ASSOCIATES (2011, March, v. 17, no. 3)

Feature

Revitalizing a Book Blog: Blog by Blog

http://www.methodist.edu/library/blog/

Angela Duncan
Circulation Manager,
Davis Memorial Library, Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC
anduncan@methodist.edu

Zach Emanuel
Circulation Assistant,
Davis Memorial Library, Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC
zemanuel@methodist.edu

Lisa Jacobs
Cataloging Assistant
Davis Memorial Library, Methodist University, Fayetteville, NC
ljacobs@methodist.edu

Last semester, Davis Memorial Library took a worn and weary blog and transformed it into an online book discussion hotspot. By recruiting members of the library staff and known avid-readers of the student population, we were able to slowly and steadily revitalize the library book blog by utilizing simple and inexpensive marketing tools.

The History: How the Blog Came to Be and Why it Died

The library blog began as a part of the campus wide, multifaceted Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. The QEP program was adopted as part of the Methodist University’s accreditation process and it focused on developing reading and comprehension skills of students. The blog began on January 2009 by Systems Librarian Katie Zybeck under the QEP umbrella. According to Katie, there was a lot of initial support for the creation of a book blog but very little practical support. The blog was not advertised after the initial launch and by April 2009, it had stalemated due to a lack of participation and a lack of traffic.

The First New Blog

On October 2010, over a year after the demise of the first attempt, the blog was reborn through the collaborative efforts of Katie, Circulation Manager Angela Duncan, and Circulation Assistant Zach Emanuel. This time, there was a dedicated and organized team with a passion to make the blog work. The vision of the new blog was that it was to become a place for interactive, online book discussion where people could talk openly about their favorite books and genres while becoming connected to one another through this forum.

Zach assumed the role of blog administrator and published his first post on the blog on October 27th, 2010. After a brief introduction about the blog, Zach dove right in with the following review of Blood Song by Cat Adams using the pseudonym, Zemanuel.

“Welcome to the revamped library blog at Methodist University; hopefully you will enjoy the new posts as much as you did previous ones. To start with I have recently read the somewhat new title called Blood Song by Cat Adams. Since I love to read books about vampires I found this book to be very entertaining; if you are looking for a vampires-only book, though, you may be in for somewhat of a shock. The scene takes place in Los Angeles with the main character Celia Graves who is a professional bodyguard on a job protecting the prince of a small, but recently more significant country. Celia, who has no psychic or magic ability in a profession that is dominated by the type, is still good at her job despite. While protecting the prince throughout the late hours and the sleaziest spots in the city she is attacked by vampires (bats) and becomes an abomination. To make things worse she has to find out who did this to her while her looks change to the appearance of a vampire, while trying not to get staked herself by local law enforcement, the feds, and the prince’s bodyguards. This all takes place in a world where magic, vampires, werewolves, and who knows what kind of other monsters are the everyday norm.”

Very early on, the blog showed promise. Zach received three comments about his review the very next day.

Tina Says: This sounds like a great book. Zemanuel gives us just enough to peak my interest. I will definitely read this book! Thanks for sharing. I hope you will continue to share with us!!!

Anon Says: Your review is very timely. I pass by this book at least once a day but I never had the chance to pick up and actually look through. I suspect that someone else is intentionally hogging the book and I miss my chance everyday. Now I know what the book is about and hopefully, in the near future, I will actually be able to read the first page. Thank you zemanuel!

GenesisEva Says: Definitely will read! Sounds like a unique take on a popular trend…Something different after reading the Twilight saga over and over!

It was a great start to a blog that had been forgotten for over a year. However, despite this stunning beginning, the team had to find a way to make more members of the Methodist University community aware of the blog’s return.

Advertising

From the beginning, the hope for the blog was that it would become a place for interactive, online book discussion. The blog was up and running and Zach was rapidly posting reviews with a few new volunteers. Nevertheless, more bloggers were needed and more people were needed to comment and interact with everyone that was already involved. The team embarked on a basic advertising campaign in an attempt to persuade students and other members of the Methodist community to participate. The advertising was also an attempt to make the entire campus aware that the Davis Memorial book blog was in business.

