Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Library Journal: Ref Logs Now

Several days ago I was browsing back issues of Library Journal. As one of seven librarians on "the list" for our hard copy version, I am frequently reading more than one back issue at a time. To move it along to the next librarian, I tag and copy articles I want to read later. Yes, it means I have a back log of articles to read at any given time, but I categorize the piles. And though book marking the article from Library Journal Online would do the same thing, too many book marks create technology file folder stacks and I am quicker to weed and delete book marks than throw away hard copy.

The October 1 issue had an article, Ref Logs Now, by Emily Barton at Michigan State University, caught my attention. In it, Barton uses a web log format to detail how MSU reference librarians began using a WordPress blog to supplement, and possibly replace, their current email and reference log book resources. After “tweaking” the software, training staff members, and creating specific policies, their blog was ready for a test run. Neither Barton nor her partner in the endeavor head of reference Arlene Weismantel sugar coat the collaboration. Responses from staff, dated June 8th and June 9th in the article, provide insights to the process:

June 8, 2006: “Some were more than happy to try something new and required little more than a brief demonstration before becoming regular bloggers. Others were less than enthusiastic and were reluctant to invest much time in what they felt was a potentially short-lived technology.” (Barton, Ref Logs Now, 10/1/06)

June 9, 2006: "It didn't surprise me that some got annoyed about signing into the blog to post reference information. The primary reason to implement the blog was that it could be a better searchable archive than our email distribution list." (Weismantel, Ref Logs Now, 10/1/06)

Not long after these posts, several additional blogs were added to the MSU libraries repertoire with success. At the end of June, Barton notes, "we're past the hurdle of demonstrating the value of internal blogging." I would say so because they report individual librarians are now creating their own blogs to communicate with patrons.

Two particular things about this article resonated with me; that a first year librarian suggested the blog, and that the head of reference supported the idea. I am not sure that as a new employee I would have had the courage to make this suggestion. I hope that I would have, but am not sure and obviously in retrospect that would have been my mistake. I was impressed with the quick acceptance by the head of reference concerning reference blogs potential. Having been a part of at least one failed blog attempt (see the AU Library E-Reserves Blog), acceptance by all members of the team is critical to the success. Had the initial reference blog idea not been supported, the outcome may have been less spectacular; a successful blog begats another blog! One leads seamlessly into another.

Note: The concept of academic blogs was discussed at some length at a workshop I attended this summer, Blogging goes to College. The blog created to supplement it, Blogging Goes to College: Brainstorming Weblog Use in Higher Education, is still available for archival purposes and there are some interesting ideas presented therein.

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