Should Libraries Concern Themselves With RSS? In a Word: Yes

When libraries offer RSS they make it possible for people who are invested in their local library to have alerts sent to their personal feed reader instead of having to visit the library website continuously and search through the various pages that a library website might have.  This is a useful way for libraries to alert their patrons to new book arrivals as well as to special events and notifications that library patrons might be interested in.

The Library Channel at Arizona State University Libraries (ASU) offers a RSS feed that is continuously updated and contains not only information pertinent to the library but also to the ASU campus.  The library also uses this feed to promote the Library Minute videos that the library films.

The Tacoma Public Library goes a step further with their RSS feed by offering different types of feed to their patrons.  The feeds they offer are: library events, new arrivals, and new arrivals by category.  Along with a list of feeds the library also explains what RSS is and gives some suggestions of popular ones to install.

RSS allows a library to extend its online presence, and as more people have, and continue to be used to finding their information online this is too good of an opportunity for libraries to ignore.

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I am now a Twitt but not yet Twitterpated

You may chuckle at the title of this blog, or might even be offended if you are a Twitter fan, but nobody is laughing more than I am now.  As a fan of social networking in general I have looked at Twitter from time to time, but have never been tempted to join.  A random sampling of tweets had convinced me that tweeting was a silly diversion, filled with nonsense text bites that only served to tie people even more to their cell phones.

I began to see a practical purpose for Twitter two months ago when I began working at the library at my local community college.  The library sent out regular tweets letting people know information that was relevant to using the library, from a change in hours to the addition of computers in the study rooms.  These small direct sentences seemed to me to be a fast and efficient way of disseminating information.

Recently now, as I have begun to look at tweets from various librarians, I realize that if used correctly, Twitter can be a powerful tool for a library.  The key seems to be to tweet frequently and with engaging content.  While I see the benefits of Twitter I am still not in love with it.  Perhaps by the end of this semester I will have gained more of an appreciation.

On a more fun note I found that Twitter silliness can be…well…fun.    The following is a bit of Twitter Parody that I found on Mashable.

Twitter Parodies

Deciding What Makes a Good Read

Looking at the five blogs I found that they are similar in that they all try to impart as much information as possible in a short amount of time.  The blogs are different in that they all have different styles in which they disseminate their information.

The blog, In the Library With the Lead Pipe, is a group blog and the style of the content is different depending upon who posts.   The posts tend to be long and the bloggers like to incorporate images from Flickr.

The Librarian’s Commute blog has one author and the posts are short for the most part and use a conversational tone, which kind of gives you the idea that you are looking at a day in the life of a librarian.

The Distant Librarian offers short blog posts which mainly refer to new technologies that are available and how those technologies are affecting people and libraries.

The Librarian by Day, blogs using a conversational tone and most of the posts are interested in new technologies, but takes this interest a bit further and discusses how this applies to the blogger’s life.

David Lee King seems to prefer writing about a variety of things and discuss technology, books, and people in the library profession.

The types of blog posts I generally find most appealing to read are ones that have a lot of white space on the screen, with smaller paragraphs that are easier to scan for content.  I prefer posts that have visuals and that are written in a conversational tone.  When it comes to content I like variety, so blogs that offer me variety are usually ones that I follow more faithfully.

I chose Librarian.net because the blogger writes in a conversational tone and her posts are easy to scan and have a variety of content.  Another thing that I like about her blog is that she has several links to other content which appeals to me because I like to explore and go off on other tangents; a lot of times this leads me to stuff I would not have found on my own.  She also includes a lot of visuals and videos to make the content interesting.

Tame the Web is a group blog which is great to read because it offers multiple viewpoints on multiple topics.  As this is from multiple writers it does mean that some of the posts are a bit longer than I might prefer but the appealing thing about this type of format is if there is one post that is not appealing to me, then the next one probably will be something I will enjoy more.

The Librarian in Black blog appealed to me because the manner in which the blogger writes is so personal she makes you want to read.  The posts can be a bit longer than usually holds my attention span but the content is interesting enough that I do not scan too much.  I appreciate that she does not talk only about librarianship but incorporates her other interests into the blog.

Based on the blogs that I have read I think that the main characteristic of a successful blog is that it must have interesting content displayed in such a way that makes the reader want to continue to read.

Inspire me to Read

A successful blog would seem to be as interesting as the person(s) who are writing the blog; engaging content makes it more likely that readers will subscribe and return.  What makes a successful blog seems to be the main thing that libraries should consider before starting one.  Some of the questions a library should ask itself before starting a blog are:

Is the blog mainly to disseminate information, or is it meant to create a dialogue with its readership?

What kind of information is the library most interested in imparting?

Is the blog relevant for the population it is trying to reach?

What will be done to reach that population?

Is there staff available to not only maintain the blog but to write compelling content?

Is the library prepared to answer uncomfortable comments made by its subscribers?

In the online world of Facebook and Twitter length comments, I think that bloggers must be able to capture their audience in the first sentence of a blog post.  Each following sentence should compel the reader to move onto the next until they have consumed all of the information that the blogger was trying to impart.  This would also seem to suggest that blog posts should not be overly long for fear of losing those people who are used to reading online and may have shorter attention spans.  I know that when I read blogs I tend to skim longer ones before committing to reading them in their entirety.  A good blog is one that hooks me with the first couple of sentences thus ensuring the likelihood that I will read the entire thing as opposed to skimming it.

Exercise – Kirkland’s Home Evaluation

The company I chose to evaluate is Kirkland’s which has a main company website kirklands.com and another website called mykirklands.com which is the website dedicated to Kirkland’s designers and fans who post photos and tips on decorating using Kirkland’s products.  Kirkland’s has a Facebook page and also a Twitter account.

Kirkland’s Twitter account stated that Kirkland’s has made twenty-five Tweets and has sixty-four followers.  Conducting a search of Kirkland’s on Twitter found Tweets of which only seven seemed to refer to the Kirkland’s I was interested in.  Most of the Tweets were positive towards the Kirkland’s brand and showed that the company and their home décor products have a strong following.  The only bad Tweet I found was not directed towards Kirkland’s but was rather about an act that had occurred between two customers at Kirkland’s.

Kirkland’s Facebook account is active and the company uses it to keep their customers up to date on sales, new store openings, and promotions.  Customers post regularly on the Kirkland’s wall and these posts consist of:  asking the company to open a store in their area; and posting pictures of how they decorated their home using Kirkland’s products.  There do seem to be a number of complaints about the fact that Kirkland’s free shipping only applies to purchases over $125.00; Kirkland’s does not address that concern on their wall and it is not possible to know if they contact the customers through other means.

I think that Kirkland’s has been successful in communicating with their customers through Twitter and Facebook.  Both accounts are updated regularly and the number of people who respond to these two media show that both sites are being visited.  The Kirkland’s main webpage promotes both their MyKirkland’s website and Facebook, but I could find no reference to Twitter so I am not sure how they are promoting their Twitter account.  In my opinion they should include that link on their website as well.

The website that seems to make the most contact with customers is the MyKirkland’s website which appears to be a large forum dedicated to decorating and decorating tips.

I conducted a search of Kirkland’s with Google Blogs and found information about Kirkland’s on a few blogs mostly relating to sales, store openings, and prize giveaways.  One example is the blog The IE Mommy.  I did find one blog that reported on Kirkland’s second quarter 2011 losses.   Using MoniterThis I found a variety of information related to Kirkland’s and this application seemed like a good one to use because it searched a variety of medias; I know I will use this in the future.