Keeping Your Website Fresh
With all of the excitement about blogs, wikis and other tools for sharing and building online communities it is easy to lose site of some very basic steps to a successful online community for your library. The first step is to have a library website. This doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate to be good. A simple site that reflects your library's mission, staff, and place in the community, and is easy for you to update, is a great start.
For some ideas on how to get started, look over the documents in Web Site Development topic area of WebJunction, and check out the Web Design & Development courses in WebJunction's Course Catalog.
The next step is to have a website where there is always something new going on. Give your patrons a reason to keep checking back. If nothing ever changes on your website some people may stop visiting. There's a lot going on at your library and your website should reflect that.
Once you've taken care of the basics, consider blogs and other tools as ways to make it easy keep your website fresh, involve others, and begin to foster the engagement and interactivity essential to a true online community.
Keep it up to date
The Danbury (CT) Public Library highlights "Hot new arrivals" as well as library events.
The Musser Public Library in Muscatine, Iowa incorporates a community calendar, as well as listing new materials.
The Rye (NH) Public Library posts information about current happenings, new materials, and library services right on the home page, using a blog to make it easy to keep it fresh.
Focus on your community, your partners, your library, your staff
The Pleasant Hill (IA) Public Library puts information about current happenings in the community right on the home page, along with a link to their Community Bulletin Board.
This can also be a great way to celebrate accomplishments of staff and patrons. Did one of your staff or volunteers recently grow prize-winning roses? Did one of your patrons publish an article about local history in the town newspaper? Let folks know-and let them know about library resources connected to their interests.
For a great example of how you can use a blog to do this take a look at Aaron Schmidt's article, "Blogs Can Create Community". Andrea Mercado shares how some libraries are using online photo-sharing tools to keep their website fresh and highlight programs in "Get Flickr-tastic!".
Get everyone involved
Make it easy
Make it a scheduled task
Allow spontaneity and interactivity
And adding interactivity with your patrons to your online presence doesn't have to be expensive. In "U R the Best ," Sarah Houghton explains how communicating with your patrons through online chat can be a powerful, not to mention cheap and easy, way to foster your local online library community.
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