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Public Library Blogs

Magazine article Online

Public Library Blogs

Article excerpt

A few years ago, library pundits were telling us that every library should have a blog. As with almost any other universal solution, blogs never did make sense for every library, but they seemed to make sense for many of them. At the time, I wondered just how many library blogs existed and how they were doing. In 2007, I attempted to find out through two studies, one of public library blogs and the other of academic library blogs. Originally published as print-on-demand books in 2008, the core of the studies eventually appeared in Cites & Insights in May 2009 (9:6), omitting profiles of each blog. I rechecked the 252 public library blogs in mid-2009, resulting in an update in the September 2009 Cites & Insights (9:10). At the time, 218 of the 252 were still visible, and I rechecked those 218 blogs in early March 2011, looking at activity in February 2011.

For the purposes of this study, I used the broadest possible definition of blog--a website or portion of a website consisting of multiple entries organized in reverse chronological order. My intent was to include a broadly representative sample of "successful and active" English-language public library blogs as of mid-2007. The final study included 252 blogs for 196 libraries. For each of those blogs, I counted posts during March-May 2007, comments on posts, the total length of posts, and the number of illustrations.

A DIVERSITY OF BLOGS

All of the blogs come from public libraries where English is the primary language. Beyond that, there's quite a variety in blog purposes and populations served by the libraries. Consider general-purpose blogs. In some cases, the blog is the library's website--as in two libraries each serving fewer than 400 people. Seven more general-purpose blogs are for libraries with 1,000 to 4,000 potential patrons, and a dozen are for libraries with 5,000 to 9,999 potential patrons. I found 44 general-purpose blogs for libraries with service areas from 10,000 to 96,000 people; 21 serve libraries with 100,000 to 250,000 potential patrons; six serve libraries in the 300,000 to 500,000 class; and four are from libraries potentially serving more than 670,000 people.

There are many other kinds of blogs such as books and book reviews (33 in all), other reviews and materials (8), new item lists (8), director's blogs (11), event blogs (10), and multiple blogs devoted to genealogy, technology, websites, construction projects, and reference questions. In all, eight blogs are devoted to children's literature and children's activities, one to tweens, 36 to teens and their literature, and some half dozen to young adults.

KEY METRICS IN 2007

What makes a library blog a success? That depends on the library. Each of the blogs may qualify as a success for the people who produce it and the patrons who read it. All I could do was describe and measure the blogs.

During March-May 2007, the 253 blogs had a total of 5,976 posts or an average of roughly two posts per week (23.7 posts) in each blog. That's not bad--but as with most averages, it's misleading: The median was 12 posts, or a bit less than one post per week. In fact, 26 of the blogs averaged no more than one post per month. Forty more had less than one per fortnight, with another 66 more having more than one post every fortnight but less than one per week. At the other extreme, 10 blogs averaged more than one post per day, with four averaging more than two posts per day.

Blogs can be a way to increase community involvement, but counting on much conversation would be a mistake. In all, there were 1,768 comments during the period, which averages out to seven per blog--but the median number of comments per blog was zero, since a majority of blogs had no comments at all. One-quarter of all comments were attached to gaming-related posts on one blog. Taken as comments per post, the numbers are even worse: On average, there were 0.3 comments per post (and the median is once again zero). …

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