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Updated 10:00 AM February 13, 2006




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  Diaries of the 21st century
U-M offers free blogs for students, employees

Blog entry 02.13.06: "After biology class today, I raced to the Union for a latte with Josie and Ruth. But Ruth was the only one who showed up. Never did find Josie. So the two of us splurged on a white chocolate, raspberry mocha with whipped cream. Oh, well, an hour on the track at the Rec. Center will take care of that."

Recognizing the growing popularity of Web logs, the University is offering the free journals to students, faculty and staff so they can record life events.

The service, called mBlog, not only will allow easy access to personal online journals, it also will give the University an opportunity to preserve campus life stories by archiving some of the blogs at the Bentley Historical Library.

The program is a collaboration involving the University Library, Information Technology Central Services (ITCS) and the Bentley. While not the first to offer free blogs—the University of Minnesota has the service as well—U-M may be the only institution to offer the choice of having contents considered for archiving.

For those who are willing to have their Web journals considered for the collection, University archive staff members will appraise the content and archive those blogs with the greatest potential for historical value.

Content selected for the archive will be maintained in digital form, says Nancy Deromedi, assistant archivist at the Bentley; however, the blog most likely will not have the same functionality it did in the mBlog system. The blog will be described and stored in a manner that takes into consideration issues of long-term preservation and access.

Blogs are the scrapbooks and diaries of today, compiling memories and observations of campus life. "It's our job to make electronic expressions available for the future," Deromedi says. "If a blog author chooses the archival option, then U-M bloggers will be contributing to the raw material by which future researchers will seek to understand issues and attitudes of the U-M community during the early 21st century."

Susan Hollar, curriculum integration coordinator for the library, says the project has been incubating for about a year and is the result of requests from students and faculty who want to use blogs and the library's interest in exploring new modes of publishing.

"The library is providing a platform for interactive publishing and discourse," Hollar says. "Now, faculty and students don't have to use public services for which there could be a fee."

University Library purchased off-the-shelf software and ITCS modified it to fit the U-M system.

"The license covers all current faculty, staff and students," says Patrick McNeal, a software developer whose unit, ITCS, will supply technical support for the program.

Users of mBlog are subject to the Proper Use Policy and Guidelines for Responsible Use, U.S. copyright law and U-M policies.

Detailed explanations for using mBlog and how to establish a Web log are available at

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