October 23, 2004

Ten Guidelines for Developing Your Internal Blog

Steven posts about internal blogs and I totally am in on this one.

We have been using a blog like structure internally at SJCPL for a while now.

It includes nine major categories programmed by the NRDT Web Developer and Computer Specialist based on the Lasso program from Blue World software (http://www.blueworld.com/). All entries for those categories – Admin News, Personnel News, Staff news, etc – build on each other, posting in reverse chronological order just as most blogs do. Each category is assigned to certain staff via IP addresses recognized by the database system.

Secondary “blogs” are in place for each library agency to communicate internally as well as static pages devoted to content every library staff intranet should include: Personnel info, Policies and Manuals, Statistics, and a section devoted to “Working @ SJCPL.”

Usability is also a concern. The interface was developed to echo sites that were favored amongst the team (such as various blogs and news sites) and then tested with small focus groups of staff. Some groups simply were brought into the library training room and shown the site and asked to comment. Others were shown the site and asked a series of questions, such as “Locate the Request for Meeting Attendance” form, and timed while they located the information.

From the experience, here are Ten Guidelines for Developing Your Internal Blog for any type of library that wishes to create an internal communication tool.


Involve Appropriate Staff: Make sure your development team at least consults with your library PR person, the administration and various stakeholders.

Utilize Software that’s Free and Easy: Beyond programming a site internally with database apps, ponder using a program such as Movable Type that can be loaded on an internal server and used to create multiple blogs. Check out Aaron Schmidt’s work using blog software on the incredible Thomas Ford Public Library Web site at http://www.fordlibrary.org/.

Test for Usability and Staff Buy In: Try small focus groups of librarians, support staff, shelvers – anyone who uses your Intranet. They will tell you how you are doing with simple usability tests and they will be the ones to promote buy in. If staff feel involved, they’ll be more excited about the tool. Staff in an online poll conducted over two weeks chose the name of the SJCPL Intranet. The winner was the SJCPL Leaf-let, a meditation on our Web site logo.

Technical Enhancements Count: The SJCPL Leaflet – features a date and time java script on the top right corner and a small icon representing the current weather. A section called Xtras takes staff to a series of useful and fun links such as current South bend weather, a daily recipe and gas prices for Northern Indiana!

Utilize categories and Archives Effectively: Go beyond just using “Library News” and break categories out as mentioned above. Use the archiving feature of your software as well to generate archives of categories. One click might take staff to every post to the “Library Board News” category.

Breadcrumb your Navigation: make it easy for staff to find their way back out of whatever pages they surf to. Utilize the user-friendly text/link syntax found on many sites: Home ? Personnel ? Dress Code Guidelines.

PDFs and Word Documents Rule: Many times, you’ll want to share documents or downloadable forms. PDFs are great for official memos. Plain Word docs are great for forms that might be changed/edited or for meeting minutes. Make them downloadable from your pages and be sure to mark them as such.

Collaborate! One of the most dynamic parts of our Intranet is a “Selection Forum” where staff can request and recommend all materials to our head of selection and he can reply back. Using a commenting feature available in many blogs, it’s truly an online collaboration tool!

Train Staff: Do not forget this important factor. Offer classes that introduce your new Intranet site. Give staff a scavenger hunt and see how they do. Give them reasons to come back and check the news!

Promote and Celebrate:The other side of training. Staff won’t visit if they don’t know it’s there. Make it part of your library’s culture. Ponder a weekly “State of the Library Address” from administration. Highlight staff achievements. Share photos in galleries of library events!

Posted by Michael at October 23, 2004 09:53 AM
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