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Who Put The Blawg In My Collection?

(L-R) Donna Scheeder, Andrew Weber,  Gina Jones, William Kellum

(L-R) Donna Scheeder (Moderator), Andrew Weber, Gina Jones, William Kellum

Should blogs be in a library’s collection?  At the Law Library of Congress, the answer is yes.  Their Legal Blawgs collection is the first one of this type at the Library of Congress.  (It is scheduled to become publicly available later this week.  You will be able to find it by visiting the Library’s website and clicking on “Find Legal Resources”.) The Law Library started capturing 90 legal blogs in 2007, added 38 in 2008, and want to be at 200 by the end of 2009.  Why?  Blogs are relevant and enhance collections.  They are temporary, so it’s important to capture the information and preserve it for future researchers.   And as an indication of their relevancy, they are beginning to be cited elsewhere.

Capturing blogs may seem like a simple process, but there are complexities and issues that must be considered.  The Law Library derived some selection criteria, produced the organization of the blog, and devised a workflow process.  Selection criteria were variety, authority (frequenty cited, widely read, awards won, and scholarly nature), and those nominated by users or cited on a user questionnaire.  The blogs were categorized by topic so that an index to them could be presented on a single web page.  Blogs are monitored regularly to ensure that they continue to fit the selection criteria. 

The collection process is tracked using an in-house tool that manages and tracks the status of recommended websites throughout the entire process.  Legal Blawgs content owners must give the Library permission to crawl and display their blogs.  To date, all but one has given that permission.  The primary purpose of the tracking tool is to manage the permission process. 

It is necessary to control the crawler to define what content to capture and what links to follow, and this can be an ongoing challenge to define the boundaries of the blog collection.  A Metadata Objective Descritive Schema (MODS) catalog record is created for each captured web site, then the metadata is compiled into an XML file for cataloger review.  Challenges faced in integrating the blogs into the Library’s website included:  How to integrate the blogs into design standards, how to integrate them into existing Law Library content, and how to scale for captures of frequencies of varying amounts–from once only to daily over the course of many years.  Software from the Internet Archive Wayback  Machine was used for this.

The future of Library Blawgs collection includes enhanced searching and browsing of catalog and bibliographic records and better integration with other collections.   This collection is a good example of the use of Web 2.0 technologies to provide an innovative library service.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL2009 Blog  Coordinator

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