I recently watched a webcast of a librarian round table talking about social media, and there was a brief discussion about library blogs. The panel consensus was that blogs had run their course as a library communication vehicle. "There're too many out there," said one librarian, "droning on and on. (He's obviously read my blogs.) Modern readers want compact content."--meaning, presumably, Twitter and Facebook blurbs.
So, are library blogs dinosaurs? Can they still garner followers while imparting important messages relevant to their readers? Yes, if the blogger is talking about something lots of somebodies want to read. (That's rather axiomatic.) Clearly, I'm no expert about blogging and holding an audience's interest, but, in my experience, I've discovered two types of blogs that have maintained consistently large readership:
- Local history blogs; and
- Library animal "spokescritter" blogs.
Previously, we've talked about resident animals ("pets") serving as library ambassadors (or, as I call them, spokescritters). Library animal blogs can become an effective tool in holding patrons' interest about what's happening at the library. For instance, our most popular blog was "written" by our feline roving reporter, Cauli Le Chat, which, as of just a few seconds ago, had 377,702 lifetime views (my library serves around 15,000 patrons). Granted, many of those readers live outside our service district--I'd be willing to say most--but readers, wherever they reside, become online patrons when they take the time to read your blog posts, and so those statistics count, just as much as for the people walking through your doors. It's no different than tracking website visits, or Facebook reach, or Twitter impressions. Those aren't being generated by purely local patrons, either, but they are still recorded in our monthly reports. They are people we are serving.
Other library animal blogs reflect similarly impressive readership statistics, as elaborated in our earlier post. These serve primarily an entertainment function, but if such blogs attract an audience, then that's good for the library's online PR presence. If they like your animal, they'll like you.
Our experience with a local history blog, frankly, surprised us. Seven years ago we started MPL Indiana Room Treasure Trove, a blog that focused upon local (and some state) history and, to a lesser extent, genealogy. It has been viewed 133,762 times (as of just now). Remember, we're a small public library, so we didn't expect this level of response. Perhaps we've tapped an isolated group of readers who are particularly interested in the history of Mooresville and Morgan County, Indiana (similar pages on our website [here and here and here] suggest a rich vein of interest somewhere). If so, they're not crowding into our Indiana Room to visit in person.
But does that really matter? If they're reading, we're providing them with information not easily obtained elsewhere. That's the key to a blog's success: Carve your online niche that satisfies an informational appetite not readily available elsewhere. That's how library blogs can remain relevant, even if other social media platforms seem to be passing them by.