Online Communities

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Success Stories

Tips for Developing Online Communities

Thoughts About Online Communities in Libraries

Questions, Comments, What You'd Like to Know About Online Communities

I am curious about the accountability factor regarding online communities. Specifically, is it a better idea to force users to "sign in" to a wiki (or blog) in order to allow them to edit the page? Is it a good idea to require a library card number as a username (or allow them to create a username\password that is connected to a card) to help prevent spamming the site? Or have open sites been successful? -Posted by Mike Beccaria 8-11-05

At MRRL, we don't require any kind of registration or signing in to comment on our blog. We've had very few problems with it, too. I have to go in and delete the occasional poker or casino spam, but it's not too bad. We have a statement above our comment form, however, that warns folks that comments will be deleted if they are off-topic or rude. Our patrons have had no problem abiding by that (even when they disagree with us)! - Posted by Robin Hastings 8-12-05

I would be really interested to see some statistical measures of the success of various tools for fostering online community in libraries--maybe number of overall web-site visits: pre-blog and post blog; pre-virtual reference and post-virtual reference, etc., measure of visits to "regular" library web-site vs. visits to online community area. -SMK 8-22-05

Great Examples of Libraries Creating Online Communities for Their Patrons


In 1995, the North Suburban Library System (NSLS) launched NorthStarNet (, an online community information network. The electronic community was created as an entry point to the Internet for libraries and for organizations in the communities they serve. This resource for sharing information across physical and electronic borders has grown from four public libraries to 50 libraries supporting over 900 local information providers serving close to 100 communities.

NorthStarNet has created a home for libraries to build online community between libraries, between libraries and the communities they serve, and between community members themselves.

NorthStarNet’s participating libraries dialogue with each other through online forums, which provide a platform for the sharing of everything from technology information to insights on expanding the reach of NorthStarNet into communities. (

NSLS has celebrated the 10th anniversary of NorthStarNet with the introduction of a number of new services to enhance the online community experience for libraries and community members. Many libraries are using NorthStarNet blogs to post announcements of current community information. Example: Elk Grove Village Public Library:

NorthStarNet offers community members Online Cafés (aka Communities of Practice), where people with shared interests can come together virtually to share information. This platform can create community dialog where there might not otherwise be any. This is still in the formation stage for a number of community groups.

Libraries, local government offices and community organizations have come together to share information by entering their events into a shared community calendar. This has proven to be a great planning tool for communities, helping alleviate event overlap. Of course, it is a great resource for people in any community looking for something to do in their immediate area or regionally. Local community calendar information is also loaded into a full NorthStarNet calendar. Participating community organizations can use the online form and enter their own event information to the calendar. Example: Arlington Heights Memorial Library:

Forums and Listservs

Online Book Clubs


Posts are tagged with one or more categories so that each post can be in more than one blog (for example "teens" and "events" or "kids" and "audio".

On all of these blogs, the AADL has chosen to leave comments open, which has led to some interesting online discussions between the library staff and their patrons. Technological changes, the website's redesign, and library construction plans have inspired many comments -- some positive, some negative, but all useful. One item about the library's system to e-mail due date notices on books ended up with 25 comments while a post about gaming tournaments ended up with over 60 comments! This is a great model that could be used in other libraries. Blogs are a fantastic tool for disseminating information to patrons, but it is also a great tool for soliciting useful feedback from patrons if a library is willing to allow and encourage patron comments. This is a great way to develop an online community and a better relationship with your patrons!


Flickr,, Furl, and other social software

Instant Messaging

  • Check out the wiki section on virtual reference services for relevant articles, success stories, and a list of libraries that use IM.

Great Examples of Online Communities Among Librarians

General Online Communities




  • LISNews is a collaborative weblog dedicated to reporting news and discussing current events in the library world. It is an open community where any librarian can post stories and comment on posts, making it far more of a "conversation" than the average blog.


Blogs and Websites to Watch

Specific Blog Posts, Articles, and Presentations