ILS-538 Indexing & abstracting
©2005-2007 Amy Ranger
CMC Applications and Implementation paper : Library weblogs
Main index

This term paper was researched and written by Amy Proni (now Amy Ranger) for the course ILS-538, Computer-mediated communication, taught by Dr. E. Sierpe, Southern Connecticut State University, Spring, 2005.

Assignment: The CMC Applications and Implementation assignment is intended to give you an opportunity to relate CMC technologies and CMC practices to the functions performed by information professionals. To complete this assignment, you will develop a document that concentrates on: a) Describing the characteristics of a particular form of CMC technology (e.g., textual, visual); b) Describing the application of the chosen form of CMC technology in professional practice; c) Outlining the challenges and problems posed by the technological form you have chosen in relation to electronic communicative competence; and d) Developing an implementation plan.

Applications and implementation paper
Library weblogs: marketing for a new age

The idea of using a weblog—a type of online journal—as a marketing device for libraries is discussed in this paper. Although difficult to quantify, the question ‘to what extent can marketing with weblogs or websites influence patrons to use a library or library service?’ is viewed as a means of helping librarians understand the importance of utilizing this unique form of computer-mediated communication. The experience of some library bloggers is highlighted; a list of notable blogs, blogging resources, and a bibliography are included. 

Why should a librarian blog? – and – how are blogs relevant to libraries?   
The extent to which marketing with weblogs by libraries, to provide patrons with information about the library or library services, is investigated in this paper. Many libraries operate on a budget maintained by tax dollars from the local community, and librarians can no longer take it for granted that the community will continue to support the institution, especially in times of financial crises. Business enterprises, whether commercial or not-for-profit, have always relied on repeat customers and steady or increasing sales to stay in operation. Library managers may not view transactions in the same way as other business managers, but reports in 2004 on the growing crisis in library funding suggest that perhaps they should. From Salinas, California, to Buffalo, New York, libraries are struggling to maintain open access to information. Libraries in poor communities are in the difficult position of being relatively expensive, but are not as critical to the community as police, firefighters, schools, and health care. (Wikipedia, 2004).

A good reason for a library to create and support a weblog is that it is a simple way to transmit information to the library community, and unlike a static display of information, such as a website, a blog can be updated quickly and easily while permitting two-way communication. “Why should librarians even care about blogs? Blogs are part of a burgeoning suite of personal communication and information management tools.” (Goans & Vogel, 2003). Community support for an institution can be maintained through communication and by fostering a feeling of belonging and of ownership. It is the contention of this paper that a librarian’s job is to create a dialog with users and patrons just as it is her job to acquire, catalog, circulate materials, and provide reference services. Weblogs today are rapidly gaining acceptance as a means of communicating about specific topics and blending the expertise of many users, and also bridge a gap between the one-on-one style of email and the formality of published documents, in situations ranging from virtual book clubs to university study groups. (Umbach, 2004).

“Web logs (usually abbreviated to “blogs”) originated in the U.S. in 1997 as a few on-line journals, often with links to news items on the World Wide Web plus brief, personal comments on those items by the originators-editors (“bloggers”), as well as responses from readers.” (Blogs, 2005). Several components comprise a typical weblog. Common features are similar to what might be found on print versions of a newspaper or magazine. These include, but are not limited to: a banner title, title tagline, author tagline, and a photo of the blogger or a logo; a time and date stamp; hyperlinks to other websites of interest; a link to e-mail the author; subject categories; and archives searchable by keyword, date, or subject. Additionally, a calendar may be featured that indicates when a post was last added to the blog and permits access to archived posts. Many blogs also provide a reader with the ability to add comments to individual posts. Feedback, in the form of public dialog, may be created between reader and author with comments. This type of feedback is fundamentally different from private email communication because it takes place in the public domain.

