Blogging Libraries: The Crowdsourced Blog

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.

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About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

6 Responses to Blogging Libraries: The Crowdsourced Blog

  1. Cass S. says:

    I know what you mean about a “can of worms.” I can see this working in a school library or academic more than a public library. Adults have a way of complicating things. Kids could be free to engage and probably have more time and would probably be more enthusiastic. I can see public librarians being pretty guarded about potential complications. But I agree with you anyway. You can’t go into a situation with a negative attitude. You have to look for ways to make it work. And if it doesn’t work, you go from there.

    • I would agree that some adults can make things more difficult than they should be. But kids are just as good at complicating matters. (Trust me. I have two of them.) Yet I like to think that, by and large, most people are willing to work together for a common cause, particularly in a collaborative blog scenario wherein, really, there just isn’t a lot of work involved. People write, someone edits, someone pastes the file. Sure, some level of censorship may need to be done, but that depends on each library, community, and type of blog. In any case, I suspect most undesirable content can be weeded out simply by instituting some logical guidelines.

  2. Norm D says:

    Interesting idea. Seems like something that a library’s Friends group might want to feed and water. I have a mind to bring this up with my community.

    • I hope you do, Norm. Keep us posted. Glad you mentioned getting the Friends involved, as they tend to include some fairly enthusiastic people. Cheers.

  3. Anne says:

    I can think of so many ways that this would work. We host a lot of authors, musicians and authors for programs, for example, that might just be interested in contributing content for us as part of their interaction with our community if we asked. Beyond that, it’s about identifying local experts and asking them to contribute content that showcases their expertise and helps their neighbors–I’m thinking particularly of a local we’re connected with on Twitter who works in network security, or the local blogger who’s involved with the preservation of a local historic building. When I roll out a website redesign later in the year, one of our main sections will showcase local history and locally created content. For now, I have a team of teen volunteers this summer devoted to giving feedback on and contributing content to our teen website. They all wrote guest blog posts while I was at ALA, and have ideas for more. They’ll be posted soon, and I hope to find ways for them (or others) to continue participating throughout the overachieving, over scheduled school year…

  4. Pingback: Crossett Library, Bennington College, VT « Places and spaces

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