on the “A List”

If you look at my tag cloud at the bottom of this site, you’ll notice that the me tag is pretty popular with… me. Since I started this site in 1999, I’ve had a series of usual and unusual jobs and I often write about what I do at them. Some bloggers do a lot of this, some don’t. I also report back on my ALA activities since I’m nominally the representative of the folks who elected me. There are a few other Councilor bloggers, at least four that I know of. I also visit libraries and write about that, though I could be better about keeping up on it.

Some of the discussion about “A-listers” lately (hi Chris!) has gotten me thinking about popularity and purpose. We’re all, all of us, clearly telling our stories for our own reasons. Some of us would like to get better jobs, some of us would like to make more friends or more money, some of us would like to establish reputations in our field for the things we say and the quality of our ideas. Some of us want a place where we can complain and vent frustrations, some of us want to learn about the web and learn best by doing, some of us want to keep our writing chops fresh in between paying gigs, some of us want to make our online writing into our paying gigs. Some of us want to make our jobs more interesting or more interactive, and some of us want to blog our way into new jobs.

There are a lot of reasons, and to me the whole “A List” idea seems to imply that the reasons are more tightly linked, that to achieve in one arena is to achieve in all, that we all share the same goal. Most library bloggers, if they make any money at all, make more money writing online than I do. Most library bloggers, if they are employed at all, have better-paying higher-status jobs than I do. I believe in multiple intelligences and I believe in multiple “A Lists” which may be an easy way to be blasé about a site with a high Technorati ranking, but I do believe it. When I was more a part of a general blogging community, back in 1999-2000, there was also talk of an A List with the concommitant grousing and denial and whatnot. People designated as A Listers wouldn’t talk much about it, or would claim it wasn’t important, or just get frustrated at people’s continual harping about it. Many of those people run or work at some of the big tech companies you’ve heard of: Flickr, Technorati, Adaptive Path, Blogger, Movable Type, Gawker, Creative Commons, Google. They’ve written books. You know their names. It’s a cart/horse question to be sure — are they A Listers because of their drive, or did their A Listish status get them these advantages? — but five or six years later, it’s interesting to see what people are doing. I suspect that in our library niche of the blogosphere, we’ll see some of the same effects, if indeed we already haven’t.

So, back to me. On the one hand, I’d like to spend some time talking about what I think I did — besides starting early which was a pretty important part of all this — to make this website well-read and usually well-received. On the other hand, it’s always seemed to me sort of big-headed to say “This is why people like me.” when many people do not and, let’s be honest, most people have never heard of me, or you either. So, with the caveat that I’m just some over-educated and over-thinking sometimes librarian with a popular website, this is what has worked for me in the past, and I’m sorry if I sound like a snob by saying so.

  • be gracious with everyone
  • be consistent
  • lead by example
  • encourage, nurture, read and link to newer bloggers
  • meet bloggers in person whenever possible
  • keep pissing matches and whining off your blog, take grudges offline
  • read constantly, offline and online
  • know what you are talking about and admit when you don’t
  • make your content presentable and accessible and findable
  • don’t turn down other opportunities to get your message out and make a good impression
  • accept the power and the responsibility that comes with where you are, and use it for good

Most of it is common sense, and I think the consistency thing has really worked the best for me over the long run. I’ve taken few long vacations. I’ve rarely broken the site for more than a weekend. I’ve been interested in similar sets of topics for years. I’ve taken lots of advice and suggestions, and I’ve tried very hard to keep my personality conflicts off of the site. I try to highlight new stuff that I read, and I never pass up an opportunity to meet readers, other bloggers, or other librarians in general. I’m not saying it’s a recipe for success — I think few people would seriously want my job or my life besides me — but it’s worked so far, is easy to maintain, and has brought me a lot of enjoyment over the past seven years or so.

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