Blogging Process for Topeka

Today, I met with some library staff where I work and talked about starting up another blog on my library’s website (look for a sports-related blog soon!). That reminded me that I said I’d write a post about our blogging process at tscpl.org … so here’s that post!

Our blogs are generally team-based, and are connected in some way to our collection or services:

Content Connections: For example, our Travel blog is connected to our Travel Neighborhood in the library (we have been pulling our collection out of traditional Dewey order, and are grouping them by topic – so for example, now all our travel books are grouped in one handy place, and labeled Travel). Our Art blog is connected to the art gallery in the library.

Team-Based: we generally have a team leader and 1-3 other staff who are team members. The team leader makes sure blog content matches the goals for the blog; makes sure content is actually getting posted; writes content; and can edit content as needed. Team members help write the blog posts, and do whatever else is needed for that blog.

When we create a new blog, our web team meets with the blog team (can you tell we like teams?), and we create some short-term goals and next-steps, including:

  • What’s the topic? Is it connected to the library’s collection?
  • Who’s the team leader? Who are the team members?
  • How often will you post? We have a posting schedule for our blogs. For example, the Travel blog has a new post every other Wednesday. We have a Google Calendar that serves as our content calendar.
  • During the meeting, we talk about content – mainly me talking about how every post needs to relate back to the library. Each post should focus in some way on our staff, our stuff, and our community – and it should always point back to the library.
  • They’re also reminded that photographs and videos are cool, too – as long as they relate back to the topic.
  • We ask the blog team to create a list of 25 things our customers should know about that neighborhood or collection, and use that list as ideas for the blog’s first 25 blog posts. This helps our bloggers (some of who are new at writing scheduled posts) some blog posting ideas.
  • I also ask each blog team to develop a persona or two to target with posts. We’re big on analytics and market segmentation data here, so generally we’re using a couple of target audiences that relate back to the library’s strategic plan.

That’s pretty much it. We have approximately 18 blogs on our public website right now, and are growing more as we need them.

image by Maria Reyes McDavis

Check out builtwith.com

Mark this down as a cool tool for your website-building toolkit…

Ever wondered what CMS or web server a certain website was using? Wonder no more! Simply enter the URL of that interesting site into builtwith.com and voila! – this site will tell you all that geeky stuff!

For example, look at their CMS page. For the top million websites that BuiltWith tracks, they find that 62.87% of websites use WordPress, 14.77% use DotNetNuke, 10.25% use Joomla, and 3.40% use Drupal. Then when you move to their Top 10,000 sites graph, those percentages change quite a bit.

Or look at the Top Payment Distribution Services – look at the top 10,000 sites graph. % us Paypal (duh), 35.94% use CCBill, 10.94% use Google Checkout, then Flattr, Mollie, and Amazon Payment Services are there, too. CCBill, Flattr, and Mollie? Never heard of them.

So – use it to check out your website against others, use it as a discovery tool to learn about new services. Pretty handy!

Swiss Army knife by AJC1

Creative Briefs for the Website

Our Marketing department frequently uses a Creative Brief to plan the marketing and promotion process for events, services, and other stuff the library does.

Marketing and our web team meet weekly, and are part of a team we call our Creative Group (we’re big on team-based planning at the library).

So when we started redesigning our website, our friends in marketing suggested we use Creative Briefs to figure out some goals for the website, and the idea worked wonderfully.

Here’s what we did: we looked at every major section of the website – areas like About Us, Blogs, or Research – and went through our creative brief planning process for each.

We focused on these areas:

  • Purpose – what’s the purpose of this section of the website? For example, one purpose of the Research section is to connect customers to our databases.
  • Goals – slightly different and more specific than Purpose. Here, we set goals, like “We want a 20% increase in database usage in 2 years.” Or for our About Us section, it might be something like “we want fewer calls asking for our phone numbers” (since we now list out everyone’s phone number).
  • Primary Audience – Who’s the target audience? We try to choose 2-3 targets, usually based on market segments from a GIS study we’ve done (with help from Civic Technologies). This could also just be simple targets, like “the Kids pages focus on kids 8-12 years old.” This way, you can then focus the design and content on that target group.
  • Why Viewers use section – answer this question for the target audience – “Why would I want to go there?” For example, for the research section, the answer probably isn’t “because I want to find EbscoHost.” That answer focuses on the library. Answer this question by putting yourself into your customers’ heads. Do that, and the answers, more likely, resemble these: “I need to do research for my paper” or even better, “I want to get an A in History” or “I want to increase sales in my business for next year.” Then focus your design so those types of questions can be answered.
  • Tasks section accomplishes – This one is a bit more library-centric. What can you do here? List it out, then design those tasks to be as easy as using a light switch.
  • Content Requirements – What content do you need for this section? This isn’t a list of tasks – instead, it might include directions, explanations, links to more information, etc. You should also include any graphics needed here, too – graphics should support the content, and help make the main content easier to use.
  • Functionality Requirements – All the web stuff goes here – i.e., for a blog, you should list things like RSS and email subscription functionality. For the kids site, maybe you want things to move around on the page – list those ideas here. Basically, anything your web wizard needs to build.

Going though this process was great – it gave us some goals to shoot for on each section of the website, and helped make our redesign efforts more focused.

Here are a couple of articles with more info on creative briefs:

Anyone else use this or similar tools? Tell us what you do in the comments!

photo by insomnia

Summer Reading Stats … on our Public Desktops!

Just a quick fun idea, from our Marketing department! They wanted a way to show our customers how many people had signed up for our summer reading programs. They also wanted to show weekly growth, and wanted a way to nudge people who were “on the fence” to sign up.

Here’s what we ended up doing – they created an image displaying our summer reading signup numbers. It also lists the Summerfest URL where people can go to sign up (and get more info – summerfest.tscpl.org).

My Digital Services department has turned that image into the public PC desktop background image on all our public PCs (about 187 of them). We’ll change the image out every week, to show growth. It’s a simple solution – no programming required – we just update the image file once a week, and it changes on all 187 PCs.

Will it help convince some of our computer-using customers to sign themselves or their kids up for Summer reading? Not sure. Is it a simple and fun solution that has Marketing and IT working together? Definitely!

Check out Lori Reed Learning Solutions

On Lori’s blog today (you do subscribe to it, right?), she made an announcement:

“One of the things I’ve most enjoyed over the past few years is visiting other libraries and working with their trainers and staff. Beginning July 1st I’ll do this full time as Lori Reed Learning Solutions.

My passion has always been to help others grow. Now I’m ready to take this to the next level and work with libraries and other organizations to maximize their investment in staff development.”

Lori knows a TON about training and speaking, and plans to do a lot more of that – check our her blog post, what her plans are (and how that might fit in with your library’s training needs), and her new business.

Congrats, Lori!