American Libraries: Mattering in the Blogosphere

I read this article online while I was away and it looked good to me though I have to agree with Rochelle that not including URLs was sort of silly. Here are my full unedited answers and the URLs to everyone’s blogs. Nicole added hers as well. I do tend to go on a bit.

What does it take for a blog to have an impact on the biblioblogosphere?

I’m not sure if you mean “have an impact in the blog world” or if you really mean “have an impact in the non-blog world” because they are very different. It’s easier to have a bloggish impact. You can read and thoughtfully comment on other blogs. You can write your own well-considered and well-linked posts and interact with the comments of others. You can send a lot of link-love to your favorite bloggers who may add you to their blogrolls and send link love back to you. Alternately, you can post a lot of naked pictures of yourself or others, pick fights with people, take controversial and poorly supported stances on hot button topics or just parrot the opinions of other more popular bloggers. It really depends what you’re after. I think most of us would argue that we want to have an impact outside the biblioblogosphere — as well as with in it — and to do that you often have to have good ideas combines with good presentation and an interested and effective audience. It’s a trick, to be certain.

What do the readers of your blog value about your posts?

I think I provide a perspective that people don’t see as often in the library blogosphere. I work in a rural community with small libraries and people without much tech savviness. For most people who live in cities or suburbs, they never see these people. I also have the time to read big articles, papers and presentations and synthesize them down for people who may not have that sort of time. I’m never afraid to call things the way I see them, but I try hard to refrain from gratuitous insults.

I also have a sense of humor and read widely, not just within library circles. My agenda is fairly clear and I’m pretty approachable. I also travel a great deal and so readers of my blog get insights into other locations, library associations and libraries by reading what I have to say. Lastly, a lot of library school students or potential students read my blog and ask me questions along the lines of “how do I find a library school to go to if I’m interested in the things you’re interested in?” and so I do a lot of mentoring as well.

How do you decide when to post—inspiration, obligation to keep the blog fresh and readers engaged, or what?

I post when I have something to say, usually about something I’ve read. I don’t keep any sort of timetable and as much as I love my readers, I don’t worry they’re going to go elsewhere if I’m not continually amazing. Librarians are steady folks by and large and I feel like once you reach some sort of equilibrium, you’re likely to keep it if you don’t piss people off.

How do you determine what the right length is for a given post?

I have an Alice in Wonderland approach to this, paraphrased “Start at the beginning, write through to the end, then stop.”

What has surprised you most about the process of blogging?

Two things. First, how many amazing people I’ve met who have enriched my professional and personal life to a degree I never would have considered possible. Second, a surprising amount of work has come my way as a result of me having a public professional presence. Certainly some of this is the result of what I say and how I say it in person as well, but a lot of the public speaking I currently do has come about as a result of my blogging.

What lessons can libraries learn from your experiences as an individual blogger?

I’m not sure if there is a lesson for libraries per se. I think generally writing for public consumption is a great way to find your own voice and interact with other people finding theirs. I hope that my blogging and others’ blogging has somewhat removed the “riskiness” factor of writing in public and made it seem like a more commonplace thing for people to be doing with their time and efforts. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has something to say and how nice is it that blogging is a tool that enables more people to talk to each other?

What’s missing from the LIS blogosphere that you’d like to see someone take on?

Better meta tools. I have been impressed by ArchivesBlogs, the aggregator for archive-related blog postings and I’d like to be able to do more fine tuning to get custom feeds of library blogs as groups and not just as individual rss feeds. I like LISNews very much but I’d like to see an even bigger and more robust library news reporting service that wasn’t just the voice of one professional organization or one vendor. Also, I’d like to see us using our online powers for good and spend more time being public presences of tech savvy librarians the way some librarians are doing in SecondLife, or Ask MetaFilter or even individual bloggers like Ask Tangognat.

How will the blogs of today be regarded a decade from now? Should digital libraries collect them?

I’ve just finished writing an article about this for Library Journal :) Yes, I think if you have a mission to collect the personal voices of a community or time period or event, you’re not going to be able to do it using just email or letters or memos, blogs are becoming part of the public record of how we know ourselves and need to be taken into account when we write our histories.