Category Archives: Pursuing the PhD

Modeling the Role of Blogging in Librarianship: Librarian, Why Do You Blog?

Some folks have asked about my dissertation. Last I heard it’s number 85 in line for the university reader. So I thought I’d share one of the sections here. This is the analysis of the question “Why do you blog?”

Nice Chart

To share information or insight

Sharing is important to the blogging librarians who responded. For this category, 76 respondents had this response, which is 40% of the total. A prevalent word in this answer set was sharing. Respondents used phrases such as “to contribute to the profession,” “to serve the profession,” and “to inspire.” Two types of information seemed to get shared. One was of a personal nature: “my research” or my “point of view.” A respondent wanted to make sure his or her ideas were “a matter of public record.”

The other type of sharing was done to help or inform others. Many respondents used words such as trends, technologies, resources, articles, sites, bookmarks, announcements, new tools, “cool” stuff, and news combined with the word share or sharing. One respondent noted: “To transmit information to the local LIS community.” Another stated: “To share thoughts and points of view with the LIS community.”

A subset of this category included a few respondents who blogged to show others how it works, with responses such as “to model blogging,” “demonstrate what it can do,” and noting blogging was serving as a role model for other rural libraries.

To participate in a conversation or community

There is a wide discussion playing out online. For this category, 53 respondents had this response, which is 28% of the total. Respondents used words and phrases such as connect, create conversation, “keeping in touch” and finding community. Examples included finding other “techies,” going outside the workplace for academic discussions, and finding others to talk to about issues in LIS.

Other words or phrases derived from responses in this category included getting feedback, bouncing ideas and collaborating with others, looking for a “sounding board,” getting differing opinions, and “inviting the outside in.”

Respondents noted that they participated in a discussion, a dialogue, an exchange, or interaction, and created community through shared discussions. Respondents published blogs because they could participate in issues and take an active stand. Other keywords and descriptors included: engaging, “communicating back and forth with readers,” and keeping conversations going. Respondents noted they were participating in a bigger community.

To archive information or experience

An archive stores information for later use. For this category, 47 respondents had this response, which is 25% of the total. These respondents used descriptors such as collect, organize, track, and preserve to archive information such as links, bookmarks, issues, ideas, thoughts, prospective writing topics, and notes. There was also a thread of descriptors about rediscovery: blogging allowed “refinding and remembering information already encountered.” A respondent noted their blog was “my private online post-it note file.” To others, blogging served as a comprehensive “knowledge management tool.”

These bibliobloggers chronicle or record their experiences. Events, projects, courses, and plans were recorded for processing, development and learning. Bibliobloggers tended to reflect on experiences, including successes and failures. One respondent stated blogging created a “cross directional document for my experience.”

To enhance my professional development

Professional development involves keeping current, learning, and improving skills. For this category, 45 respondents had this response, which is 24% of the total. These bibliobloggers found blogging to be a way to stay up on current news, issues, trends, and technologies. Blogging is a way to stay informed, or to “stay tuned in.” Others noted that it kept their skills up because of their teaching responsibilities. Another respondent reported blogging helped to keep workshop content current. Respondents blog as a motivation to stay in the know. One respondent stated blogging is a way to “force myself” to stay current. Another noted blogging is an “educational exercise to motivate me to keep up to date with LIS news and technology.”

Other threads of this category were to practice and improve writing skills, to explore, to experiment, to use new tools, and to “explore the field beyond my current experience/institution.”

To express my perspective or identity

Bibliobloggers found blogging to be a mechanism that allows them to comment or state opinions on issues. For this category, 44 respondents had this response, which is 23% of the total. It’s a way “to express feelings” or “to have an outlet.” One respondent noted: “I can’t shut up.” Others publish their blogs to focus thoughts or to develop a voice.

In addition to general commenting, others identified as having “something different to say” and being “the only ones” engaged in a certain kind of activity. One reported: “It’s a way to tell my story.” Some noted that it was also a way to vent frustrations with jobs or the profession.

