10 Things I've Learned as a Blogging Librarian
Today is the two year anniversary of Tame the Web. Inspired to start blogging by Steven Cohen in March 2003, TTW went live via the iBlog software on April 1, 2003 from the Panera Bread in Mishawaka, Indiana via my laptop. Here's that first incarnation. And here are ten things I've learned in 2 years of being a Blogging Librarian:
Ethics and Guidelines Count
Ask Karen, she gets it more than any LIS Blogger I know. Not only are we writing and thinking about libraries but we are promoting ourselves, our jobs and the profession. Next time I bump into Michael Gorman, I'll ask him to not only take a look at TTW but at Free Range Librarian, and Walking Paper, and Dave's Blog and say "Look at these articulate, thoughtful folks who mind their Ps and Qs and work so hard to improve library services." What ethics do you blog by? What guidelines for your work do you use?
Your Blog = Your Presence (and spell stuff right please)
Typos plague us all. I'm the first to admit it: when I get a little excited and write furiously (with bad wrists, a bad neck and my patented 2 finger method), I make mistakes. I appreciate the IM or e-mail from a colleague that says "Hey you have a typo in that post about iPods at South Huntington." We all need editors.
Don't be sloppy. Take a look at that hasty post and FIX IT. Our blogs represent us -- our professionalism and our interest in LIS. If you put your blog on your resume or CV, it darn well better be well-written and focused. This is a big part of your presence. First thing I would do with a resume that cited a blog is to take a look! (and then Google the person too!)
The LIS Blogosphere is a Thriving Virtual Community
Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community, published in 1993, defined the Internet as an interconnected computer network utilizing Computer-mediated Communication (CMC) to link people all over the globe in open discussions. He defined "virtual community" as “social aggregators that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.”
Researchers Henri and Pudelko also argued that all virtual communities are learning communities by applying definitions cited from the work of Wenger who studied social learning theory within communities of practice in the physical world. Expanding on his work and utilizing their typology, Henri and Pudelko define three principal components of social interaction and information exchange within online communities: the goal of the community, the methods of creating the group, and the evolution of the community over time. They also defined descriptors for each component of virtual communities. I think the LIS Blogosphere fits very nicely under their heading of "Community of Practice"
Stems from an existing, real community of practice
Professional practice development through sharing knowledge among members
Appropriation of new practices and development of involvement
Sounds like a lot of what goes on between LISNews, the Shifted Librarian and all of the other LIS Blogs I keep track of.
Much has also been written about the strength of virtual communities in the real world as well as the aforementioned evolution of the community. Never before had it become so clear when many folks in the LIS Blogosphere crossed over into the real world in one place: Computers in Libraries 2005. It was fascinating to meet people I knew via their online presence and interact with them. There was much discussion, merriment, drama, knowledge exchange, learning, and hootin' and hollerin' - just like we all lived in the same town or belonged to the same extended family. We may not always agree..we may not always get along...but what a thriving group of folks. It did my heart good to meet bloggers like Chad and Michael Pate and chat with them in the hotel bar.
Libraries should be Blogging
At my talk on "Optimizing Technology in Libraries" -- absolutely hands down one of my favorites to present - I made a point that one way to create staff buy-in is to blog about a project. From 6 rows back, an audience member said (rather sternly) : "BLOGGING takes time! Who has time to do that?" I must admit I lost a little steam with that and realized our work is nowhere near done as "blogvangelists." (Thanks Will)
Blogs serve a purpose in libraries. The software -- simply a Content Management System (CMS) of sorts -- takes care of the dirty work and let's us focus on CONTENT. What could be more wonderful than that. Sometimes I think the name has a bad wrap. Maybe at CIL I could have said "Let your staff and public know by implementing a CMS and posting to it regularly."
Jenny turned me on to a great term: transparency. That's letting the public know what the library is doing, how we do it and what it means for our users. This is hot stuff. Here's where blogging libraries can really fly: telling stories to their users about their services, programs and everything else we do. AND IT'S EASY!