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A library blog can have the effect of creating an online social network, that is, a back-and-forth method of communication between library staff and the patrons they serve. Michael Stephens, a librarian and educator in Northern Indiana, stated in his blog that he was impressed by the use of subject-guide categories at the Kansas City Public Library. Their website offers pages with updated local information as well as items of general interest. Mr. Stephens’ enthusiasm for this site bubbled over into his blog, emphasizing that the strength of an online social network in a community may be realized through a library portal that highlights local information. He reminds readers that “library staff should not be putting in hours on something that's already in place — unless it's building LOCAL portals and subject guides. That serves the users best, in my mind.” (Stephens, 2005).

Stephens’ point is valid: an important goal of a library should be to provide information relevant to the local—or, if not local, to the specialized—community. A library weblog that records links, commentaries, and informed analysis, that is open to being read by and commented upon by interested others, can become an objective artifact of collegial activity. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003). In the same way, a blog mediated by experts becomes a team effort in which the knowledge and expertise of many are shared with learners in mutually beneficial ways. The benefit then is that not only can the work be shared between colleagues, but also the format is amenable to comments from the audience, allowing for a unique give-and-take opportunity. The Georgia State University Library blog includes a statement of purpose under the heading About This Blog: to deliver library related news and events to the GSU community, specifically reporting on new resources, services, changes in hours, facilities information, and system status and alerts. Subject specific blogs, maintained by subject-specialist librarians, are also accessible through the library homepage via hyperlinks or RSS (Really Simple Syndication, or, Rich Site Summary) feeds. Subject specialists detail a range of information for students, faculty, and staff ranging from African-American Studies to Special Collections, and seemingly everything in between.

The St. Joseph County Public Library of South Bend, Indiana was recently recognized by WebJunction as Library of the Month because their blog emphasizes community outreach by experts. Certainly the blog is worth a visit: it offers relevant information on a variety of topics and in the individual voices of the librarians and staff working there. This is an excellent example of community and public relations in action. The WebJunction article indicated that when the St. Joseph County Public Library first launched its blog in May of 2003, much of the posting responsibility fell to Joe Sipocz, a senior staffer who was already an active blogger, and wanted to involve the rest of the staff, too. The library’s administration includes a number of forward-thinking, proactive people, who quickly embraced the idea of a library weblog. Department heads also enthusiastically supported this method of outreach and assisted in the development of a 90-minute training session on the basics of blogging. That training session and an HTML “cheat sheet” that they designed were enough to start the flow of content from all sections of the library. Some staff had blogging experience when they started posting on the library blog; others did not but ultimately became interested in contributing thoughts and ideas to the project. Regular posters today include representatives from all departments: reference, local history, children’s, periodicals, collection development, branch libraries, publicity, and media. Valuable advice to staff for their blog posts was offered by Joe Sipocz: “Don’t agonize – just write about what you’re already working on.” (Anderson, 2005). This is simple, but terrific, advice. Not only does blogging provide a forum for librarians and staff to enlighten patrons (and colleagues) on the “inner workings” of the library, but it also presents an opportunity for the staff to improve their communication skills.

In a similar vein, the web librarian at the Marin County (California) Free Library, wrote “There are 5 of us who blog. Each of us [h]as a day of the week assigned. Sometime on that day, we post something. We find that helps to keep everyone posting and to keep the blog current. The other 4 librarians who post are at the branches, and usually post about their branches' activities. I try to fill in the gaps by posting about stuff at other branches who don't have bloggers, as well as about our online resources and tech news.” (S. Houghton, personal communication, February 16, 2005). This is not to say that something news-worthy or even note-worthy happens every day in every library; the point of having a blog is to use it in a manner that is most beneficial to the local community. The flexibility of weblogs permit adaptations to various requirements, from being a marketing tool for libraries to a means of training and update for librarians. (Fiorentini, 2004).

The social benefits of blogging are even greater than the technological benefits. The fact that a blog is easy to use means that it is more likely that people will publish—and publish more frequently—so that more information can be communicated. The online journal or snippet-style structure is markedly different from relatively static websites, and the hyper- and inter-linked aspects of a blog mark it as a type of digital ecology that is constantly evolving. (Cayzer, 2004). Including a weblog in the marketing and communications “tool-chest,” can help librarians build an important virtual space, which can be useful and valuable to even a small group of library users.

