Blogs, Podcasts and Wikis provide the means for librarians to interact with the public in more personal and collaborative ways than are allowed with just a website.
Blogs are a casual way to share information. A post (small blurb) can be made about any library related topic. Blogs are easy. The librarian only needs a computer and internet access. They are easy to set up for the administrator, and they are easy to access for the user. They can be self hosted or used on a hosted site with a still unique URL name. Blogs are intuitive to use for people with any computer experience. The data is entered and the publish button is hit. More people can have administrative access to a blog, so a large section of the library can be represented on one. Blogs can be on single or multi-topics and are easily searchable. The audience can also subscribe to blogs via RSS feed or email. Blogs are generally more casual and allow the personality of the writers to be expressed. Blogs also have multiple levels of communication. Emails can be sent to the administrator every time someone comments for easy response. A contact form can be added to help with patron to librarian communication. Comments can also be blocked on certain posts that are just informational in nature.
Podcasts are audios and take some equipment. Computers, microphones and recording/editing software are needed. Hosting sites are available to keep the podcasts on if the library doesn’t have a server or they can be linked to be downloaded. Anything that can be put on a blog could also be podcast. This would include general library type information, book talks, reviews, interviews. The list is only kept in check by time and imagination. Podcasts are a little more difficult because they must be more carefully planned than a blog post which is more easily edited. Podcasts could be used for in-house information in addition to sharing information to the public.
For both blogs and podcasts, a schedule should probably be set for writing and recording. Maintaining a list of ideas is probably a good idea too to make sure there is plenty to talk about. Another idea while getting into the habit of writing or recording would be to choose a topic that is self generating like “new arrivals.” The two mediums could easily be used together with podcasts linked into more descriptive blog posts.
Wikis provide a way to share information that is more technical in nature. They are open source which makes them inexpensive to start, but a library will need a hosting source. There are a lot of choices for wiki software, and they all have slightly different components. Wikis can also be opened up for collaborative work with patrons. One must register to edit a wiki, so all changes are recorded with name, date, and change description. Since collaborative editing is a key feature, some wiki packages allow for the page to be locked when one person is editing to eliminate everyone losing their work with multiple people editing at the same time. Wikis are also easy to use, but organization may be an issue especially as one grows. Wikis could be used for research guides, policies and procedures, how-to manuals, getting to know the staff and general information sharing are just a few ideas that could go into a wiki.
Any of these mediums could work alone or together. What appeals to one patron may not to another patron, so using multiple formats has great advantage. Information could be cross posted to some extent to help reach the largest number of users. The benefits of blogs, podcasts and wikis alike are their ease of setup or use and that they so readily work in conjunction with each other. The difficulties with any arise from continuing to provide new information to the user, but once started, the number of library related-topics to address is virtually unlimited.
Hines, S. S. (2007). Wikis, blogs and other collaborative tools in library services: A workbook and reference. PNLA Quarterly. 71(2). Retrieved June 17, 2010 from Library Literature and Information Science full Text database.
Stafford, T. and Webb, M. (2006). What is a wiki (and how to use one for your projects. O’Reilly. Retrieved on June 19, 2010 from http://www.oreillynet.com