Teaching an Old Blog New Tricks: Rethinking the Subject Blog

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Presented during the VLACRL Conference-within-a-Conference during the Virginia Library Association Annual Conference 2011.

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Teaching an Old Blog New Tricks: Rethinking the Subject Blog

  1. 1. Teaching an Old Blog New Tricks: Rethinking the Subject Blog Rebecca K. Miller, Virginia Tech Background A Few Tricks In May 2010, I became the College Librarian for the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise (HNFE). The previous College Librarian for HNFE had set high standards, and had been very involved in research and instruction. Looking for new ways to meet this high level of service to the department, I continued to work closely with HNFE faculty members on instruction, research, and collection management projects, but sought out new ways to support this community. These • Use RSS feeds for dynamic new ideas included office hours in their building (Wallace Hall) on campus, and starting a blog geared toward research and resources specifically for this department. content; add the blog’s RSS Why a blog? I wanted to create something new, that would be flexible, and potentially serve feed to your subject guide! multiple purposes. I wanted to do it well, so I created guidelines for myself. First and foremost, I developed a mission statement that would dovetail with HNFE’s departmental mission and guide the blog’s content: • Come up with a list of Frequent and timely dispatches from Virginia Tech’s Newman Library for members of the Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise Department, supporting the mission delivering, translating, and categories (tags) that can disseminating health-related advances in the nutrition, food, and exercise sciences. ensure you always have Other guidelines that I developed for the blog include: ensuring that the blog is well-designed and aesthetically pleasing; publishing between 2 and 4 posts a week to keep the blog fresh; developing content to blog about, and help a set of regular features in order to guide the content of the blog; using RSS feeds to pull in authoritative information from nutrition, food and exercise related journals, websites, and blogs; readers know what to expect publicizing the blog; gathering statistics through Google Analytics. Since the blog’s inception in July 2010, I have worked within these guidelines and my mission with some surprising and gratifying results! • Link back to your library, and university, as often as possible Features & Specifics • Consider using guest http://hnfelibrarian.blogspot.com contributors to help maintain a variety of contentAvailable blogging platforms include WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and Posterous. I chose Bloggerbecause I was already familiar with it and knew that Google Analytics would work seamlessly with it.I brainstormed categories of content that I would feature on the blog: • Use the blog as a tool for • Frequently Asked Reference Questions • Culinary History Highlight (from our collections) teaching about Web 2.0 tools, • New Books • Embedded Tutorials evaluating information • Library News • Library Issues resources, and communicating • Technology Reviews with social media toolsI selected the following features to add to the blog: • Individual pages for information about me, library resources, and guest contributors • A blogroll where I could pull in relevant RSS feeds • Treat the blog as a resource for • A search box so readers could search content • Prominent placement of the “categories” or “tags” list so that readers could helping the rest of the campus easily see the type of content • Links to recent popular posts community understand library • An list of archived posts • An embedded Google Form that would allow anonymous feedback from issues readers • Post answers to frequently Outcomes & Assessments asked questions in order to Clearly, one of the major points of assessment for this blog has been Google Analytics. Installing Google Analytics was as simple as copying and pasting the Google Analytics tracking code, and this have a handy link available tool yielded immediate feedback about the blog and its success. when that question comes up However, the information available through Google Analytics—unique visitors, page views, traffic sources, browsers used, time spent on site, most popular posts—was not the only information that I again! used to consider the blog’s impact on the HNFE community. In February 2011, I was able to use the blog as an instructional tool when I worked an HNFE class entitled Communicating with Food. Particularly, I used the Information Literacy Standards for • Use the blog as a platform for Science and Engineering/Technology to highlight two standards that could be addressed through a blog: Standard Three and Standard Five. These two standards focus on students understanding the publishing quick tutorials (with importance of using technology tools to (1) stay up to date with professional and scholarly advances, and (2) appropriately and effectively communicate with a wide variety of people. Jing, Screenr, or Captivate) Through my instruction and the assignment that I developed to go along with it, students had the showing readers how to use opportunity to learn about both accessing and disseminating information through social media outlets. Specifically, students had the opportunity to write a post for my blog that would be databases, citation managers, published as part of the American Dietetic Association’s National Nutrition Month blogging festival. These posts are still available under the tags: guest contributors and national nutrition month. Both or anything else! the students’ performance on the project and the anecdotal evidence gathered indicated that using a blog as an instructional tool was highly effective and assisted the instructor in helping students gain critical information literacy skills that they will need in order to be successful in their future professional endeavors. • Track the blog through Google Analytics

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