The Evolution of a Chapter Newsletter

I’ve been quite busy over the past few weeks preparing the latest issue of MIDLINE for publication. Your intrepid chapter editor has been at this for a while now. This is my fifth year as editor. And how the production of MIDLINE has changed!
Under the guidance of my predecessor Cathy Perley, MIDLINE made the transition from a print publication to an electronic one with the Spring 2003 issue. The first issue under my editorial guidance was the Winter 2004 issue. Production was labor intensive. I sent a huge text file with the edited text of the issue along with the issue photographs and typesetting suggestions to the webmaster who then drafted the issue as a webpage. After a couple of cycles of review and editing, it was ready to be announced on the chapter website. Talk about an awkward process. Eventually, I tried my hand at drafting the issue myself using FrontPage. Somehow this managed to make it even more “interesting” for the webmaster. I know just enough html to be dangerous!
Moving the chapter’s web presence to a commercial vendor gave us the opportunity to produce the newsletter more efficiently. Using Movable Type as the publication platform for MIDLINE puts all of the article entry and design in the hands of the newsletter editor with a smaller workload burden on the webmaster. The text editor in MT is easy to use even for the html clueless. It is simple to insert the photographs and links. Document files can even be included as part of a story. See this story as an example. The clickable table of contents and the archives are generated automatically. All of the content is keyword searchable. The RSS feed provides an additional means of delivering the newsletter to our readers. The comments and trackback features mean that the newsletter can become more participatory and conversational. But there is some awkwardness that comes with using blogging software for publishing a “static” publication. One must be very aware of the order of story entry, for example. The first issue produced with MT, November 2006, displays in upside down order in the archival view. Oops!
The chapter also has used Movable Type to produce conference blogs for the 2006 and 2007 chapter meetings. And ConnectMidwest is the latest of the chapter’s efforts to foster information sharing and communication in the Midwest Chapter.
I have been asked many times if I think there is still a need for a quarterly publication of chapter news. And my answer is an emphatic “Yes!” Having the opportunity to blog about chapter events and subjects of interest is a great service to offer our members. But there is always going to be a place for a more formal and permanent report of chapter business and activities.
P.S. Remember: You can earn 1 point toward your AHIP membership by writing a feature article for MIDLINE!

Conference Blogging

Already, your intrepid blog editor is thinking about how to blog the 2008 Midwest Chapter Annual Conference just up the way in Troy, Michigan. The conference wiki has a Blogging @ Midwest page where you can list yourself if you will be blogging from the conference. And tag your posts and photos Midwest08. One thing that I really enjoyed last year was sharing Flickr photos.

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I’ve picked up these conference blogging tips since the Omaha meeting. And don’t miss this tongue-in-cheek advice at A Librarian’s Guide to Etiquette. Liveblogging doesn’t really work for me. If I’m frantically blogging, I find that I’m not really able to “digest” the information. So I’m hoping that someone else might want to try at this year’s conference. How about you?
That conference wiki looks interesting! It will be a great way to share all kinds of information. Looking for a roommate? Shared transportation? Want to know who will be attending which functions? How to get there? Where to EAT?
Want to keep up with all this information? Use your feed reader! Since the conference website main page is in blog format, you will be able to subscribe to find out the latest. There is even a feed for wiki updates! Already in my Bloglines feeds!