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Shelf Talk reader blog on The Seattle P-I

Seattle Public Library
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Innovation Leader: David Wright, Readers' Advisory Librarian, david.wright@spl.org

Problem Statement

The Seattle Public Library successfully launched a general interest reader’s blog, Shelf Talk, in March of 2008, quickly garnering recognition in the library blogging community and statistics that placed us among the most read, subscribed and linked-to public library sites in the blogosphere. Although we had success in using as a platform for communicating with other local blogs, we were still concerned that we were primarily reaching an audience of existing library users and staff. What we wanted was some simple and inexpensive way to use this medium to expand beyond our current users, without wasting effort in reaching beyond our library’s patron base.

Innovation

In March 2009, The Seattle Post Intelligencer - Seattle’s oldest newspaper -shut down its print operations and became an online only paper. As a part of this new initiative, the P-I stepped up their blogging efforts, both with staff blogs and “reader blogs,” an exercise in community journalism that included a wide array of blogs on various subjects, many of these with a local angle. Shelf Talk joined the ranks of the P-I’s reader blogs in June of 2009, adding the same posts featured on the original blog to the P-I’s very popular news page. The work entailed in doing this is minimal; although the P-I’s blogging software does not allow us to automatically post in both places (via RSS), it is basically a quick cutting and pasting job to replicate our content on seattlepi.com.

Progress

With minimal effort on our part, we more than doubled our library blog’s readership, and did so in a way that targets local users while getting outside of the echo chamber of current users and library supporters. Our page views and subscribers on the P-I site have been steadily rising, without any diminution of use on the home site, suggesting we’ve captured a whole new readership. Recent monthly totals for page views have been 3,551; 2,136; 10,933; and 5,078. We also have numerous subscribers to our feed through the P-I, although we don’t have a good count on that yet (we are reliant on the P-I’s own statistics gathering).

Because of the P-I’s enhanced ranking with search engines, our content on the P-I site is far more “findable” than it is at home, meaning that we reach our users in different ways. For example, we often do posts that link aspects of popular culture to the library’s collection and services, and these do especially well on the P-I site, with the clear effect of bringing users to the library who weren’t necessarily looking for us. This was one of the key reasons for our library to blog in the first place, and we’re delighted to have found a simple partnership that achieves this kind of free positive publicity for the library.