‘Blogging for a Good Book’ as a Readers’ Advisory Blog

Continuing to use Sharyn Helli‘s criteria for effective library blogging, it’s clear that the Williamsburg Public Library‘s reader’s advisory blog, Blogging for a Good Book, makes fairly effective use of the form:

  • “Develop a savvy online presence not often possible with library web sites.” This blog has won several awards, and is popular enough across the web that a good deal of the comments on the “About” page are from authors soliciting reviews and other web services soliciting links.
  • “Grow communities–encourage community building/interaction/connections.” Although there are places for user comments, this blog is mostly one-way: it is solely for staff picks and reviews, not for users to share their reading expertise. As a user I would certainly be interested in getting suggestions from librarians, and I appreciate that the reviews tend to be pretty container-neutral, delving into TV and film just as easily as classic literature. However, I would appreciate a more interactive service, perhaps a wiki, where users could provide more active feedback as well as their own recommendations.
  • “Greater staff participation in getting the library’s word out.” / “Create trust–staff blog freely and informally.” These are two areas where Blogging for a Good Book is very successful: a whole range of library staff participate, and they are actively encouraged to write about things that they love, without any pressure from admin or suppliers to review certain materials at certain times. This creates a genial, relaxed atmosphere, and certainly makes the librarians more accessible as people – but it also walks the line between accessible and unprofessional. Objections to the perceived “deprofessionalization” of librarianship thanks to the rise of blogging have been discussed at the Library Juice blog recently, and it’s certainly a sticky issue. Because Blogging for a Good Book is directly representing the Williamsburg Public Library, the librarians’ reviews and commentary can be seen to directly represent the views of the library as an organization. With something as innocuous as entertainment reviews, this hardly seems of paramount concern – but nonetheless I would be curious to know more about the editorial policies the blog has in place, if any. I can think of at least one tag I saw on the site (“Islam”) which has the potential to cause controversy for the library.

As for accessibility, the blog could be a bit more obvious from the main Williamsburg Library homepage. You have to click on “How Do I?” on the main navigation bar, then on “Find a Good Book“, then on the “Blogging for a Good Book” tab, OR scroll down to the bottom of the main page and click the WordPress icon… to be honest if I hadn’t been looking for it for the purpose of writing this review, I probably wouldn’t have found it. Then again, perhaps a little distance is called for given the personal and subjective nature of the blog posts. Once found, the blog is easy to use, with clear links to subject categories in the form of tags down the right hand side, as well as options to add the blog to an email alert or RSS feed.

As a library service, Blogging for a Good Book definitely fits with the rest of the library’s services. It is an easy, effective way for staff to share readers’ advisory duties – and indeed, based on the comments and awards, their advice seems to be reaching far further than their local user base. And everyone who peruses the blog gets a taste not only of what the librarians are reading now, but also of connections they have made among different works, via the serendipitous browsing made possible through their tagging system. What would make it stronger, as I mentioned above, would be a greater capacity for user participation. This would make the tagging system messier, and the representation of the library more problematic – but without a system like Bibliocommons for their catalogue, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere else in the online presence of WPL for users to get directly involved in readers’ advisory discussions.

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