the discriminating librarian

I went through and did a whole bunch of adding and subtracting to my RSS feeds now that I’m feeling better (woohoo, the raring librarian, I also switched to a new file cabinet! *swoons*) so I may be reading some stuff that you’ve read a few weeks back. Of particular interest this week was Iris Jastram’s short post about someone trying to pretend to be a student in order to get the library to buy a particular book. Steve Lawson adds a little color commentary. Iris smelled something fishy and put the kibosh on it. Nice work. In related news, I am still getting the occasional email from spammers and other press-release mailers trying to get me to link to their blogs or review their books. If I get an email from a publisher, even a press release email, I always write them back and politely tell them

- that my blog is not a book review blog
- that I do not work in a library in a book-buying capacity
- that I do not appreciate getting emails like these
- that whoever they bought my email address from has sold them a bad list

I often get responses saying that they didn’t buy a list [is it against the rules to admit it if you do this?] and they just really liked my blog and thought I’d like their book. I’m at a loss. My particular problem isn’t terribly difficult. I block their address and my problem is solved. The larger problem of clueless marketing and (in Iris’ case, not so much in mine) aggressive responses to being declined seems to be a whole ‘nother piece of collateral damage from the economic downturn.

why I don’t accept guest posts from spammers, or link to them

I get an email maybe once a week from someone with a human-sounding name saying they read my blog and think they have something my readers might be interested in. Or they offer to do a guest post on my blog. The link is usually some sort of vaguely useful list of something library-related but the URL of the website is not library-related. In fact the URL of the website is usually something like onlinenursepractitionerschools.com, searchenginecollege.com or collegedegree.com (which if you’ll notice is the top hit on google for a search for college degree). I sometimes see other libloggers linking to sites like these and I have a word of advice: don’t. When we link to low-content sites from our high-content sites, we are telling Google and everyone that we think that the site we are linking to is in some way authoritative, even if we’re saying they’re dirty scammers. We’re helping their page rank and we’re slowly, infinitesimally almost, decreasing the value of Google and polluting the Internet pool in which we frequently swim. Don’t link to spammers.

This is a linkless post, for obvious reasons.

this week’s public relations onslaught

Something happened this week. Suddenly instead of the one or two spam messages I’d get a week from people who really “liked my blog” and wanted me to check out their new product, I got about fifteen in the last twenty-four hours. Most were from places that could be considered loosely library-oriented. All of them addressed me by name. None of them had an unsubscribe link in the email. All of them I replied to saying, fairly succinctly, “Please take me off of your email list.” Nothing worse. Nothing rude. In a few cases I’d mention that my blog didn’t actually review or mention the type of product that they were trying to promote. Then I click the “report spam” link in gmail.

A few times I’d hear back from people saying, somewhat defensively in my opinion, “Well your email address was right there on your website” or “I really am a fan of your blog” without additional specifics and with an address from prmarketing.com or something similar. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that suddenly today my inbox was full of PR pitches. I think my name and address was sold. So, I figured I should maybe write a little post about this phenomenon. There have been other posts made by more general topic bloggers like Matt Haughey, Gina Trapani and Chris Anderson. I am already using the PR Blacklist. My angle, library centered as it is, may be a little different.

I have a review policy for printed material, tightened significantly since I had a nasty exchange with someone who misinterpreted it. Since I do a lot of public speaking I often register, or am registered for, many library events annually. In almost no cases am I given the option of not giving my personal information — hey I need to get paid, right? — or even checking a box that says “Please do not share my contact information with your advertisers.” I am aware that I have the option of staying home. I think this solution is suboptimal. I am also aware that some of this is the cost of doing business. That’s okay with me too. What I’d like is for the people who are selling these lists and buying these lists to be aware of a few things

  1. Any time I spend reading and replying to these emails is time I can’t spend doing my other jobs, jobs I love and jobs that pay and jobs that are fun
  2. I do not think there is any deficit in my current awareness reading and I do not think sending me press releases with fake familiar overtures is a way to make me think otherwise
  3. My site is not even the sort of site that does the sort of thing you want someone to do for you.
  4. librarian.net has a budget of zero. There is a one in a thousand chance that a product or service that costs money will get any attention from me at all.
  5. I am aware that public relations is a numbers game and that you have chosen it for a job. Replying to my polite request to be taken off of your mailing list with defensiveness and a non-answer to the “where did you get my email address from?” question reveals that you are not really trying to have a conversation of any stripe with me.
  6. Part of the reason, in my opinion, that people respect my opinions is because I don’t shill. I’m aware that you don’t think that is what you are doing and if I could only see how awesome your product is, I would agree with you. You and I do not share that opinion.
  7. Conference planners, please give people a way to not have their personal information sold to your advertisers. This sort of thing only increases bad karma in the world.

I appreciate that times are tough and we all need to make money how and where we can. That said, unsolicited commercial email — even targeted unsolicited commercial email — is still spam as I see it and I wish people would not send it to me. Feel free to copy/paste this URL in a reply to any spammers who are plaguing you. That’s my current plan. Thanks for reading.