Saturday, January 09, 2010

Blogging Tips for Librarians

Blogging Tips for Librarians

Michael Lorenzen

One of the newer methods of communicating within the library profession has been blogs. Although not as prestigious as traditional writing, personal blogs can allow an author to reach out and spread ideas. For example, Jessamyn West has used her blog (http://www.librarian.net/) to become well known in the profession. She is read daily by thousands. While these new methods may or may not be as respected as the traditional paper journal literature, they are accessed and read. They can bring a librarian a larger audience than any manuscript published in a traditional source. The Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org/Reference/Libraries/Library_and_Information_Science/Weblogs/) lists 299 reviewed LIS blogs as of July 1st, 2008. It is clear that authors writing on blogs in the library profession are being read by their colleagues.


Starting a blog is easy. Keeping one going long term is much harder. It takes dedication to write on a regular basis. Further, writing for a blog is a visible activity that employers, potential future employers, and co-workers can visit and see. Many writers find this nerve-wracking which may hinder the potential of the blog. Also, understanding the different technological options can be a challenge.

Write With a Purpose

When starting a blog, make a decision about what topics you will write about. Although you may allow yourself to write on anything occasionally, your blog should have a consistent theme that is attractive to readers. You should endeavor to keep most of your posts at your blog on this topic. If your posts are on wildly on varying diverse topics, it will be hard for you to keep a regular readership.

Make sure you post to your blog at least several times a week. Blogs are easily started and many new bloggers posts a lot at first. However, over time, the blog posts become less and less frequent. Set a schedule for writing and keep to it. If your blog usually has stale content, you cannot expect readers to visit very often. However, do not just post anything either. Poor quality posts can alienate readers and harm your reputation. Have a plan for your blog and stick with it. This will allow for regular, quality posting which will build up readership.

One technique for frequent (and rather easy) blog writing is to share sites and news articles with your readership. Are there articles from news sources which relate to the theme of the blog? If so, link to these articles, quote from them, and add your own commentary to it. This way of writing keeps people up-to-date and allows the author to express views. However, it is easier than writing a post from scratch.

Whatever you do, avoid writing about the library where you work. Do not share gossip. Do not criticize co-workers, supervisors, subordinates, or patrons. Be careful about mentioning your library at all. Surfers searching for information on your place of employment may find your blog from a search engine. Even if you think your post is positive, will library administrators agree that your post is what they want potential patrons reading about the library? Also be careful about expressing your views on controversial topics. It may feel good to share your political views online but do you want it to derail a chance at a future job? Many potential employers do search the Web a candidate’s name and they may decide not to interview someone with viewpoints that differ sharply from their own. If you want to be controversial, that is OK. However, be aware of the possible consequences.

Technology Issues

The look of your site is important. It will be noticed by visitors before they even begin reading your posts. As such, be careful when you choose your layout. Most blogging platforms offer multiple basic free templates to choose from. Pick one that is easy on the eyes with a simple layout and only one or two primary colors. Feel free to make changes to the template that makes it unique to you. If you choose to run advertisements on your blog (such as Google Adsense), do it tastefully and with minimal visual disruption for readers.

Also make sure to register a domain name. Most blogging platforms offer a default “free” web address. However, mygreatblog.net is much more professional than say mygreatblog.blogger.com or mygreatblog.wordpress.com. Owning your own domain name will allow you to set up e-mail with your domain name as well. Domain names can be purchased for less than ten dollars a year. Registering for multiple years is a good idea. Whatever you do, do not forget to keep your registration current or someone may steal your domain name from you! If you have a domain name, you will need to get a hosting service for your blog which also may cost a few dollars a month. Blogger (one of the most popular blogging platforms) offers free hosting for domains and is a favorite choice of many blog authors for this reason.

Finally, be sure to allow comments at your blog. Many readers will be excited by your posts and will want to contribute their thoughts. This allows your blog to grow into a community. However, be sure to moderate your comments. This extra step will require you to approve all comments before they are published. This slows down your readers’ a bit, but if you are diligent it will not slow the process down very much. Moderating comments will allow you to delete the frequent comment spam attacks all successful bloggers receive. Many webmasters, in an attempt to get links from your blog, will spam your comments. They may even disguise the submissions to look like they relate to your posts. However, the intent is to trick Google and other search engines into thinking you gave their site a link from your blog.

Conclusion

Writing a personal blog allows you to share your ideas with the library profession at large. Be sure to carefully consider your writing options and the technological options you choose for your blog. These simple actions will help make your blog successful.

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