Notes from library bloggers meeting

This morning I had a meeting with some of the folks who are behind the Library’s blogs. I had called the meeting so that people could check in on how their blogging efforts were going and to provide input/feedback on how they would like to see our blogging platform evolve.

Here were my take away points from the meeting:

  • Access to analytics is very important to everyone, since aside from comments, usage statistics are the primary means of giving you a measure of how successful your blogging efforts are. We should be able to deliver this quite soon.
  • Comments need to be opened up to non-McGill users, including support for anonymous users. We also need to ability to specify that some kinds of comments (for example, comments from McGill users) appear on the site without moderation. Start from a position of trust and work out from there. We need to make sure we have automated spam detection in place, and do a few walk-throughs to make sure that the commenting and comment moderation process is as easy to use as possible. But given that we’re running WordPress, I don’t see any problems with making this happen. My main concern will be helping bloggers to develop their comment moderating skills.
  • Bloggers need to be able to post their own audio and video content to their blog. Right now people can embed YouTube videos, but need a way to get their own media content on the web. This is mostly a space issue, but we’re hoping to be making headway on that shortly as part of our server environment upgrade that we’re working on.
  • Bloggers want to be able to control as much of their blog’s settings as possible. This is not unexpected, and we will be opening up control as much as we can with the exception of the visual design of the blogs as well as admin-level options that if opened risk creating support headaches for my team.
  • The redesign of the visual template is less important that I expected. Well, less important than the issues I’ve listed above. This does make some sense, though, since of the items listed here the visual design of the blog is probably the element that has the least amount of impact on a person’s ability to blog effectively.

We also spent some time talking about how we could go about promoting the Library blogs and generated a lot of good ideas for me to consider. We have developed a RSS feed widget that people will be able to use to display recent posts from their blogs off pages on the Library’s main web site, making it easier for our community to discover the Library’s blogs. We’re just waiting for McGill IT to complete their review of our code so that it can be moved into production. I’ll be sure to share the news here once these widgets start to appear on our site!

Overall it was a good meeting, although I was slightly disappointed by the low turnout. That, along with a few comments that were made, make me wonder if maybe I need to reconsider how I should support our librarian bloggers. Maybe I’m trying to do too much, when really they just want me to provide the blogging platform and get out of the way? While I don’t think that is the best approach, I can’t ignore that my users most likely have a very different perspective on what kind of support they need, and I have to give that serious consideration if I want to make the most of the resources we allocate to this.

Slides: Using a community of practice to support librarian bloggers in an academic library

I’ve had a few people ask me for the slides from the talk I gave on October 31 at CMD 2012, and while I am sure they will eventually be published on the CMD web site, I thought I would share them here for those folks who can’t wait! 🙂

slides: Using a community of practice to support librarian bloggers in an academic library (.pdf)

Here’s the abstract of my talk:

Using a community of practice to support librarian bloggers in an academic library

Weblogs are an established technology that provides librarians with a powerful communication tool for reaching out to their user communities. While the technology may be readily available and easy to use, it is often challenging for librarians to move past the initial launch of their weblog and develop it into a sustainable means of communication. Librarians need to not only learn how to blog in a professional context, what content to produce, and how to use it to support or replace other activities. They need to learn how to use their blogs to engage with patrons and to become effective participants in their professional and academic blogging communities.

Communities of practice provide a social learning context that allows librarians to share their experiences and work together to develop their understanding and skills to become more effective bloggers. The community of practice also becomes a resource for other librarians interested in this practice, a form of organizational memory that persists beyond the involvement of any individual librarian.

This presentation will demonstrate the use of a community of practice to support the launch of a new blogging platform at the McGill Library. An overview of the initial conceptualization and planning of the CoP will be provided, followed by a discussion of how the community came together and evolved as members gained experience as librarian bloggers. Potential applications of communities of practice to other aspects of academic librarianship will also be discussed.

Communities of practice are not something I have talked about here before, but I can guarantee you that you’ll be hearing more from me in the coming months on CoPs and their relevance to IT, librarianship, and academia in general.