While a weblog might not be the most efficient method of sharing information in a low-tech community where many people do not routinely access the internet, there is no reason not to do it if the major concern is only the time of the employee. The wonders of cut-and-paste technology make it simple to create a document such as a press release, then re-make it into an advertising poster, blog post, web page, or a simple letter—any of which may be used to reach out to the library community. A blog is an excellent tool for posting short, snappy bursts of information, and in this it is perfect for academic libraries, where students and faculty may be so focused on research that they don’t take the time to read anything perceived as only tangentially related to their needs. At the least, a blog can be created for your library to post announcements, meeting notices, and board agendas and minutes. Again, this is not very creative, but is perhaps of community interest. (Umbach, 2004).

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Blogging is easy and fun … but is it effective?   
There are problems in quantifying research related to the effectiveness of blogs. Very little research thus far is related to enterprise blogging, so the commercial applications of blogging are mostly unproven. There are, however, many articles and papers written by enthusiasts and early adopters of the technology. While this body of literature contains useful ideas, it includes little evaluative material. Even though we know that enterprises have used blogs for various purposes, it is not known whether or not those blogs achieved the purposes for which they were created, nor is there much information about either the characteristics of successful blogs or the purposes for which blogging is most successful. (Clyde, 2005). Queries along these lines sent to blogging librarians yielded diverse answers. When asked ‘what kind of response have you gotten from patrons?,’ a librarian from the Waterboro (Maine) Public Library responded “We don't track this formally. Our sense is that patrons of the physical library don't much use the weblog or the website in general. While there are notices on the weblog of local events and news, most of it is devoted to general literary, library, and reference news, not specifically about or for Waterboro. Most of the response has been from writers, readers and librarians, from all over the place. Waterboro is a small, rural community of about 6,000 people. While there are certainly people in town who are tech-savvy and who have incorporated computer and internet use into their daily lives, there are many who are not and haven't.” (M. Williams, personal communication, February 16, 2005). It is a different story on the west coast of the country. The web librarian at the Marin County (California) Free Library wrote: “We get a great response from patrons. A local mothers group actually syndicated our content and was displaying it on their homepage. I don't have any way of knowing for sure, but I don't think people are using the library because of the blog, but current library users who have found the blog have given us very positive feedback on it, especially those who fall into our "online patron" category (e.g. rarely if ever set foot in our physical locations).” (S. Houghton, personal communication, February 16, 2005). As both of these librarians are affiliated with public libraries, it could be construed that the general public is not as technically savvy as other user communities. That is not the case at Georgia State University, where a collaborative blogging project was begun in November, 2002. (Goans and Vogel, 2003). In a recent 8-month period, from June 30, 2004 to February 28, 2005, the main page of their blog was visited 84,783 times (an average of 347 visits per day) by 25,651 unique visitors (which could be people or it could be unique clients, aggregators, or web crawlers). “The main thing I can say is that our blog traffic is definitely increasing over time and the main destinations are the RSS feeds. What I can’t determine is the extent to which blog technology may be using the RSS/SML and messing with the numbers.” (D. Goans, personal communication, March 17, 2005). Michael Stephens also alluded to the difficulty of maintaining and understanding visitor statistics. (M. Stephens, telephone conversation, February 25, 2005).

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Can blogging be quantified?
The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported on the state of the blogosphere as of late 2004. The key points of the report are that the phenomenon of blogging is growing by leaps and bounds, and that internet users are beginning to make use of new and efficient technologies, such as RSS feeds. “Blog readership shoots up 58% in 2004 — 6 million Americans get news and information fed to them through RSS aggregators — But 62% of online Americans do not know what a blog is.” (Rainie, 2005). So then, the differing responses between the public and academic librarians noted above have as much to do with their geographic locations, patron ages and types, and missions, as with the needs of the community. Certainly a university library blog would see greater use: in general, patrons are younger and are active users of cutting-edge technology. Similarly, middle class library patrons living in a densely populated area near the country’s high-tech corridor would also be more likely to integrate new technology into their daily lives than people in a small, rural community. Additional research performed by the Pew Internet & American Life Project helps to put this into perspective by detailing the number of people in the country who use the internet to access information on the World Wide Web: “… the online population in America stands at 63% of the adults in the country, or about 128 million people age 18 or older. … 81% of the nation’s teenagers (those 12 to 17) go online … On a typical day at the end of 2004, some 70 million American adults logged onto the internet to use email, get news, access government information, check out health and medical information, participate in auctions, book travel reservations, research their genealogy, gamble, seek out romantic partners and engage in countless other activities. That represents a 37% increase from the 52 million adults who were online on an average day in 2000 when the Pew Internet & American Life Project began its study of online life.” (Rainie & Horrigan, 2005).

