For my Foundations of Information Technology class.

Posts tagged ‘academic library’

Back to the Future – UBC Library Blogs

So I have come around th country and I am back in Vancouver and looking at my current University’s library (or libraries, there are many branches to the UBC library). On the library’s main “about us” page it says that the “UBC Library stands out as a leading institution in North America.” So when I asked myself “Does the UBC library have a blog?” the answer had to be “Yes.” But where is this blog?

First off, the UBC library doesn’t have one blog, it has many affiliated blogs. Each library branch has some form of blog/news feed, individual librarian’s have their own professional blogs linked to the Library website and possibly hosted by UBC blogs. I’m sure some of the librarians have their own blogs that are not linked to the library in any direct way. (But I don’t know how to find them.) That being said, the library has a list of affiliated blogs and has a news feed that brings in recent posts from a number of those affiliated blogs. This list and blog reel are found under the news tab on the main page when you click on the button “more news.”

Now, I am an enterprising MLIS student on a mission to complete my final project; I knew that the UBC library must have a blog or blogs, and that I was going to find them. I am also new at the university and have only had one very busy semester to explore all the different resources available to me through the library, let alone campus wide, but I did not know about these blogs except in the theoretical until now. Why are they all compiled under news? Are all blogs news? Are all news feeds blogs? If I only had a passing interest in finding a UBC library related blog would I have found this large list of affiliated blogs? Probably not. Should I even wonder why so very few of them have comments. (Do rhetorical questions get question marks?)

I have come to realize through this project that many libraries treat blogs as a simple, one-way news feed. This may be because of the upsurge of twitter and other micro-blogging that doesn’t require such substantive posts that blogging has become less central, I don’t know.

As is stated in the Library Best Practices Wiki blogs can be a powerful tool for libraries but they have to be used to their full potential and they have to be put where users will see and read them. I don’t think that is happening with the blogs affiliated with the UBC library. Maybe single blogs are better at advertising themselves to their targeted audience, but as a whole they are not exactly accessible.

Having a look at the list of blogs on the news page, there is quite a variety. Some of them are professional blogs meant to be read by other librarians and staff. Some are informing their subject or department community about recent events and new ideas in the field. Some are news and updates about what events are happening at that library branch, hours, and closures. The blogs that seem to commented on the most are the professional blogs that have been established for a long time. The list is lacking a link tot he UBC blog community where many professors and students outside the library have blogs that may or may not be relevant to the user. Did you know UBC had it’s own blog service?

I like the way Meredith Farkas in her blog posting Web/ Library 2.0 Blacklash (Dec. 1, 2005) used the idea of a paradigm shift in her definition of Library 2.0. In her definition, and in my own mind, Library 2.0 is more about how you use the tools and how you structure your services than it is about what technology you make use of. Just having a blog doesn’t make a library “2.0,” a “2.0” tool focuses on things like user feedback and content generation, responding to the needs and wants of your user instead of telling them what they want, and using the inter-connectivity of the internet to create dialogs and community. Before you start a blog, ask yourself why you are starting it and what are your goals. Then down the line, reassess whether you are meeting those goals. If all you want is a news feed, that’s fine, it’s a news feed, but don’t pretend it’s some fancy new tool that is going to revolutionize the library. For the examples I’ve seen that do make the best use of the potential in blogs, I am amazed, impressed, and inspired. I will keep reading, and sometimes, commenting.

St. Mary’s University – The Patrick Power Library

So from the Halifax Public Library I move to the Patrick Power Library, the library for St. Mary’s University, or SMU for short. SMU is where I finished my undergraduate degree in Criminology. I spent some time in the library, most of it in the last year when I was working on my thesis. My fondest memory of a reference interaction happened at this library when I was getting help with finding primary source material for my thesis.I had a good relationship with this library and it’s staff so I was quite surprised to find out that it has had an affiliated blog since 2006. I didn’t graduate until 2008.

The PowerBlog is written by one staff member, the Promotional Services Librarian. The “about” section on the blog is not filled in so I had to look up the author in the library’s directory in order to find out some more information about the author. There is also no stated objective for the blog but guessing from the posts it is mostly a news feed, updates about the library. It is updated intermittently depending on what is going on. During high use times at the library there appear to be more more posts.

As with the HPL blog, there seem to be very few comments on any of the posts in this blog. It is focused on disseminating library news, which it does, but it isn’t generating a discussion. Where is the bi-directional communication that Graham Cormode and Balachander Krishnamurthy talk about in their article Key Differences Between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0? Blogging existed before the concept of Web 2.0 was developed and maybe a blog itself isn’t Web 2.0. Maybe it’s how that blog is used. In the two examples I’ve looked at so far, the focus isn’t on generating a discussion, it isn’t on bi-directional communication, it is on top down, unidirectional communication. The SMU library blog more so than the HPL readers blog. It is hard to generate discussion around library hours, closures, and upcoming refworks workshops.

Or is it? Library hours were a hot topic hen I went to SMU. I even remember it being an issue that came up in elections for the student association. At the time, the library hours were rather restricted and most students wanted some extended hours, especially around mid-terms and finals. The blog could have been used as a forum to discuss this issue with the students. To open up a dialog between students and library and university administration. Unfortunately it was not. No dialog was created with the blog or any other tool. A few statements, akin to media releases, were sent to the student paper and that was it. The library administration may have had very good reasons for having the hours they did, but at the time, when there was increasing focus on open dialogs, partly because of Web 2.0, the library came off as the authority handing down a decision. Like it or lump it.

Now I see from the blog that the library has extended it’s hours during the exam period. But still no discussion, only a statement of fact.

Maybe it would help if the blog was presented differently. On the library’s home page the blog feed is presented as a news feed with no ability to comment unless the user clicks the link to go to the main blog entry. It’s not even called a blog on the homepage. Whatever the reason the appears to be falling short of it’s potential.