Outreach Librarian is in some ways the job title equivalent of “other duties as assigned.” For me, that means that I’m responsible for my library’s blog and other Web 2.0 endeavors. Like many library blogs, ours is on life support, if not officially dead.
Library blogs are dead.
Blogging is not as easy as it seems. Sure, it’s easy to set a blog up and post to it. But then you have to keep posting to it…again and again, constantly looking for appropriate topics to write about. I mean, hopefully before your library started blogging, y’all came up with a goal and intended audience for the blog. You did do that, right? Oh, dear… I guess I won’t ask about posting schedules or divisions of labor then.
Long live the library blog.
My first step was to decide whether or not we still needed a library blog. Blogs were one of the original Web 2.0 applications and by the constantly changing standards of the post-Web 2.0 revolution Internet they almost seem a little old-fashioned. Not to mention the fact that they take a heck of a lot of work. Shouldn’t we all just have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and slap QR Codes on everything?
No. We shouldn’t.
“Old fashioned” as they may be, I think blogs still have a place in libraries. Librarians need a quick and easy way to push information to patrons, highlight aspects of their collections or otherwise humanize their institution. And they need more than 140 characters to do it.
So how can one maintain a vibrant and interesting library blog without it becoming an overwhelming task? I’m lifestreaming my library.
Information Age Concierges
I decided to shift the focus of my library blog from law news and legal research to anything and everything related to surviving law school – something very much in the LifeHacker vein. This blends nicely with my belief that, while librarians are excellent resources for students’ scholarly work, we have much more to offer. Students today are surrounded by information resources and issues constantly, from Facebook privacy settings to negotiating google results and everything in between. Personally, I like to think of us as Information Age Concierges.
In addition to the traditional “hey, check out this database!” blog posts, I wanted to be able to share links of interests within a blog post…but without having to create a separate blog post for each. Writing up a blog post for each link would either be more trouble than it’s worth since I often just want to say “check this out!” OR, considering the amount of information I want to share, would be overwhelming to the blog. Not to mention the fact that I wanted to make this blog as un-labor intensive as humanly possible. Essentially, I wanted something very similar to the activity stream that we use on Henderson Valley Eggs, but I didn’t want these links to exist on an RSS feed in a side bar, since I wanted to keep the meat of the blog as dynamic as possible.
Man alive, I am so high maintenance!
The rough draft
Here is the rough draft of what I’m planning: the Valpo Law LibHacker. That’s currently hosted on my own server space while I wait for campus IT to set me up with a hosted WordPress install here so please ignore the URL weirdness. I think I’ve found a good way to mix the ability to have stand alone blog posts with daily RSS stream posts. More how-to and tech specs will appear in a later post, but basically I’m using self-hosted WordPress with the Feed Me, Seymour theme and Recommended Reader plugin. Initially I wanted something like the lifestream on Jenny Levine’s The Shifted Librarian blog, but I can’t get the lifestream plugin she uses to work. However, the Recommend Reader plugin has the benefit of letting me control how many items appear in a post and since everything goes a specially created Google Reader account, I can put anything with an RSS feed through it – think new book acquisitions, LibGuides updates, other Web 2.0 services, etc. I’ve currently populated the account with a variety of blogs that I thought law students may be interested in – blawgs, productivity tips, tech news and grad student cartoons, but the possibilities are pretty much endless.
I plan on ironing out the bugs on this throughout the summer and have it up and ready to go by the time the students show back up in August. I’ll report back to the class with anything else I discover.