A few years ago, my library decided to start a cooperative blog where we’d alert each other to developments in the wider world of librarianship, highlight interesting things we’d learned, and generally help each other keep up. There was enthusiasm, there was drive, there was an interesting blog… and then it died.
As far as I can tell, it died for three reasons: some people weren’t comfortable writing posts for it, people who rely on RSS to read blogs couldn’t deal with a blog that was locked down and therefore had no RSS option (one of those people was me me… no matter how useful, the site was dead to me without RSS), and everyone found they couldn’t get in the habit of clicking that bookmark and logging in to see if anything new had been posted recently.
Meanwhile, each of us continued to keep up with our own corners of the profession, some through email lists, some through professional journals, some through online social networks and blogs, and most through some combination of the three. But we all missed out on the richness that can come from hearing about things that affect our own worlds but originate in another person’s, and we all went back to been less and less aware of what interests and inspires our colleagues.
So this year we’re learning from the mistakes of our past effort and trying again, this time with more flexibility. I’ve set up a portal (still very much in progress) for those of us that really want a “home base” to check. There’s also a bookmarklet that will let people send annotated screenshots of web pages directly to my email account (using ToRead) for people who like that method of marking what they find, a Delicious tag for people who already use Delicious, and a general invitation to email me or pop in and tell me about interesting things that have come up.
So hopefully the collection piece will give people enough options that they don’t have to either conform or not participate. Hopefully there’s at least one option that will fit into each person’s existing habits, and people who are interested in experimenting with new-to-them options can do so without feeling locked into those options for all time.
Meanwhile, I’ll take whatever comes up and write a periodic blog post that glosses the things we’ve found (and behind the scenes, I’m going to see about getting password protected web-pub space on the college network so that I can link from the wide open blog to locked down documents that we aren’t comfortable sharing beyond ourselves). People can either subscribe to this newsletter via RSS or email, depending on their newsletter-reading preferences and workflow. It’ll also get fed into the portal for the “home base” folks. Just to round out our options, we’ll have low-key, face-to-face, brown bag lunch sessions once or twice a term for people who really prefer to discuss rather than read.
So hopefully the dissemination piece will also have enough options that people can work this seamlessly into their existing information-gathering processes.
The biggest challenge, then, will be striking the right balance between having a broad range of topics in each post/newsletter without overwhelming people with too many things that aren’t applicable to them. The idea is to have this be fun and interesting, not irrelevant and overwhelming. Wish me luck!