The Creativity of the Crowd – Croatian book blogs
With them, not for them.
Croatian book blogs bring together youth from different parts of the country, providing safe online environment for book discussions and virtual socializing. Two book blogs were created in 2011 as a joint project of four librarians from public libraries in the cities of Bjelovar, Rijeka,Vinkovci and Zadar. Their idea of a book blog was based on their long-standing experience with book clubs and represents a virtual counterpart of a book club. Thus the blog Tragači (Seekers) was created as an online book club for children and the blog Knjiški frikovi (Bookish Freaks) for teenagers and young adults. Over time three more librarians have joined the project: two from the public libraries of Đurđevac and Vukovar and one from the Komletinci School Library. Many other libraries promote these blogs on their websites but do not contribute to the content. After three years these are still the only example of online book clubs on blogs for young library users in Croatia.
Together with librarians, young library users have created rich and engaging content that is freely available to all who want to read and use it. There are questions to stimulate book discussions, book reviews, and a collection of games and activities associated with reading for entertainment and socializing, Blogs also contain stories written by children and teenagers. Because of its diversity this content can be used in different ways and for different purposes. Book clubs can use it as inspiration and as a source of activities, games can be played during the book club meeting or later as a follow up activity. Children who are unable to attend ”real” book clubs can join the online book discussions and explore the blog content.
The blog Tragači is intended for children aged from 8 to 13 years. The blog content is devised by librarians but children’s contributions are welcomed. They often have great ideas that just need to be technically supported by blog administrators. The favorite activity of this blog is to comment on the book of the month: all participants read the same book and then answer to a weekly question concerning it, reflect on the themes of the book and connect what they have read with experiences from their own lives. Writing comments about books has inspired children to write stories collaboratively. Under the motto “I’m writing a story”, sixteen members have written together their first story titled “Look! A Ghost!”. Children really enjoyed such joint creation and a few months later another group wrote the second story “No More Christmas?!” featuring the same protagonists. For two consecutive years the children have initiated a competition in writing stories during the summer holidays. The children created the rules and participated in both writing the stories and voting for the best story. After three rounds of writing and voting they chose the best storyteller among themselves. A small group of fans of the WarriorCats series have written an adventure story with cats as the main characters. Each participant has created a cat that represents them and through that character the child actively participates in the adventure. One more thing among the rich content of this blog must be mentioned: asynchronous literary meetings with well-known Croatian children’s writers, titled “You ask, the writer answers”. After ”prying” into the children's questions and the witty responses by the writers, a series of interesting interviews has been created for readers to enjoy.
The book blog Knjiški frikovi is intended for teenagers and young adults. In accordance with the well known librarian motto for working “with them, not for them”, the content is mostly created by the teenagers, with technical support by librarians. Teens write articles for the blog, publish their original stories, poems and photos, present their views on different subjects and so on. A Facebook page has also been created and associated with the blog and is being administered by two teenage girls. On this blog, in the category “How about a new book???”, teens and librarians alternately publish book reviews. In this way an interesting list of book recommendations of both fiction and non-fiction has been created.
Joining forces with young users creates value
The Internet has enabled wonderful opportunities for joint creation from distant geographic places. For us librarians who love to share our enthusiasm and creativity, the web 2.0 makes collaboration quite easy. When librarians join forces with young library users, in somewhat informal relations permeated with good energy, mutual encouragement and respect, we create value, not just for local users but also for the wider community.
Alica Kolarić, Head of Branch Libraries, Rijeka City Library, Croatia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Vjeruška Štivić, Head of Children’s Department, Bjelovar Public Library “Petar Preradović”, Croatia, email@example.com
Žozefina Žentil Barić, Book Blog Project Initiator, Zadar Public Library, Croatia, firstname.lastname@example.org