11 April 2013

Looking At The Library Blog Statistics: users choose value-rich content

For almost three years, the college library has been using a blog (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/) for marketing and user education. It’s been one of the most exciting and defining developments in the library’s recent practice.

I have learnt a lot since then, also by making mistakes. We have experimented with using the blog as a social platform for soliciting views and interaction with the users. We have tried to teach them how to follow blogs, and this blog in particular, using RSS feeds… to a very little effect. One of the important lessons I learnt was that the library users (and learners in general) will not flock to the specially designed for them virtual spaces. They may stumble upon the library where they are already spend their time, e.g. Facebook and Twitter, but any form of an active engagement on their part there is very unlikely – a college library simply can’t compete with our users’ own interests, hobbies and concerns. They may, however, look for the library when they need a quick fix of the forthcoming assignment or the OpenAthens access details – either for e-books or shopping discounts.

Top pages and posts for the first three months of 2013

Two rarely promoted, but very popular pages are those on renewing loans (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/services/renew-loans/) and the opening hours (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/opening-times/): users are looking for the library when they need it. Among the five top performing blog pages, two – on e-books (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/elibrary/e-books/) and Open Athens (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/elibrary/athens/) – have been referenced in multiple and regular posts on new e-book titles. They were promoted on the staff extranet, Facebook and Twitter on many occasions. Another popular page is on ClickView (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/elibrary/clickview/, streamed video content); it is often mentioned in conversations with teaching staff.

The content our users are likely to come back for again and again is that which helps them to get what they expect from the library – access to information resources, space for learning and help: a page on referencing (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/help-and-guides/ref/) and a post on accessing past exam papers (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/past-exam-papers/) are trending high.

This observation has encouraged me to shift the focus of the blog from the purely marketing content towards user education and guidance.

New developments are still covered as much as possible, both in the library and the college-wide. For example, the library blog has recently broken news about a member of staff entering a prestigious fiction-writing competition (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/1-9/). We previewed the college staff’s art exhibition too (http://nwhclibrary.wordpress.com/2013/04/05/college-staff-art-exhibition-in-hinckley/). These were good opportunities to promote the blog on the college extranet, to ask the Marketing team to spread the news via the college Twitter and use other channels to disseminate those stories, most often – with the link back to the original blog post. Such events create buzz around the stories and enhance awareness of the blog across the college.

Webpages the users visit before coming to the library blog (first three months 2013)
What places on the internet do the library blog users visit before we see them on the blog? Almost all of them come from the library page on the college website. That page features a number of links leading to the blog content; all five best visited blog pages have direct links from the library home webpage. Fighting for the prominent spot on the college website is increasingly difficult, but is absolutely crucial. The library gateway must not be hidden behind passwords. Visitors’ statistics, such as mentioned here, may be used to persuade managers and the marketing team colleagues in the need for the college library being visible and easily accessible online.

Top further destinations of the library blog users (first three months 2013)

After the users came to us, where do they go to? – The most popular destination is the library online catalogue: its basic search page and links to the pre-defined searches reflecting the content of blog posts and pages. Promotion of the online catalogue as the main research tool has been a long-standing practice of the library; it is well reflected in the blog’s statistics. Links to ebrary and MyiLibrary, two main e-book platforms used by the college, are popular too – online users prefer online sources. ClickView attracts good numbers and every three days or so someone is looking for the forgotten Athens password. A fair number of users download PDF files stored on Dropbox, the Harvard Referencing Guide being the most popular among them.

It will be increasingly difficult to persuade library users to visit library webpages in the future. The novelty of a library Facebook page has worn out already. Out Twitter feed is predominantly read by colleagues from the college and other libraries. Our users, however, are happy to use the quality content which they expect to find online via the library, namely – the content which makes their studying easier; this content must be easily accessible and concise. There is no much sense in promoting the library in terms of “how great we are”, rather this time should be spent on developing help pages and other value-rich resources.

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