Implementing an Internal Blog in a Volunteer Run Library

Introduction:

I devote a considerable amount of time running the library at my children’s charter school. The school has about 900 students and is split between two campuses. There is a  library at each campus, both built by parent volunteers. The libraries are primarily used for weekly class visits (there are 30 classes with at least two parent librarians each), intervention learning specialists, and as a small group learning space. Teachers regularly check out books to supplement classroom learning. 

There are at least two parent librarians per class, and a total of 30 classes. Email is the primary communication tool used to share information with over 70 librarians. While email is effective for smaller group communication, with larger groups it becomes a newsletter at best, but most often an annoying and ignored lump in the inbox. Besides a bi-weekly email sent to all 70+ librarians, librarians also email the “master list” of volunteers when subs are needed for shifts. This creates twenty plus reply chains, with mistakenly clicked “reply all” buttons. 

In an effort to not only ease the burden on myself and my inbox, but also foment volunteer buy-in of the library, I want to create an internal blog for librarians. By creating a virtual space for librarians to share the happenings and needs of their library class, volunteers can not only learn from their peers, but also feel less isolated in their roles. The blog will be accessible from the library computers, making it easier for volunteers to access and use the blog for library related issues.

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

  • Create a better communication channel than email for information sharing with volunteers
  • On-site blog access to enable librarians to share information and ask questions immediately, increasing buy-in to/for the community
  • Increase the exchange of ideas between volunteers who are seldom in the same place at the same time
  • Minimize unnecessary email chains that weigh down librarian inboxes
  • Spark interest and action in library happenings!
  • Centralize all library operational information 

Description of Community you wish to engage:

Parent volunteer librarians at Citizens of the World Charter School Mar Vista (CWCMV). Future goal of engaging teachers with the library at CWCMV.

sticky notes everywhere!

Action Brief Statement:

Convince parent volunteer librarians at CWCMV that by using an internal library blog to communicate with each other they will create an open information sharing system which will benefit the library and librarians because it supports collaboration, communication and a stronger group dynamic. 

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Baxter, G., Connolly, T., & Stansfield, M. (2010). Organisational blogs: Benefits and challenges of implementation. The Learning Organization, 17(6), 515-528.

Brookover, Sophie. (2007). Why we blog: The only limits on what your blog covers are those imposed by your bloggers’ imaginations. Library Journal, 132(19), 28.

Costello, K., & Bosque, D. (2010). For Better or Worse: Using Wikis and Blogs for Staff Communication in an Academic Library. Journal of Web Librarianship, 4(2-3), 143-160.

Cromity, J. (2011). Fostering Internal Communication. Online, 35(4), 34-37.

Gordon, Rachel Singer, & Stephens, Michael. (2006). How and why to try a blog for staff communication. Computers in Libraries, 26(2), 50-51.

Gottfried, J., Delancey, L., & Hardin, A. (2015). Talking to ourselves: Internal communication strategies for reference services. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(3), 37-43.

Mcintyre, A., & Nicolle, J. (2008). Biblioblogging: Blogs for library communication. The Electronic Library, 26(5), 683-694.

Rodriguez, J. (2010). Social Software in Academic Libraries for Internal Communication and Knowledge Management: A Comparison of Two Reference Blog Implementations. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 15(2), 107-124.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

The blog will align with the overarching goal of the mission of the school: “The four cornerstones of CWC — students, teachers, families, and the community — all work collaboratively to embody a true community of learners in which we all learn from and with one another” (CWCMV, n.d.).

As it is a school library, the blog will remain internal; accessible only to current library volunteers and fulfilling policies set forth in the volunteer handbook

All blogging would be library related, with the option to create broader themed pages as necessary. Reader’s advisory is a topic that has already been mentioned by several volunteers as a needed resource.

A “Safe Space” guideline for blogging would ensure all people are treated with civility and respect, and the privacy of students, teachers, and parents is not violated. 

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

The library is at a publicly funded charter school, which receives less state funding than traditional public schools. There is no funding available to support this technology, so all funding, services and time must be donation based. 