To recruit bloggers and to encourage students to take part in this new online forum, Zach and Katie posted a call for bloggers on the library’s website. Below is the official call for the revamped blog:

Call for Fiction Bloggers! Do you or someone you know like to read fiction books for fun? Are you interested in sharing how you feel about books and telling whether you recommend a discussed book? If so, you are in luck because the Davis Memorial Library will be restarting the library blog and needs readers to leave comments! Readers may comment on the book itself or the author, or comment on the blog post. Any book in the Davis Memorial Library is up for discussion! If you would also like to be a guest blogger, sign up.

The team also printed and posted flyers around the library and campus, as well as produced new blog bookmarks which included a call for bloggers and the blog’s web address. These were simple and low cost marketing tools to help make the existence of the blog known to the campus. In addition to these efforts, the team also advertised the blog at the Methodist University Fair/Club Organization meeting, which takes place on campus every semester. Students were given chocolates wrapped in paper that advertised the blog. Last but not least, the blog was also spotlighted in the Davis Memorial Library’s newsletter.

These efforts worked to raise awareness of the blog on campus but the most effective tool to spread knowledge of the blog was word-of-mouth. The staff members of the library had made it a point to let the students know about the blog whenever there was a free moment. Admittedly, students that were regulars were targeted if it seemed that they would be interested in participating. They often spoke to the staff about what they were reading. Faculty members were also encouraged to talk to students that they thought would be interested in blogging. Statistically speaking, over ninety percent of the bloggers heard about the library’s book blog and the need for bloggers from the library’s staff or from other faculty members on campus.

The Bloggers

As of February 2011, the blog has nine active bloggers who have posted thirty five book reviews, and have a total of 144 comments. The bloggers are encouraged to write whenever they feel inspired by whatever they read. A great benefit of having an online forum is that the bloggers speak their minds while corresponding with others who may agree or disagree with their assessment about a particular book. It is becoming a close knit community for support of new ideas and encouragement of reflection of those ideas. As the blog administrator, Zach is responsible for supporting these bloggers while he joins in on posting reviews for books. As much as he works to push things along behind the scenes, he actively participates and encourages others to do the same. Zach is also responsible for giving new bloggers a brief orientation about the blogging process and, of course, to encourage them to have fun while blogging. We want our bloggers, who are mostly students, to feel that they are part of our team and that we value their contribution.

The Future

At the present time, the blog is still actively recruiting bloggers and encouraging others to become readers and participants of the blog. The current active members that are already present are doing their part and more of the campus community is becoming aware of the online forum. However, at the moment, the team is shifting gears and simply trying to encourage students and the rest of the community to read the blog. Although there are plenty of bloggers, it is important that their material will be read. This realization is helping the team to readjust their advertising campaign.

The marketing plans that are already in effect are being tweaked to focus on getting people to visit the blog, instead of focusing on recruiting bloggers to post reviews. The advertising tools such as posters and bookmarks will continue to be used since they have proven to be effective as well as low in cost. However, as it has been mentioned, our most effective form of advertising has been telling students about the blog by word of mouth. Based on the success rate from this method, the team has already started to make even more of a concentrated effort to get the word out to the campus community.

As the focus of the efforts for our advertising campaign change, the way success is measured also has to change. Initially, the primary focus was only to increase the number of active bloggers and getting students to comment on those blogs. Success was only measured on the number of bloggers, the numbers of posts, and the number of comments that were left by the blog’s readers. Now that the blog has successfully increased those numbers to a desirable rate, the measure of success will also include the number of online hits coming to the blog. Google Analytics has been installed onto the blog to track the number of people who make their way onto the blog.

The blog is currently considered a success. The growth of the blog far exceeds what everyone had expected and it continues to grow in every aspect, such as the number of bloggers, blog posts, and comments, as well as, the number of visitors. It is living up to the hope of it becoming an online book discussion hot spot. We’re very hopeful for the future and are proud of what this new, virtual branch of the Davis Memorial Library has accomplished so far.

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