Library blogs–and newspaper columns?

So you’re going to start a library blog–not a new books blog or an events blog, but a director’s blog or a blog about the library, what happens there, etc. (Which could and should include events, but I’m not talking about the semi-invisible blogs that just feed library home pages, beneficial and efficient as those blogs can be.)

Followthrough

I’ve heard the suggestion that, if you’re going to start this kind of blog, you should be ready to do 52 800-word essays a year–that is, one solid essay a week. Let’s pull that size down to 650-700 words and, depending on your circumstances, the frequency down to 26 or 12 essays a year. The essays don’t all have to be by one person, but there does have to be follow-through: A commitment to get the blog off to a good start and keep it going for at least a year or two.

Note: I am not talking about “sustainability.” I’m not saying you need five years’ buy-in.  I’m talking about enough commitment so that it looks like a genuine effort by the library. Initiatives without followthrough are almost doomed to failure, and if they’re public initiatives, they make the library look foolish.

Great idea–but take it one step further

So here’s the next step: If there’s a local paper (a community weekly, for example) why not propose this as a column?

That’s not either/or. It’s both.

With a lot of luck, your blog will reach one audience. If you get a column, it will reach another audience–and for many community/local papers, it’s a huge audience within the community. The two audiences overlap, but they’re not identical.

Naturally, you’d cross-promote: Mention the blog in the column and vice-versa. You might not run all the blog posts in the column (fixed length is usually a given in newspaper columns).

The library story and more

This is about telling the library story–how your library serves your community, how you transform people’s lives, the pressure points, big stories, small stories, amusing incidents…

Who’s doing it?

This is really as much a question as a suggestion.

Who’s doing part or all of this?

Parts:

  • Doing a column in the local newspaper.
  • Archiving the column on your library’s website
  • Mirroring the column in a library blog.

Of course, if you do the first and third, the second is more or less taken care of.

Let me know

If you’re doing this–or thinking about it–let me know. Send me the URL for the archived column and/or the weblog’s name and URL, and the name of the newspaper. If you’re doing the first and second, but not the third (yet), send me that info as well…

If I get at least two responses, I’ll build and maintain a page on the Library Success wiki–and I’ll probably write about it at the PALINET Leadership Network.

Which, of course, provides the inspiration: Jamie LaRue’s long-running column in the Douglas County News Press. LaRue doesn’t mirror the columns in his fairly new blog, myliblog–yet.

Oh, and if you’re thinking of doing such a column or blog but wonder whether you’ll run out of ideas to write about…well, you know, if we can identify a group of people who are doing this, you can use one another as inspiration. That’s certainly true for LaRue’s Views–I can think of dozens of columns there that could inspire similar (but local) columns elsewhere.

So: Doing a column? Archiving it? Blogging it? Leave a comment here or send me email–waltcrawford at gmail.com

8 Responses to “Library blogs–and newspaper columns?”

  1. Peter Murray Says:

    A good list, Walt. Merlin Mann, notable blogger and explorer of productivity techniques, has a list of his own on What Makes for a Good Blog? It, too, is a good read for anyone thinking about starting a blog.

  2. walt Says:

    Peter: Thanks for that. I wasn’t trying to make a list of my own, only noting one element that’s useful for an essay-type library blog, but I like Mann’s outline. I’ll have to go back to that…

    Note my own distinction: essay-type library blog. There are certainly other worthwhile forms of library blogs (as lightweight publishing mechanisms), where 700-word essays would be inappropriate or pure overkill.

  3. laura Says:

    I’ll be interested in seeing the results of this survey because I’m curious just how many newspapers there are left out there that have local content. In many places I’ve lived, it would have been near impossible to find a paper that would be willing to print a library column.

  4. Connie Meyer Says:

    Walt: I have had a column that runs (irregularly, because I only write when I have something to say) in the local newspaper for quite a few years now. The Daily Jefferson County Union newspaper has a website but they don’t archive (so you can’t see them online.)

    I actually used one of the columns as my first blog post. It was about the way our library has changed in the last 25 years. My blog is specifically related to our library’s building project but I can envision it morphing into other library-related topics down the road.

    Blogging has been a great way to help tell our library story!

  5. walt Says:

    Connie,

    Thanks. I may figure out a way to add you to the page(s) on this topic…

  6. K. Wilkins Says:

    The New Orleans Public Library started a weekly column that is published in the Times Picayune –Picayune section. Interestingly enough, the TP usually leaves the Check it Out column out of the Westbank edition of the paper. The library updates a link to the TP on its website every week.

    I didn’t start the column, but I’ve now written it for close to 2 years (it was supposed to last only a couple of months). We’re a large library and there is news and lots of “bet you didn’t know” article ideas. We’ve profiled volunteers and thanked volunteers. The end of the column is a list of programs and other announcements. It has got readers and every time I make a mistake someone catches me out!

    I remember Will Manley’s Snowballs in the Bookdrop book from reading around in library school–it contained columns he wrote for a local paper long before fame found him.

    Because of the possibility of linking a newspaper column with the library’s webpage (and blog, etc), the time spent researching, inteviewing and writing is easily justified. It also can be a way to communicate to the staff what other departments are doing and how, depending on the size of your library. I have not had to resort to too many book list articles–but I did write the story of two library cards: Alphy and Bet (one was used regularly and one just sat in a wallet).

    One thing that makes it humanly possible is that you can cover some events year after year–each National Library Week or Teen Read Week is different, but predictable.

    I try to focus on people, but sometimes I find I have left out the names of staff who worked on a project for months! As time goes by, I try to have a “name-check” review of the article to see if I’ve included everyone who is really necessary.

    This is my encouragement—go out and try it!

  7. walt Says:

    Thanks, K. I’ll add that to the appropriate places when I get a chance.

  8. maggie Says:

    Hello Walt!

    I write a weekly column titled “Book Talk” that appears in five local newspapers in NW Mississippi. (I went ahead and placed my information on the Library Success Wiki site for you.) I can mirror my work at Ranger Readers, but I choose not to since my personal blog enjoys more success. I appeared on the homepage of the college’s website, but they dropped me after hiring a new webmaster this August.

    This is my shtick. I read a book or two a week then talk about my readings in a short column measuring seven inches or around 400 words. I started for one newspaper, The Southern Reporter, in the summer of 2005, but when I changed jobs (Jan 2006) the PR department syndicated me. :D

    Thank you!


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