachers on creating their own blogs. Doug asked for suggestions on how to make this successful so I threw in my 2-cents (based on my experience with colleagues):
  • Show them how to read a blog (a colleague found the blog interface rather "odd". Was more used to the typical webpage setup and wasn't sure how to follow blog posts)
  • Show them how to post comments, even if they don't blog. The value of blogs (as opposed to websites) are the discussions arising from posts
  • Use the blog to feature the work of individuals (regardless of whether they blog or not). And feature "real people" speaking, rather than another e-zine.
  • Tell 'em, "Blogs aren't dangerous; only stupid people are".
Let me know if the suggestions work, Doug. I can tell you it's easier said than done (getting colleagues "ready for blogs"), as with my experience with High Browse Online.

Oh, the librarians I'm working with for High Browse Online are a good bunch, no doubt about that. They put up with me and my longwindedness AND still get things done inspite of me (heh heh).

But there's one missing ingredient. Let's call it "The Blogger's Mentality". As in they must be comfortable in:

  1. Using the Personal Voice in the posts, and
  2. Proactively seeking/ starting/ joining conversations in the Blogosphere (e.g. leave a comment)
The first part is easy. If you compare earlier High Browse posts with the more recent ones, you can tell the difference. The later posts are more engaging compared to the initial ones. The team has learnt that writing for the Blog is different from writing for a Booklist.

But the second part is alot harder. Some team members just aren't comfortable in leaving comments in our blog, let alone seeking other bloggers. Some team members are familiar with blogs but somehow they don't feel motivated to seek other bloggers.

I just read this post from Naked Conversations about McDonald's Corporate Blog:

You've started nicely, but if you want this blog to succeed, you need post often. You need to join other conversations. You need to engage you customers and prospects in a conversations. You need to show a willingness to listen, really listen.

I've a strong suspicion that my colleagues don't see the value of seeking like-minded people and engaging them in conversations. Afterall, the Job Description doesn't mention anything about this when they applied for the job.

Maybe my colleagues are perfectly content with the role of librarians being limited to publishing reviews -- let someone else do the seeking (I think that's an option, provided you can find people to help you do that). Or they are too bogged down with other committments.

It's the "I don't buy the whole Book Blog" issue.

I'm still trying to understand more of the Whys. The way I see it, unless one is actively blogging AND have experienced what it means to be engaged in conversations in the Blogosphere, chances are you don't quite get the concept of using blogs to promote books and reading.

So what does this imply? For the organisation to openly support Responsible Blogging? That's what I'm suggesting.

Of course the underlying assumption is that "There's Value in Blogging". I'd argue that it's not an assumption but a Truth. Take the same McDonald's Blog for instance. It's not exactly an engaging read and personally I'm not that interested in McDonalds. And I don't really care about their Corporate Responsibility policy.

But the fact is I'm already learning more about McDonald's -- beyond its Happy Meals and counter transactions -- just from skimming through its blog.

Now imagine this scenario from a non-library user's standpoint, visiting a Library Blog or reading a whole bunch of blogs by librarians. Bored? I bet it won't be so.

Maybe one day I'll revisit this post and change its title from "Are Librarians Ready for Blogs" to "Are YOU ready for Librarian Blogs?"



  1. FWAH!!
    You actually blog about work and colleagues?!

    I guess the memo does not cover your org?

  2. What memo? ;)
    The way I see it, it's not about blogging about work or colleagues per se, but about being mindful not to misrepresent my employer or co-workers. Besides, this blog is primarily about my work in the Public Libraries. If I can't talk about things relating to public librarianship, then promoting the public library services should be taken out of my job description. Anyway, if I've done something that I shouldn't be doing, I'd know about it soon enough. I'm still waiting after blogging for more than a year.

  3. BTW, your question reminded me of this earlier post.

  4. Ivan,
    Just a thought. What if librarians blogged about the books they read, showing the joy or enlightenment or anger in the words between the cardboard and fabric covers? What if they blogged for their library passions and got into conversations, debates, arguments with readers over the books themselves. What would that do for reading, and using libraries?

  5. Shel, I think firstly it gives a 'Face' to the librarians and the Library. Librarians would be perceived as being a lot more visible & accessible to readers (which is always a good thing). It might create a better user experience for existing library users -- that using the library goes beyond mere transactions to where users can expect the librarians to engage them in meaningful dialogues. Having started a personal book blog some time back, I know for a fact (from the site stats) that the librarian and/ or the book being featured stands a good chance of being Googled by users (who probably might not be library users).

  6. i didn't have that "blogging mentality" before. i tried to write without using the words "i" or "me," and didn't quite know what to do if someone left a comment. but now that i'm a certified blog addict, my problem is stopping myself from blogging all the time and wanting to participate in just about every thread =)


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