Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Library Blogs: What's Most Important Success within the Enterprise?

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Library Blogs: What's Most Important Success within the Enterprise?

Article excerpt

Library blogs, such as the one I supervise as associate director for public services at UCLA's Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, exchange information and ideas on everything from the everyday, such as library services, to the profound, such as values held by librarians (high-quality reliable resources, academic freedom, open access, and so on). If you've got your library blog up and running, however, don't count on it being a booming business, providing plenty of "connectedness" to the enterprise or new business. Recent figures from a 2008 national survey of 22 academic health sciences (medical) libraries with blogs indicate as much. According to medical librarians who maintain library blogs, a typical month includes two to four contributors writing and posting about two to four posts--but barely any feedback. In fact, only one out of 22 blogs surveyed received comments on a regular basis, suggesting that almost all librarian bloggers these days find themselves struggling with the problems of how to integrate content into the enterprise and how to engage users in library initiatives. Most medical librarians spend 1-3 hours per week working on library blogs, with their efforts going mainly toward gathering information to place on the blog (32%) and writing content for the blog (37%).

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Two Givens

So should library management support blogs in the enterprise? The answer is yes. Of course, this presumes two "givens": an adequate blog software package and creative librarians. If these two givens are not present in the organization, they must be addressed before there are any major efforts to implement and sustain a successful library blog in an enterprise.

Five Factors

The library organization's leaders and management team are responsible for understanding, establishing, and managing the following five factors for library blog implementation and sustainable success. These factors are for every manager who supervises librarians who blog or lead Web 2.0 initiatives and are in addition to the two givens.

The library organization's strategies, objectives, and plans are clear and well-conceived.

Investments in library IT should further the organization's strategies and plans. These strategies become the pedometers for gauging movement of any IT investment in the right direction and making trade-offs between IT initiatives, including Web 2.0 initiatives for the enterprise. Does a proposed initiative further a goal of improving library outreach to users using social networking Web 2.0 tools, and is the investment an important contributor to achieving that goal? Are there other IT and non-IT investments that would accomplish the same or similar objectives in a special library?

If the organization's direction is vague or unstable, then it is highly likely that any IT investment or time and effort spent writing and maintaining blogs would simply create an expense for the library organization overall or for a unit within the organization. The implementation of a blog might be successful since the startup costs are very low, but it is doubtful that the newly installed tool will have addressed a strategically salient area, such as access to collections or enhanced service to nonusers of special library services.

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The library organization understands the complicated nature of the value proposition of a blog within the enterprise. Blogs can help reduce the cost of producing print marketing collateral or maintaining static webpages and can improve the timely delivery of information to readers--gains that can be seen in the number of hits to the blog. For example, my library received late-breaking information about a webcast regarding grant funding available for scientific research as a result of the recently adopted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009). We immediately posted the information to the blog without much staff effort or cost. …

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