The Marin County (California) Free Library acknowledged the importance of visitors to its website in a recent blog post: “The Library's webmaster is always trying to make our website more interesting, more useful, and more fun for all of Marin's residents. 2004 saw a number of great additions to the website and a lot of people coming to visit us! Here are some statistics from the last year... The number of monthly visits to the website has increased 49% over the last year, with 334,886 visits to the Library’s website in 2004. In 2004, we added about 500 new pages to our website--chock full of useful content for you, our beloved patrons!  … In 2004, we’ve had 171,564 unique visitors to our website--an increase of 110%! … Thank you for making the library's webpage one of most popular web destinations in Marin!” (MCFLB, 2005).

The population of Marin County, California, as of July, 2003, was estimated to be 246,073. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003a). The estimated population for the San Francisco – Oakland – San Jose metropolitan area at that time was 6,955,695. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2003b). Increasing virtual foot traffic to the main library website by 49% from the previous year is certainly impressive, as is adding five hundred new pages to the site. The number of unique visitors to the website (171,564) could be seen as an indicator of patron interest – it would be very interesting to learn how many of those virtual visitors are from the local area, although with the current state of technology that may not be possible. Correlating the virtual visitors with in-person visits to the library would also be interesting. Bearing in mind that while website visitors are not necessarily weblog readers, the blogging effort could be considered justified if a small number of the virtual visitors read it and learn from it. A side effect of increasing actual foot traffic, or circulation numbers, in the physical library facility could also be considered a valid indicator of a successful blog. As a side note, people who are not physically part of the Marin County Free Library community are also apt to find the blog fun to read and interesting – that is true for many library blogs.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project survey on blogging included a general question in an effort to learn about the importance of the so-called blogosphere to the average internet user: “‘In general, would you say you have a good idea of what the term internet 'blog' means, or are you not really sure what the term means?’ Some 38% of internet users said they had a good idea and 62% said they did not. Those who knew about blogs were well educated, internet veterans (about half of those with at least six years of experience knew what a blog is), and heavy users of the internet. In contrast, the internet users who did not know about blogs were relative newbies to the internet, less fervent internet users, and those with less educational attainment.” (Rainie, 2005). Clearly, not every community will be responsive to a library blog: poor neighborhoods (urban or rural), or communities where people are not in the habit of looking for local information on the internet. The contention of this paper, however, is that any library outreach program that provides the opportunity to bring people together – whether in support of a common cause or in search of a greater understanding of the human condition – is worthy of support. A librarian using blogging technology has the ability to do that; any tool that enables an organization to communicate relevant information quickly and easily to its user base is one that deserves to be embraced.

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“The dream behind the Web is of a common information space in which we communicate by sharing information. Its universality is essential: the fact that a hypertext link can point to anything, be it personal, local or global, be it draft or highly polished. There was a second part of the dream, too, dependent on the Web being so generally used that it became a realistic mirror (or in fact the primary embodiment) of the ways in which we work and play and socialize. That was that once the state of our interactions was on line, we could then use computers to help us analyse it, make sense of what we are doing, where we individually fit in, and how we can better work together.” (Berners-Lee, n.d.). As mentioned earlier, an important aspect of librarianship involves distributing and sharing information. Through the modern miracle of computer-mediated communication, the network of computers which comprise the internet, and the abstract space for information called the World Wide Web, librarians have the opportunity to connect with information-seekers both near and far. “The phenomenon of blogging, fad though it may be, has a goal in common with both the founders of the World Wide Web and with librarians. Sharing information is the goal, and Web logs are one means of accomplishing it.” (Balas, 2003).

