Insights from a Library Blogger

Sarah Cofer, Lead Librarian, Northwest Library, Worthington Libraries, OH, offers Live Homework Help® as just one aspect of a great variety of successful youth programs and activities. But it’s her blog that’s “world famous!” If you’ve considered blogging, or want to improve your blog, check out her insights in this interview. Your teen website is stacked with information, links, stories, contests. What am I leaving out?
Sara Cofer: We also have the Quick Poll where we ask the teens different types of questions. We added some new features to our blog including a Goodreads widget and a Finetune widget. How many people does it take to maintain all of that content?
SC: As far as content, there are three teen librarians (including myself, Ann Pechacek and Mandy Simon) that create the blog posts. Our webmaster also helps by uploading photos, posters, changing the quick polls, adding features and fixing our posts when we run into a problem.

Sarah Cofer, Ann Pechacek and Mandy Simon with author John Green

Sarah Cofer, Ann Pechacek and Mandy Simon with author John Green Do you have any teens helping to maintain it, or submitting content?
SC: We did have teens help us design the look of the blog, but we do not have any teens who deliberately maintain or submit content to the blog. We do have teens that consistently publish their comments. In the future, I would love to have teens help submit content to it. We discussed this when we first launched the blog, but decided to wait and see how many comments we received and from whom. I think this is certainly something to explore. Have you identified any benefits from having a blog, in order to justify the effort?
SC: Our blog is usually the 2nd or 3rd most viewed section of our entire library website. That’s pretty rewarding! The teens know to look at the blog for upcoming events and to look at the photos of events after they take place. I had one high school guy who comes to the library frequently, but never asked for help or approached the staff. One day he stopped me and asked me when I was going to put the pictures from the recent Game Tournament on the blog. I was floored because he was not someone I would have thought even knew we had a teen blog, let alone read it. Can you tell us about one particular instance when having any particular teen-focused content on your site paid back big dividends?
SC: I don’t know if there has been one big payoff. I think there have been lots of little payoffs that together make our blog a success. Voting for the chairs for our new teen area is helpful in creating excitement and ownership of our physical space. When we had Sharon Draper come for a visit, several of the teens discussed which books of hers they have read and their favorites. Sharon Draper’s visit was the event that brought the most teen comments to our blog. We launched our blog at the same time we launched a new after-hours program series called TGIF. We advertised our programs in house like we usually do, but we also advertised them on the blog. We had record numbers to our TGIF programs. What is your number one most successful motivator for getting teens to visit your website?
SC: When we launched the blog we created hot pink post-it notes that listed the URL for our blog. We put them everywhere: on books, on walls, at schools etc. We put one on each of the Summer Reading Program reading record and allowed the teens to earn points for their Summer Reading Program by visiting the blog!

Our numbers really spiked during the summer. This past fall we had an online game we called BlogQuest where questions were posted every week for ten weeks. After the ten weeks, teens could submit their answers to win an MP3 player. We didn’t get very many entries and in hindsight we feel the questions should have been listed all together and then given them a few weeks to find the answers. I think that would have gotten more response.

Saran and Ann with some of the former teen volunteers who now run the gaming events.

Saran and Ann with some of the former teen volunteers who now run the gaming events.

Sarah’s Side Notes: When we launched the blog in June of 2006, we had 718 visits. By December 2006, our visits were at 7,597. A year later in June of 2007 we had 16,278. I am sure being library of the year didn’t hurt our numbers, but before we were announced library of the year our numbers were still pretty good. A visit is defined as “All the activity of one visitor to a Web site.” So they could click on multiple sections of our blog, but it is still counted as one visit. These are not necessarily unique visitors. If the visitor continues to browse our site after they reach the idle-time limit (30 minutes) a new visit is counted.

Are you considering a blog for your library? If you are already a blogging pro, tell us about your experience.

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