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June 30, 2004
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Blogging at the library

Gillian Byrne, information librarian. Gillian Byrne, information librarian, said the library blog is a good way to get feedback from library users.

By Sharon Gray
The latest craze in the world of computer use these days is blogging. It may sound a bit like bashing your computer with a bat after 500 spam messages, but it’s actually an online diary where anyone is welcome to weigh in with comments and opinions. Particularly popular for political discussions, blogging has also found a home in the somewhat more sedate world of the Memorial University Libraries.

Heading up the effort is Gillian Byrne, information librarian. “We began investigating blog technologies in January as a way to improve communication with our patrons,” she explained. “A blog is a frequently updated, dynamic Web site containing ‘posts,’ or short blurbs on a topic.”

What makes many blogs dynamic in nature is that visitors can post comments to the blog, creating an online forum atmosphere. “Traditionally blogs are created by individuals, as a sort of Web-based journal or diary, but we thought we could use the technology to create online forums with which to discuss library issues with the MUN community,” said Ms. Byrne.

The blog format was chosen because it is simple to set up and allows people to easily post comments. “The software is either free or very, very inexpensive,” said Ms. Byrne. “Much of it is open-sourced so no-one actually owns it.”

The library’s blog, located at allows users to check out the e-resources the library is testing and make comments. For example, resources on a biomedical reference collection, a nursing and allied health collection, a health business elite, and a psychology and behavioural sciences collection are now being tested.

“As the library moves more and more into purchasing electronic journals, databases and other sources, we want to ensure our patrons have a voice in the products we select. We felt that a blog was a non-traditional way of reaching a wide audience.”

The library’s blog was launched in May, and although the response so far has been small, Ms. Byrne is confident that it will grow as it is promoted. She would also like to see blogs expanded to other library topics, such as the physical layout of the library, and to university topics not related to the library. “When I presented my ideas at Web Days in April there was a lot of interest.”

Although she is currently the chief blog expert at the library, Ms. Byrne has no intention of keeping it to herself. “I’d like to see all librarians check out the comments.”

On a personal level, Ms. Byrne enjoys doing a bit of blogging for her own enjoyment. She regularly checks out a librarian blog site and finds it a nice way to explore what’s going on in her profession.


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Next issue: July 22, 2004

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