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An Open (yet personal) letter to Michael Gorman

Dear Mr. Gorman:

After being struck speechless early this morning when your article and commentary related to it began to pop up on the LIS Weblogs I monitor, I feel the need to write a bit. Maybe I can assist you with the question you posed in Library Journal:

Who are the Blog People?

I realize this is a broad question and your article did not single out librarians as bloggers, but here goes:

I am a librarian and I am a blogger. I love libraries -- especially the public library. I've been with the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, IN for almost 14 years. My library's blog is here. I have worked hard to improve services to our users via my particular passions: staff and public technology training, using new technologies to meet user needs and the juncture of tech, people and libraries.

"Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable."

In response to this quote, let me tell you a bit more about me. I am a doctoral student at the University of North Texas in the inter-disciplinary Information Science program and I have spent quite a bit of time reading scholarly works and professional articles. Since June I have been gathering information on online communities and the interactions of people within them. I have written literature reviews, proposals for research, critiques of articles and multiple blog posts on my experiences and thoughts about libraries and librarians. The community of practice I have seen spring up within the LIS Blogosphere has inspired me to participate, write better and seek opportunities to show librarians how such a simple thing as Weblog software can ease the dissemination of information and generate knowledge.

Ultimately I want to teach in a library school somewhere, focusing on public libraries, technology and people.

"...technology-obsessed progressives.."

I do like technology. I write about technology. I use it and I teach others how to make their jobs or lives better by using a computer, or a digital camera, or an RSS feed from CNN, or a Web index. I hope I'm not obsessed. I'd like to think I'm passionate. And I recognize the need to balance it all out. Work. Life. Love. Spirit. I call it unplugging.

Overall, it just makes me sad that ALA has yet to get a grip on what's happening in libraries: Blogs - yes. RSS feeds - yes. Instant Messaging as a tool to reach users - yes. Wikis - yes. And finally, online/real world communities of practice -- in this case: groups of librarians working together with the common goal of meeting user needs and meeting our users on their turf, not ours -- interacting, learning and generating knowledge - yes.

I'd love to see ALA look seriously at libraries with blogs and librarians who blog and acknowledge how our profession has changed because of such a simple yet powerful thing.

Michael Stephens

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