How conference topics can help define your blog’s categories

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This entry is part 2 of 7 in the series Blog Development Series #4: Creating Content & Evaluation
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Do these conference chairs look like category tabs? Image by irum @ sxc.hu.

The launch of the Library Currents blog is nearing completion, and some of the final aspects to develop are the categories for the site. Given that the tagline for the blog is “Library Innovations and Social Media,” these two concepts in the LIS world will definitely be two of the most important categories to write about.

It is also important to create an umbrella category for articles that need to “rise to the top.” This category could be used for the article rotator on the home page, or for articles that are timely, important or re-published from the archives. A good name for this type of umbrella category is “Featured.”

There are two more categories within the Library 2.0 world that I have noticed increase in usage. “Emerging Technologies” is a hot topic in LIS literature and represents the technical side of underlying library currents, and Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCS) are also on the rise. MOOCS provide free learning to hundreds or even thousands of students at a time, and represent a rising trend in learning.

These five categories seem like a good start, with excellent topics to talk about. But are they really being talked about? What would be a good way to check these topics to ensure that I am on the right track?

An excellent method for a blogger to analyze subjects for a blog within his or her industry is to review presentation topics at recent conferences. For the LIS world, a major conference related to the subject of Library Currents was the recent Library2.013 conference from October 14 to October 19, 2013. This worldwide virtual conference presented dozens upon dozens of topics related to Library 2.0 endeavors, such as emerging technologies and social media.

To compare what the presenters were talking about to the subjects that I wanted to write about on Library Currents, I printed out the entire list of topics presented from the Library 2.0 website, and created a category for each one. The topics for the conference were observed to fall into the following subject categories: LIS Profession, Marketing/Outreach, Learning, Emerging Technologies, Social Media, Technical Services, Library Innovations, Social and Information Trends, Management, MOOCs, DIY & Maker Spaces, and Augmented Reality.

The weakness of this approach is that many of the categories overlap in subjects. For example, Hess’s “Teaching the Teachers: Integrating Technology into Library Instruction” pairs learning with emerging technology. A more detailed rubric scoring each presentation containing elements of each category would be more accurate, but for the purpose of this exercise a general category assignment is acceptable.

Counting the category assignments, each category contains the following numbers of presentations:

  • Learning – 33
  • Social and Information Trends – 32
  • LIS Profession – 21
  • Library Innovations – 14
  • Emerging Technologies – 13
  • Social Media – 12
  • Technical Services – 9
  • Marketing/Outreach – 8
  • MOOCs – 4
  • Management – 3
  • DIY & Maker Spaces – 3
  • Augmented Reality – 2

Learning, including information literacy teaching within libraries, is the hottest topic of discussion in Library 2.0! This category includes education, teaching, lifelong learning, and teaching technologies. If you include MOOCs, which I thought would have more presentations than the four presented, Learning topics jump to 37 of the 154 talks presented at Library 2.103 (not including introduction and concluding talks). That’s a quarter of all presentations!

The second major category is a bit of a mash-up: Social and Information Trends. I viewed Library Innovations as a subject containing new strategies, services and products inside the library while Emerging Technologies was pinpointed to actual technology the library can use (though it may be innovative). However there were many presentation subjects that did not fit into the mold of “technology” or “innovation inside the library,” yet still were a “trend.” Many of these trends revolved around social trends (such as LGBTQ services), or information trends (such as governance strategies or current/future statistical trends).  The conference shows us that librarians have become excellent trendspotters, a critical element of the hyperlinked library philosophy.

The third most-presented category to my surprise was the LIS Profession and career development. Subjects important for librarians to develop their careers, their competencies and lifelong learning were presented by many speakers. This is one area I had not considered as a subject in Library Currents, but may be an excellent addition, especially as I was previously a job recruiter for 7 years and would feel comfortable blogging about it. Social Media was a subject with a good number of presenters, but not a hot topic. Marketing and Outreach subjects often overlap social media, since they often go together. The topics least talked about were augmented reality, DIY/maker spaces and management. These areas could actually be collapsed within other categories, since the wide variety of subjects in this analysis allows for sub-categories to be named in the Library Currents website.

Therefore, the main categories of Library Currents, with sub-categories later defined, would be:

  • Featured
  • Library Innovation
  • Social Media
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Social & Information Trends
  • Learning

As a final note, with all the serious business of creating an industry blog and detailing tech, trends and learning, one thing is missing. Fun. Yes fun!

  •  Fun Stuff

The “Fun Stuff” category will include cool, neat, playful and otherwise additional content inappropriate for the other categories, but might draw a smile, a laugh or an open mouth in shock! From my previous post regarding content types, there will be plenty of videos, memes and microblog posts that can present the character and playfulness of library innovations without all that complicated research and data!

Overall, I like this strategy of reviewing conference subjects because you are able to distill what the best minds in the industry are actually talking about, and what the conversations are directed towards. It allows your blog to become focused on the most important area of discussion, and increases the relevance of your writing.

References:

Hargadon, S. (2013). Library 2.0 presenter schedule. Library 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.library20.com/page/library-2-0-schedule-gmt-7

Series Navigation<< The 4 Types of Blog Posting Strategies and 30+ Types of PostsA Directory for Library 2.0 Resources! >>
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Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at librarycurrents1@aol.com.

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