Look at what libraries are doing with blogs! It's incredible. As LIS Bloggers, we can sell that message and improve services internally and externally.
Librarians Want to Learn and Share
How wonderful is it that we can particpate in communities of practice and exchange ideas and share our best tips. I think one reason LIS Blogging thrives is because we like to see what other folks are doing. We like to stay in touch and informed. We share. This is not corporate cut-throat politics here... it's give and take. Nice.
Look at the resources at WebJunction, the Blended Librarian and LISNews! Lordy but we have some help in what we do. Look at what Aaron does with tech, or what Chris is doing in his library, or David with his Listen Up! blog or the wisdom of The Shifted Librarian.
This stuff isn't copyrighted folks (but there may be a creative Commons license!). Use it! I was so tickled at CIL 2005 to give our training workshop participants a CD with eight ready-to-go technology training classes they could take home. Same goes for blog stuff. Print a post, pass it out at a meeting, use it as a discussion piece. Then blog about it.
Blogging can be a Muse, a Catharsis, an Outlet and a Pure Document of Life
Nardi and friends did some great research and found these four motivations for blogging: blogging to document life experience: “…log your being," blogging as commentary such as a conference or a product, blogging as catharsis allowing writers to protest, shout, explore personal issues, and grief and finally, blogging as muse: “Thinking with computers."
Blog posts found here have been the genesis of presentations and articles. All in all, they document my professional/academic life since April 2003. This blog and the LIS Blogosphere has also influenced my research interests and what may become my dissertation. If..when..I'm in the classroom, I'll be talking about the years that blogging changed libraries! Wow.
Librarians Can Tell Good Stories
I'm all about Joan Durrance's How Libraries and Librarians Help. It addresses how we need to tell our libraries' and our users' stories to better market libraries and keep us relevant. Durrance talks about statistics versus stories and how stories bring that human element to the library.
I think librarians like to tell stories, not only in storytime, but in blogging. We blog stories about technology, the reference desk and support services.
Remember Librarians Gone Wild? Remember the Male Librarian Centerfold? The front line anonymous library blogger is a rare breed these days, it seems to me. I do miss them. Glad to see Ref is still grunting. I'm glad we have The Feel Good Librarian!
Anyone can have a Voice from Anywhere
In the LIS Blogosphere, there's room for loads of voices. I like that part as well. I like the fact that someone in a tiny little library in Podunk, USA who serves 500 people can blog about his or her experiences and add it to the mix. Think of the blogs you read - probably a pretty diverse group of folks from many backgrounds, locales and states of mind. Yes, a lot of us write about technology but still there's a lot of variety from the hardest of the hard coders to softest of the soft skills people person.
Cite Your Sources (Always)
Just sayin'... see below.
Blogging Librarians Make a Difference
How else would so much information move so quickly to folks tuned in and turned on to RSS or bloglines. The Gorman thing exploded in the LIS Blogosphere. Blogs like RFID in Libraries offer news and a whole lot more. I'd go there first and spend some time before even thinking about it!!
What does the future hold then for the blogging librarian? Could we sway ALA elections? Yes. I'll never vote again until I know where each candidate stands on new tech trends in libraries, thank you very much. Could we save a library from closing? Maybe if our posts were picked up by the bigger blogs and media. Can we help librarians and libraries thrive, remain relevant and meet users on their own turf? I hope so.
Henri, F., & Pudelko, B. (2003). Understanding and analyzing activity and learning in virtual communities. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (19), 474-487.
Nardi, B., Schiano, D., Gumbrecht, M., & Swartz, L. (2004). Why we blog. Communications of the ACM, 47 (12), 41-46.
Rheingold, H. (1993). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. New York: HarperPerennial.
I've proofed this twice. Just want to thank all the bloggers that have touched me, supported me and given advice. You know who you are, you dear souls! Rock On!