Program: Next Stop Blogging

Despite the crowded Monday 10:30 a.m. time slot, this program was packed to the gills, with over 160 in attendance and many more possible attendees who wandered up and then away as they saw how full the room was. My notes are spotty as I ran out of the room a couple of times for extra forms and for AV support (the microphone was squealing mightily).

The presenters were Jason Griffey, Karen Coombs, and Steven Bell. Jason talked about BIGWIG’s selection process for the blogging software we ultimately ended up with, Karen talked about useful add-ons, and Steven provided the “marketing and strategies” angles.

Jason began by explaining the major differences between hosted and installed software, pointing out that LITA selected the installation route because we’re LITA and we wanted the geekier approach, but that an organization’s “technology comfort zone” might point to another solution. He emphasized the need to figure out your requirements in advance. LITA’s needs included support for multiple contributors (including workflow), low purchase price, easy administration, compliance with Web standards, and a good development base. For LITA’s needs, that clearly pointed to WordPress.

Some other factors to consider include how well the blog handles images, audio, and video; and whether the blog’s URL is branded appropriately–in other words, if your library’s URL is http://realgoodlibrary.org, you may not want a blog URL that is http://blogsoftware.com/whatever.

Karen Coombs demonstrated how to prettify and extend an RSS feed with Feedburner, which at minimum can replace that ugly XML page with a humanly-readable page; how to install a Creative Commons license; adding tagging functionality; and tweaking stylesheets. The tagging example used the XYZ plugin. [Note: Movable Type also has a separate tagging plugin that reportedly works better than the MT keywords for tagging.]

Steven Bell began by saying that the library needed to decide “why we are doing this activity” and why that particular blog is compelling, particularly in a field crowded with thousands of blogs. He observed that library blogs are “all over the place in terms of content.” Steven underscored that the blog “needs to be where the users are,” reporting that a survey his library conducted revealed that only 5% of their student body would voluntarily subscribe to a library blog–and that led to Gutman Library integrating its RSS feed into his university’s courseware. His handout, below, provides tips for going that route; coordination is important. In the end, they found that only 15% of the students surveyed had taken action based on the library feed–but exposure and awareness was important, and as one person said later in the Q and A, 15% would be huge for direct mail.

During Q and A, one attendee pointed to Ann Arbor District Library as an example of innovation with blogging and RSS. Take a look and see for yourself!

Handouts and links…

Karen Coombs:


Jason Griffey:


Steven Bell: