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Friday, February 11, 2011

Blogging For Libraries

Effective Blogging for Libraries (The Tech Set)Not surprisingly, I am often asked for advice on how to start and maintain a library blog.  One of the biggest things I tell people before they start a blog, is to make sure you have clearly defined your mission for yourself.

Here on RA for All, that mission, "Looking for your next good read? RA for All is a blog to showcase how the Readers' Advisors at your local public library can help," is on the banner at the top of the blog.  Whenever I am questioning whether or not I should write about a topic, I always look at that banner to ground myself in this blog's mission.

When I started RA for All Horror, I was older and wiser and actually wrote a mission statement, which can be accessed here.  That mission is also accessible from the front page of the blog in a link called, "About This Blog."

I cannot stress this enough.  Spending the time to think about why you want to start your blog, what you hope to accomplish with it, putting that down in writing, and sticking to it is the most important part of blogging.  You need to remember that creating, writing content for, and maintaining a blog takes time and effort.  You need to believe in what you are doing or else you will get burnt out and ultimately fail.

When you blog you have no editor.  As a freelance writer, I love my editors.  I rely on them, but on the other hand, blogging has also made me a better writer.  I now write every day (very important to anyone who writes professionally), and I have to edit myself.  People are reading this blog and I don't want to embarrass myself.  Having a mission and sticking to it, is a great editing tool.

In other practical advice, when you start blogging, assume you are your only audience.  Make sure you are writing something you would want to read.  I always say I first started this blog because my students and staff were doing some great work that I felt was getting lost.  Once it was presented in class or used at the library, it was gone.  I wanted to share it with the larger RA community.  Blogging was an easy way to both pass on the best stuff out there AND, more importantly, it was a way for me to keep a record of that information myself.  Quite often I blog about something I found just so I won't lose the link later.  Once I have hit the "publish post" button, I can always retrieve it, and trust me, I do this frequently.  Yes, this blog is read by many people for many different reasons, but to me, it is a giant filing system of my thoughts, feelings, and favorite links.

These are just a few things I have learned in the 3.5 years I have been blogging.  There really is so much more to consider.  Thankfully, there is a book to help, Effective Blogging for Libraries (The Tech Set) by Connie Crosby.  Over on RA Online, Sarah Statz Cords has this helpful review of the book.  I have not read it yet myself, but will be ordering it from ILL this week to have a look at it myself.

I would suggest that anyone thinking about starting a library blog should at the very least give this book a glance.  I wish it was around when I started.  Also, remember, you can always contact me with any specific questions on the topic of library blogs.  I can even come to your library to work with your staff to get you started.

Starting a library blog is a great way to serve readers, but don't jump into a new blog without doing your research first.

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