The library currently uses the open source Koha system, with server space donated by a parent. We would use a similar open source blogging platform as opposed to purchasing software. 

Volunteer time is needed to design the blog site and upload the operational information to be housed on the site. Ideally, this task would be shared by a group of volunteers with interest/expertise in website creation. 

Google Sheet Schedule made accessible from blog

Action Steps & Timeline:

The main factor in determining the creation timeline of the internal blog will be the level of volunteer buy-in and number of volunteers enlisted to help design and implement the blog. As all volunteers are parents, many with full-time jobs, the timeline is a general guideline and subject to volunteer availability.

  1. Create poll to ascertain volunteer interest and recruitment to create the internal blog. Depending on the initial level of support for creating the blog, this step might also include rallying support and buy-in for the program. (2-6 weeks)
  2. Assemble volunteer Blog Task Force from interested parties, discuss hierarchy of needs and features wanted. (4 weeks) 
  3. Search and choose a free software or open source platform that satisfies blog needs according to priorities (2 weeks)
  4. Design blog using virtual and actual meetings with Blog Task Force (4 weeks) 
  5. Beta test blog with small group of librarians, use feedback to fine tune blog features. (3 weeks)
  6. Roll out the Blog! Train librarians in use of blog and features offered. Enable, simplify and ease access on in-library, offsite and mobile platforms. Training can be small groups in-person, shared one-on-one, and as a video how-to.

Staffing Considerations:

Enacting this technology will require asking time-stressed volunteers to give more of their valuable time to the school, in creating and/or using the technology. Simplifying use of the blog should be of primary concern to increase user buy-in. It is imperative to convince volunteers that this is a worthwhile endeavor to ease and enhance communication. 

Training for the Technology or Service:

Training librarians to access and use the blog will be fairly straightforward. Training can be small groups in-person, shared one-on-one, and as a video how-to. Email notification of the internal blog will prompt librarians of its existence and usage guidelines. Signage and instructions at the library laptops will outline the internal blog uses and features. Training librarians to add blog use to their weekly library tasks in order to create a habit will be the biggest challenge. A video tutorial accessible from the library computers could help understanding of the need and uses of an internal blog. 

The internal blog will work best as an in-library option first, helping to eradicate the plethora of post-it note messages placed all over the checkout desk. Adding the blog as a bookmark, as the Koha system is, will be a recognizable access method that librarians are already familiar with using. Once librarians have adapted the internal blog for communication, the technology can be broadened to accommodate possible mobile access and app based platforms.

upgrading from the tin can method i.e. email

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

The most effective promotion of the internal blog use will be signage at the library checkout areas. Word of mouth will be slow, as librarians are seldom together at the same time. A possible prize incentive for internal blog use could include purchase of  books of the librarian’s choosing for the library or their children’s classroom.

Evaluation:

All current internal communication is through email, texts, in-person or handwritten notes left at the checkout desk. Initial evaluation of the internal blog would be counting the number of users that have posted and the total number of posts. This information could then be compared to the amount of emails, texts, and notes that are still being used for communication. 

A visit counter can also be added to information-only pages. Tracking the amount of sharing and replies on blog posts can also help assess blog use. In addition to all of these quantitative measurements, it is important to also measure the qualitative data. What kinds of topics are blogged the most? Is the internal blog creating an open dialogue between volunteers? Individual feedback on blog use is imperative to not only evaluate the blog, but also adapt it to better serve the needs of volunteers. 

References

Costello, K., & Bosque, D. (2010). For Better or Worse: Using Wikis and Blogs for Staff Communication in an Academic Library. Journal of Web Librarianship, 4(2-3), 143-160.

CWCLA. (n.d.) Our Mission. Retrieved from https://www.cwcmarvista.org/about/our-mission/

Gottfried, J., Delancey, L., & Hardin, A. (2015). Talking to ourselves: Internal communication strategies for reference services. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(3), 37-43.

Rachel, S. G., & Stephens, M. (2006). How and why to try a blog for staff communication. Computers in Libraries, 26(2), 50-51. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/docview/231148885?accountid=10361