survey: blogs and preservation

Coming on the heels of my article in Library Journal, Carolyn Hank has a survey on Blogger Perceptions on Digital Preservation that she’d like you to take.

heroism and CSS

Even though library jobs don’t pay super-well and they’re not particularly high-status positions, the opportunity for heroism and just general fairy-godmother type actions are many. I’ve only been back in town for a few days but I already helped the head of the garden club get her mailing list online, helped a woman in town sell off her old books on tape (including pictures, on Ebay) helped a woman apply for US citizenship and get her own email account so she doesn’t have to share her husband’s any longer. I have one student I work with who learns one new email feature a session, and every time she comes in and we learn, say, how to forward mail, she’ll look up at me grinning and say “It’s just like magic, itsn’t it?”

The fun part for me is that most of this work is easy for me and yet solves a large problem for other people. The most fun part is often helping out bloggers, because when you get it right, they’re likely to say all sorts of nice things about you on the Internet.

for the ALA inclined

Two notable posts for people even a little involved in ALA.

  • Leslie Burger reports on the situation in New Orleans, now just a few months before the annual conference scheduled to be there. As someone who went to Toronto during the SARS scare and enjoyed the lack of super-crowding (great for me, not so great for exhibitors) it will be interesting to see what this conference brings. And, on a related note, how nice is it to read a first hand report of what things look like down there that isn’t all press-releasey and absent any real information? This is the sort of things blogs are good at. This puts a compassionate and approachable face on ALA.
    You can’t stay away from New Orleans. You must witness first hand the destruction of nature and the failure of government to take care of its people. It is an American tragedy and who better to bear witness and tell the story than librarians. These people need our help, they need our money, they need our support. Now more than ever before you have a reason to attend an ALA conference.

  • Speaking of, my friend Michael Golrick is floating the idea of a Bloggers Roundtable at ALA. All we’d need is a hundred people and I don’t think this is much of a stretch. I’ve been a member of the Social Responsibilities Round Table on and off since I first started being involved in professional associations and it was a great way for me to learn about ALA and professional involvement generally from a position where I felt like I was among friends, or at least colleagues with similar interests. The New Members Round Table serves this purpose for a lot of library students, but I bet a Bloggers Roundtable would serve a similar function. One of the things that has always surprised me is how much I feel like I have in common with other bloggers in the library world — even ones that have different jobs, different outlooks and different approaches than I do — and how collegial I feel with many of them. The blogger get-togethers that happen at conferences are often the high point of these conferences for me.

tech.

The How to Lose Your Techie Librarians memes have gotten a lot more traction than people talking about Library 2.0, mainly because we don’t have to discuss whether techie librarians exist or not. They do, we do, and we’re all over the place. There are also computers all over the place which in my neck of the woods has more to do with the Gates Foundation and less to do with technology advocacy. Is it a surprise that people who use technology enough to become bloggers are also technology advocates? I’ve been reading some thought provoking pieces over the past few days which I’ll list here

  • Rory has been keeping up with his blog and wrote a long piece about technology advocacy and his ideas about technophilia. While I think his tone verges on the negative, which often happens when people talk about things they don’t like about “bloggers” without addressing one person or idea directly, I think I can still extract what he’s getting at. I also question his listing of the presumptions of what he perceives to be the tech advocates. While he is comfortable calling people’s ideas and assumptions “irrational” because they aren’t supported by research, he is also dismissive of people’s conclusions on topics that are well-researched, such as the tech savviness of newer younger library users, making his assumptions seem equally irrational. I’m always sorry when people feel that any group of people to which I belong feels exclusionary to them because I aim towards openness generally and because I know it can feel bad to be left out. On the other hand, I don’t feel that tossing around words like “perverse” is a good way to get a dialogue started, it sounds too much like choosing sides. On the other other hand, I have known Rory for a while and know that he’s no luddite, he’s just more on the cautionary side of technology adoption and advocacy than, say, I am. I think we’re both pretty skeptical of gadgets, bad technology for sale by bad companies, and the hype and boosterism involved in the marketplace generally, we just express it differently. Read what he says and think about it. You don’t have to agree to get good ideas from it.
  • This prompted a response and a longer response with a lengthy follow-up comment over at …the thoughts are broken… with even more food for thought and rundown of the ideas involved from another biblioblogger and library student who doesn’t always feel quite in the loop.
  • Contrast this with super-techie Karen Coombs talking about new-fangled AJAX and how and why it does what it does. This is in response somewhat to Walt’s post making a flip reference to “all the cool people” being seemingly dismissive about usability at Computers in Libraries. Walt asks, Karen answers, people learn. Good.
  • Last in the list is an essay from Rick Anderson that is part of a chapter he wrote for Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users Through the Web: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians where he discusses some very real truths about the world we find outselves in, as information professionals. I specifically found this line interesting “[I]n fact, what we are seeing is the end of a world – a world in which information is mostly published and distributed in print formats. That world is gone. We are not talking about a change that is going to happen someday or that is just starting to happen – the revolution is over, and online has won.” Now if you read the rest of the essay, he’s not some zealot telling us to replace our OPAC with Google, he’s just talking about risk, and the way that electronic information is different from print, and the way mastery of both is important, but different. I like this essay.

