Welcome to the world of youth services blogging. There’s kind of a lot of us! Dana and I have been blogging here at Jbrary for over two years now, and I finally feel knowledgeable enough to write this post. Though not the most glamorous topic, I wanted to spend some time talking about our website – how we’ve organized it, features we’ve added, what we blog about, and why we’ve made those decisions.
Blogging can be very personal, and this post is in no way meant to be a “One blog to rule them all” type of thing. We all make choices based on the reasons we blog and our personal aesthetics. And there is certainly more than one way to do things effectively as a blogger. This post will simply explain Jbrary.
Here are five things we do in an effort to make Jbrary the best blog it can be.
1. Make it Findable
As librarians, we feel especially responsible for making our content findable. What happens to a blog post after it’s been published? Can people still easily find it a year later? Here’s what we’ve done to make our content findable:
- Navigation Bar: We created different tabs in our navigation bar that organize our content. These tabs have definitely changed over the past two years, but that’s just part of being a new blog and figuring your shit out. We tried to think about the different people who use our blog and what they might want to find. One of the bigger decisions we made was to separate out our “storytime” and “school-age” programs.
If you click on either of these links you will see ALL of our posts for each category even further organized by age group or topic. We hope this makes it easy to browse our content and find what you’re looking for (or perhaps stumble upon something you didn’t even know you were looking for!).
- Categories or Tags: For a long time we had a tag cloud in the sidebar, but after looking at our analytics we changed it to a list called “Categories.” Whenever we write a post, we classify it as one of the categories on the list. These categories are the same as the ones on the actual pages you can get to using our navigation bar, we’re just providing another way in. We put it on our sidebar so that people see it when they scroll down to read our blog posts. Here’s a zoomed out view of our website with a big red arrow pointing to our Categories feature.
- Search Bar: We may be one of the few blogs left that still features a search bar, but we think it’s worth it to have in case someone doesn’t use the navigation bar and wants to find a specific post. If you have a blog and provide no other content organization, I highly recommend having a search bar!
2. Make it Connected
Blogging is only one of the social media platforms we use, and we want people to be able to easily link our social media accounts together. That’s why we feature our “Stay Connected” buttons at the top right of our sidebar.
We also link to our blog and our YouTube channel on our Twitter account where we’re most active. Again, just trying to make it easy for people to find us and connect all our different resources.
Lastly, we want Jbrary connected to all the other wonderful youth services folks blogging so we created a Blogroll featuring all of the active youth services blogs we know about. Sometimes when we add a blog it sends an email to the blog owner and they learn about us too.
3. Make it Shareable
We need to give a huge shout out to Ingrid at The Magpie Librarian because she encouraged us to install a plugin that allows people to share individual posts. Our plugin allows people to share via email, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook. This feature makes it so much easier for other people to publicize our posts, and we try to return the favour as often as we can! Here’s what it looks like:
4. Make it Personal
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to identify themselves and where they work, so we count ourselves lucky in that regard. We love having an “About Us” page that features pictures and a short description of who we each are. This also allows people to find our individual Twitter handles. Whenever I find new blogs, the “About Page” is one of the first places I go to (maybe I’m just nosy!) – But I love learning the blogger’s name, what city they live in, and what their job is like. And for us in particular, we are among the few children’s librarians in Canada who blog so we want to highlight that fact and make it easy for others to find us. Lastly, we included a “Contact Us” feature here so people can email us with any questions.
5. Make it Interesting
When we first started to blog, we mainly posted thematic storytime outlines. And that was great – I don’t think there is anything wrong with just posting storytime outlines. Often it can serve as an organizational tool for the blogger in his or her own professional life. But we just found ourselves wanting to write about other stuff – like what it’s like to be an auxiliary librarian or why we think it’s okay to do holiday programming. We also love doing series and really exploring a topic in depth. I think the variety you get on our blog is one of its strengths, and its something I look for in other blogs too.
So those are the five principals that have guided the creation and development of Jbrary as a website and blog. What advice would you give to library folks looking to start a blog? Is there something you do that we didn’t mention? Leave us a comment and let’s discuss!
5 thoughts on “5 Tips for Youth Services Bloggers”
Thanks for this awesome post! I keep toying around with the idea of starting a blog, and — if I ever get up the nerve — this will be my primer. Sending you gratitude for this and all your other awesomeness from rainy Illinois!
Thank you so much, Kary! If you do start a blog, be sure to let us know so we can promote it on Twitter and add you to our Blogroll. And rain sounds nice right about now – all our Vancouver grass is turning brown from a record warm spring!
Thank you so much for sharing such great resources for library professionals! I love the format of your category widget. I am currently creating a youth services blog for my library’s website using WordPress and am having issues making the categories look as nice as yours. If you don’t mind sharing, are you using a specific plugin to get the bulleted hierarchy look in your categories?
Hi Marissa, I am using the default category widget and the theme styles it to have those bullet points. So no specific plugin here. It’s just the CSS in our custom theme. Might be something a WordPress developer could help you figure out.