CIL2011: “Community Engagement on a Shoestring”

Also known as our presentation for Computers in Libraries 2011 (download the .pptx if you want to read our text).

The fantastic Brian Herzog, aka The Swiss Army Librarian, blogged our session (I wish I’d met him!) and described it thus:

Case study of how they went from municipal website to library-specific website with integrated content to focus on patron needs and use:

  • First, convince county IT department to let library have a branded header with its own logo

    computers in libraries 2011

    photo by Brian Herzog

  • Use links on homepage to direct people to library’s blog, which looks like real website but is easier to update and control – this keeps the homepage and makes it useful
  • Important static information stays on the static site, in case blogger blog went away
  • Content on blog is basically news and events – things that would have been press releases

Tools used were all free

  • Blogger – easy to use (got for less tech-savvy staff), supports tags, and supports…
  • Yahoo Pipes to create news feeds based on tags – use tags to filter information for each branch, so branches can have their own identity and patrons fell more connected with hyper-local information – feeds sometimes get picked up by local news outlets, which drives a ton of traffic, and some people become regular readers
  • Feedburner to embed feeds into homepage
  • But keep in mind: the tools aren’t always enough – you need good practice, staff, content, and integration


  • Huge increase in comments and patron participation
  • Staff better understands patrons’ point of view
  • More staff involvement and investment in public image

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