Blogging Libraries: The Crowdsourced Blog
06/21/2011 6 Comments
In my last post, I was thinking about participatory blogs hosted by library websites. How can we make library blogs more effectual? Should public library websites offer broader topical blogs, potentially appealing to a wider audience?
Then I started drafting a follow-up. About an hour later, Toby Greenwalt, of the Skokie Public Library, tweeted the link to his latest post on the library’s The Studio blog. SPL hosts a handful of interactive blogs that touch numerous subjects from research methods to book reviews to patron suggestions. As Toby tweets, it can be a lot of work to keep a regular stream of content on all these blogs.
Not all libraries have one or two people on staff who can squeeze regular blogging into their schedule. So I asked around to see if and how libraries are mining the talents of their users to pick up the slack–to gauge people’s experience with crowdsourced blogs. The resounding collective reply suggests a dearth of activity. Despite constraints of time and staff, libraries are managing their blogs, largely, without involvement of the community.
What’s to stop a time-strapped library from fielding and posting community-centric articles from their users? The crowdsourced blog could be age-specific or reach out to community writers of all ages. The mission is to source a participatory digital playground and encourage intellectual exchange while farming out as much responsibility as possible. Volunteer editors would help ensure fairness and the general integrity of the blog.
Blogs could be specific to community topics or to general subjects like literacy, the arts, or education. The library could host a poetry and short-story blog, mingling suggested reading and reviews with user-written pieces. Subject-specific blogs, like a YA or anime blog, a foreign language blog, a nonfiction or movie review blog, might help stimulate microcommunities within your usership.
Of course, the library must not necessarily host even more than one or two of these blogs. Start with one–perhaps a general discussion blog, allowing contributors to share whatever they’ve been thinking about lately. Sure, there are a million corporate websites where people regularly share comments and opinions on topics of personal relevance. But in the interest of hyperlocality, I want to give these people a local voice–a forum in which they aren’t always relegated to the comment board, but where they may initiate their own discussions.
The goal is your own–to get regular users involved in a library-hosted digital discussion or to conjure a blog of interest to community groups who may not be using the library’s services and try to bring them into the fold.
Do these things work? I’m guessing many fine veteran librarians would deem this a potentially colossal can of worms. So call me a rebel. I want to try it anyway.
What are the potential wins for the crowdsourced library blog? If your library is hosting, or has hosted, a crowdsourced blog, I’m sure we’d all enjoy the opportunity to learn from your experience.