The Library of Congress turned 207 years old on April 24, 2007, but with the addition of its first-ever public blog to its award-winning Web site, it has never looked younger.
Long a pioneer and leading provider of online content, with a Web site at www.loc.gov that makes 22 million digital items available at the click of a mouse and receives 5 billion hits per year, the Library of Congress launched the blog at www.loc.gov/blog/.
"The Library of Congress has been in the vanguard of providing a wealth of knowledge in digital form, so it is fitting that it would be among the first federal agencies to join the blogosphere," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "A blog is a natural and user-friendly way to help people navigate and understand the vast amounts of information and programs that are synonymous with the Library of Congress." The blog will be written by the Library's director of communications, Matt Raymond, with contributions from the Librarian, curators and other Library staff members.
"Given the presence of some 70 million blogs worldwide—and the exponential increase in blogging as technology makes it easier to access the Web, even with wireless devices such as cell phones—it's crucial that the Library of Congress be a part of the collective conversation that is taking place," Raymond said. "Some of the top blogs have far greater readership than even some of the top newspapers and magazines," he said. "Blogs are expected and even demanded by people who surf the Web."
Raymond will target a broad, general audience of "readers" of all ages. "The average blog reader is younger than viewers of the nightly news," he said, adding, however, that "the average age of blog readers is increasing as the population ages." As the Library's RCA (responsible content author), Raymond is responsible for the blog's content—and for moderating comments. Taking into consideration the Library's mission, he said he will strive to interest other bloggers while maintaining a high standard of content and conduct. "This will be an interesting balance," he said.
"This is a great way to bring more people into our Web site," Raymond said, to connect them with the content of the Library as well as news about the Library. He said he will write about what's new (a Library event, program, or acquisition) as well as what's old; for example, interviewing a curator about a historical item in the collections or drawing on an interesting item mentioned in "Today in History" on the Web site
Raymond said he will probably post to the blog every day. "It can be a line or two, something as simple as noting an interesting recently published story about the Library. I won't have to worry about word counts, and I won't have to cut down any trees," he said, alluding to the verbosity of some Library writers.
At the end of the blog's first day in operation, at least 14 other Web sites had already linked to it, according to Technorati.com, a popular blog-tracking Web site. Many more are expected as a result of the viral nature of the Web.
The blog will accept comments from readers. Before they are published, Raymond will review them for civil discourse and appropriateness, including such legal concerns as libel, privacy and obscenities. The Library's Internet Operations Group and Office of General Counsel (OGC) are considering new draft guidelines for the creation of other audience-specific blogs and wikis (collaborative Web sites).
Raymond explained that the OGC decided to allow this blog as a pilot, ahead of policy adoption, to "get its toe wet" and to experience the ramifications of blogging. "I'm glad the Library decided it wanted to do this. It's brave, because a blog is an open forum," he said. Few federal institutions and even fewer cultural institutions are blogging (the Smithsonian has at least one blog and the National Endowment for the Arts has one).
Blogs are among the important born-digital content that is being saved and preserved in perpetuity under the Library's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (www.digitalpreservation.gov).
Founded in the Age of Enlightenment, the Library continues its mission of informing the citizenry, using 21st century technology, so it seemed appropriate to launch this most democratic means of communicating on a Library anniversary. "Birthdays are often an occasion to look backward, but we chose April 24 to look to a future in which the digital world becomes an even more indispensable part of the physical world," Raymond said.