Now from my perspective, as much as I love my technophile friends, it’s the people who are in the first stages of coming in to the profession (Rory and I are both at about the ten year mark I think) whose perspectives on technology I’m curious about. I’ve said before, I grew up with technology, my father had a job with the word “technologist” in the title and to me computers are like video games, big fun problems to solve. When I work with librarians in this region, a less wired area, I complement [and compliment] the library staff. I do not tell them that “I am the future” or that they should all get ipods, though when they tell me that they hear that MySpace is where all the sexual predators hang out, I try to tell them what I know. When they think about getting their catalog online, I try to help them choose a sensible way to do it. My feeling is that technology will continue to be a growing part of libraries now and in the future and we can either choose to learn the technology ourselves, or get it sold [or given] to us by people who may not have our best interests at heart. I think we ignore technology at our own peril.

I teach email to old people, I teach technology to librarians, and I co-manage an online community of 30,000 people. I think we need to use technology sensibly, purchase technology sensibly, and encourage people to talk about technology so that it doesn’t become some oogyboogy topic like sex or religion that people feel that everyone else has already made up their mind on.

Movers, Shakers, Candlestick Makers (also bloggers)

Another round of Movers and Shakers with more than a few familiar faces and some people I’ve now said “Oh man, I have to meet that person.” Congratulations to Vermonter Trina Magi and new settler Meredith Farkas, JohnBloggers Blyberg (on the “to meet” list) and Hubbard (who I had lunch with once back in 2001 and should do so again) and popblogger Sophi Brookover along with PLA blogger Beth Gallaway. Also selected were Jill Stover from the Library Marketing blog, Matt Gullett (updated link) who writes for the Library Journal Tech blog among a zillion other places, Alycia Sellie Madison ZineFest cofounder, and Sarah Johnson from Beyond the Job. Nice job everyone!

another librarian blogger survey

Help out a librarian in Perth Australia and email her some answers to this short librarian bloggers survey.

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.

Some IL05 thoughts

I’ve been chewing over things since I got back from Internet Librarian last week. I’ve been spending the week teaching people the difference between “save” and “save as” and showing librarians how to insert pictures into text documents and the whole simultaneous blogging, and even the giant calculators seems like a distant memory. I do know that it was wonderful to be at a conference with so many smart people and not have to have some of the tired old discussions that I have at some ALA functions where I feel that I have to justify having a laptop or teaching an email class in a library setting. I also felt like a lot of the things people were talking about tended towards making things more usable — more findable, more explicable, more understandable — now that we’re over the love affair with just having gadgets. The trend towards openness, though we have a ways to go as a profession, makes me cautiously optimistic. I welcome this evolution and I’m impressed and honored to get to hobnob with people who are getting to make really Big Decisions in the library world.

That said, I gave my talk as part of the “Jenny and Jessamyn” show and it went well, even though it was short. I like to keep my high tech chops in order and as my Dad says “tell them something they don’t already know.” Unlike almost every other talk I’ve given, by the time I got to the B&B Andrea and I were staying at, there were already five or six ten blogs that had posted about my speech. It made my toes tingle. I could feel something really great, just around the corner. I came home with ideas and a renewed sense of purpose which I’m pretty sure is what these things are all about. Here are the links to people talking about my talk, go meta yourselves out.

A critique of the new LJ website, and a hopeful note

Jenny has a post about the Library Journal redesign discussing the sort of online cachet they had built and how the redesign and the newly added fee-based barrier was squandering it. The good news seems to be that the situation will be changing real soon now which is good to hear. I wonder if the TechBloggers will still have to post to the blog via email? update: LJ techbloggers assure me they can log in and post now, great news all around.

save the date, blogger get-together at ALA

The folks from the It’s All Good blog are sponsoring a libraryland blogger get together at ALA, Sunday, June 26, beginning at 5:30 pm, final exact location TBD.