Some patrons will need to be gently trained in the habit of blog reading or referring to library websites for information. That could be accomplished with simple measures, such as adding the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) of the library blog or website to bookmarks, in-house posters, newspaper advertising, the telephone directory, or through the local government web portal. Libraries could also offer courses or lectures on blogging technology and RSS feeds. These newest forms of technology are relatively user-friendly methods of providing reliable information to information seekers. The blogosphere is still an emerging virtual space, but has the potential to be quite important for libraries and other information-based organizations.

“The library is a growing organism.” This, perhaps, is the most important reason for libraries to embrace the use of weblogs: the fifth law of library science from S. R. Ranganathan is a reminder that the institution is not static. Why should library marketing be any different? Libraries must take advantage of these technological innovations: personal computers, the internet, the web, and software that allows for quick and easy transmission of information. Those that do not embrace change risk the loss of information-seeking patrons, especially young patrons, to flashier organizations that may not properly vet their sources. The participation in, and support of, libraries by young people is essential for the continuation of the library as community institution.

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Notable library weblogs
Marin County Free Library
Georgia State University Library
Waterboro Public Library
St. Joseph County Public Library

Blogging resourcess
TypePad Personal Weblogging Service
Moveable Type Publishing Platform
LIS Host


Anderson, Joseph. (2005). How do you spell “blog”? WebJunction Community Center, Library of the Month, posted February 7, 2005. Retrieved February 15, 2005, from

Balas, Janet L. (2003). Here a blog, there a blog, even the library has a web log. Computers in libraries, 23, 10, p. 41-43. Retrieved February 15, 2005, from LibraryLit database.

Berners-Lee, Tim. (n.d.). The World Wide Web: A very short personal history. Retrieved February 18, 2005, from

Blogs Mix Up the Media. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved February 16, 2005, from Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.

Cayzer, Steve. (2004). Semantic blogging and decentralized knowledge management. Communications of the ACM, 47, 12, special issue: The blogosphere, 47-52. Retrieved February 16, 2005, from the ACM Digital Library portal.

Clyde, L. Anne. (2005). Enterprise blogging. FreePint, 174, 13 January 2005. Retrieved February 16, 2005, from

Fiorentini, Barbara. (2004.). I blog bibliotecari: nuovi servizi di informazione. Library blogs: new information services. Bollettino AIB, 44, 1, 29-36. Abstract obtained from LISA, Library and Information Science Abstracts, accession number 297863. Retrieved February 15, 2005.

Goans, Doug & Vogel, Teri M. (2003). Building a home for library news with a BLOG. Computers in libraries, 23, 10, p. 20-26. Retrieved February 15, 2005, from LibraryLit database.

Lankshear, Colin & Knobel, Michele. (2003, April) Do-it-yourself broadcasting: writing weblogs in a knowledge society. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association , Chicago, IL, (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED478120). Retrieved February 7, 2005, from

Marin County Free Library Blog. (February 2, 2005). 2004 State of the site. Retrieved February 15, 2005, from

Rainie, Lee. (2005). The state of blogging. Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 2, 2005,, accessed on February 17, 2005.

Rainie, Lee & Horrigan, John. (2005). Trends 2005: Internet: the mainstreaming of online life. Pew Internet & American Life Project, January 25, 2005,, accessed on February 17, 2005.

Stephens, Michael. (2005). That local flavor please. Tame the web: technology & libraries, February 15, 2005. Retrieved February 16, 2005, from

Umbach, Judith M. (2004). Is blogging for real? Feliciter, 50, 3, p. 79. Retrieved February 15, 2005, from LibraryLit database.

U.S. Census Bureau. (2003a). California QuickFacts. Retrieved February 18, 2005, from

U.S. Census Bureau. (2003b). San Francisco--Oakland--San Jose, CA CMSA. Retrieved February 18, 2005, from

Wikipedia. Library funding. Retrieved February 17, 2005, from

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To the memory of L. Anne Clyde, an educator and librarian who "got it" — and shared it.

Last updated 2007-06-11. ALR. Contact me.