To promote myself or the profession

Blogging can be a promotional tool. For this category, 22 respondents had this response, which is 12% of the total. Respondents used descriptors such as “to promote myself,” to build a reputation, and to create a “live resume.” One respondent noted that blogging was “better than any resume.” Other descriptors included: raise my profile, promote myself as someone who cares about libraries, promote my workshops, build credentials, and “create a name for myself.”

Other respondents stated they were concerned with promoting librarianship, including “promote our field, provide publicity, and “help people understand what librarians do” such as explanations of “invisible activities.” One stated blogging “let the public hear what it’s like to be on this side.”

To have fun

Blogging is fun to some. For this category, 16 respondents had this response, which is 8% of the total. Respondents used descriptors “have fun,” enjoy, or entertain to describe why they blogged. One respondent stated: “Because I enjoy it. I do it for myself. I don’t care if no one reads it or not, I just like having the space to put my thoughts.”

Summary Categories by Library Type

Almost half of academic librarians surveyed noted sharing as a reason they blog, while public librarians chose conversation and community before sharing. The most prevalent response for school librarians was “to express my perspective or identity,” while special librarians stated archiving as their most popular reason for blogging. LIS students noted professional development first, while those not working in a library reported sharing as their reason to blog.

The category “to have fun” had the most respondents in the academic and public library groups. No school or special librarians noted fun in their responses.

Sedate Table

Note. Percentage for each category is based on total of 189 valid responses. 20 of 239 responses were not applicable to the study, and 30 of 239 responses were left blank.

Thanks to Stephen Abram for kicking staring me to get this post up (and for a stern talking to in Toronto last February: “Get it done!”) – and to Leslie T. Crang who posted his Masters Dissertation in full:

Abstract: Modeling the role of blogging in librarianship

Stephens, Michael, Modeling the role of blogging in librarianship. Doctor of Philosophy (Information Science), August 2007, 187 pp., 47 tables, 6 figures, 134 references.

This phenomenological study examines the motivations and experiences of librarians who author professionally-focused Weblogs. The researcher constructed a model of librarianship based on Wilson and Buckland. The results show a close fit between librarian bloggers and the ideals of the field as expressed by two primary library and information science philosophers. A Web survey generated 239 responses to demographic and open-ended questions. Using the results of the survey, the researcher analyzed demographic data and performed a phenomenological analysis of the open-ended questions. A list of category responses was generated from each set of answers via the coding of descriptive words and phrases.

Results indicated the motivations of librarian bloggers are based around themes of sharing, participation in community, and enhanced professional development. Respondents reported feeling more connected to the profession and to colleagues across the world because of blogging. Respondents perceived the librarian blogosphere as a community with both positive aspects – feedback, discussion, and support – and negative aspects – insular voices, divides between technologists and librarians, and generational rifts. Respondents also reported an increased ability to keep current, improved writing skills, and opportunities to speak and contribute to professional journals.

Ideally the study’s findings will contribute to the ongoing investigation of how people are using newer Web technologies. The researcher hopes the study will illustrate the beliefs, motivations, and professional benefits that blogging provides for other librarians and library administrators.

On Writing the Dissertation (Michael is Unplugging)


Good Morning! I didn’t realize how hard it would be to write this little post.

After the successful defense of my proposal, I am taking a few weeks off to focus exclusively on writing the last two chapters of my dissertation. I want to defend it in June before the cutoff date for August graduation. This is a lofty goal — a handful of weeks. My data is collected and ready for ananylysis. The demographics and stats are done. My next step is a content analysis of over 1600 replies to the “Why do you blog?” survey!

I need to turn in a defendable copy of my dissertation by early June! I have the support and encouragment of my chair, Dr. Brian O’Connor, and my committee as well as my graduate assistant Brian Want(who rocks). They and my trusted colleagues all advised me to take a step back from other duties and responsibilities. Classes end this week. I will be on the road a bit, writing in my hotel room and in airports! But my energies will be focused mainly on the writing. So with that, I am pulling back from TTW. I’ll be back after June 4th and look forward to more blogging as I finish the PhD process and graduate and move into Assistant Professorship (wow just typing that gives me the tingles… can it be that close?)

BUT..I’ve arranged for some guest authors to provide some content in the coming weeks. I look forward to their writing and promoting their voices via this venue.

See you soon! Wish me luck!