in ALA2006, Libraries/Info Sci, Tech

ALA 2006 – Next Stop Blogging

This session was all about building a professional blog for your library. Jason Griffey (, Karen Coombs ( and Steven Bell ( spoke.

Griffey covered the technical back end – how to pick a blogging software package, and particularly whether to go with a hosted solution or to install your blog on your own servers. He highly recommends installing it on your own servers. If nothing else, it is important to have full control over the content you’ll be generating. I fully agree with this. Google’s Blogger system is great for setting up a quick blog, but for something professional like this you need finer granularity of being able to alter and control the blog.

Coombs talked about ways to enhance your blog, including:
Think about applying a Creative Commons license, instead of the more restrictive traditional copyright system. You can maintain rights like selling the post, but allow others to quote it and build on your work (as long as they give credit). Other options exist as well.

She also mentioned remixing your feeds with Feedburner, using tags as a more versatile alternative to categories, and using multiple stylesheets to support easy printing and viewing on mobile devices with small screens. This last tip is something I’d never thought about, and plan to get it running both here and on blogs we’re starting at UAH very soon.

Bell outlined a method for integrating your academic library blog into your institution’s courseware system (like Blackboard or WebCT). The details of how are on his site which I linked to above, so I won’t rehash that here. But I like this idea a lot. As Bell pointed out, less than 10% of college students actively use RSS feeds. 5% would voluntarily subscribe to a library blog’s feed. But by integrating the blog into courseware, he personally surveyed that at least 50% read the postings. These stats aren’t directly comparable, but I think his overall point still makes sense.

At one point Bell also mentioned the idea of using a blog or wiki as a method of communicating reference desk updates among reference librarians. I’m intrigued here too, but think it might be overkill for a relatively small staff such as where I work.

The session was well attended, and the audience was very curious. Blogging in libraries isn’t going away any time soon.