Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 6, May 2006
Libraries make use of blog software to communicate with patrons
Patrons of the Missouri River Regional Library in Jefferson City can follow the library’s plans for its upcoming expansion on a blog on the library’s website. The blog, maintained by library director Margaret Conroy and Web design and training coordinator Robin Hastings, has followed the development of the library’s expansion plans since April 2005.
The site, available at www.mrrl.org/expansion/blog, has been well received by visitors to the library’s website, Hastings said. “Most of our posts have comments on them, and it seems to be a popular source of information for our patrons.”
Blogs, an abbreviation for “Web logs,” have been popular on the Web recently as a means for journalists and commentators, both amateur and professional, to reach a broad audience over the World Wide Web, often with highly specialized topics. Blogs typically feature regular, often daily, posts, an archive of previous posts and the ability of readers to leave comments responding to a blog’s articles.
What distinguishes a contemporary blog from a regular website or the personal journals that populated the early Web, according to Hastings, is the ease of use of modern blogging software.
“Back when the Web was new, you had to know HTML to add information to a site. Now, if you can enter text into a textfield in a webpage, you can add information to your blog,” Hastings said. “That makes blogging much more accessible and popular, in my opinion.”
Around Missouri, public libraries are using blog software to help keep their patrons informed about upcoming events, new materials and other developments at the library. For example, the Springfield-Greene County Library’s website currently hosts four blogs — a library news blog, a blog aimed at children, another targeting teens and even one specializing in fundraising for nonprofit organizations.
In addition to their public uses, some libraries use blogs internally to aid staff communications and education. “Several of the conferences that staff members have attended over the last few years have been blogged by the attending staff for the folks who stayed home,” Hastings said. The new source of information has been well received by staff members at the library. “It requires a bit more work on the part of staff who attend conferences, but the staff who stay home really appreciate being able to learn along with us, so to speak.”
Some of the elements required to maintain a successful blog, Hastings said, are regular posts, a consistent voice and a real desire to share what you know with others.
“It requires some discipline to post regularly and to check the comments for spam,” Hastings said. “With a focused topic like our expansion plans, however, it wasn’t too difficult to find things to write about!”
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