Blogging librarians: academic, public & beyond

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Blogs are the quintessential web 2.0 tool Source: Wikicommons
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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 5 November 2016

Introduction

See also Blogs | LIBR559M Summer 2010 - blogroll

The purpose of this entry is to raise awareness of the variety and diversity of professional blogging in an era where blogging is not as important as it once was. Blogging has been one of the more consistently accessible and recognizable tools in social media, and creates a strong balance between individual sharing and encouraging participation, feedback, and collaboration. Many libraries, librarians, and information professionals have discovered the advantages of maintaining a public blog and the value of blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress.

Institutional library blogs as marketing tools

Although some library bloggers use a friendly approach to engage readers, others employ an impersonal tone. This impersonal style does not engage all patrons, but can be harnessed and used as an effective marketing tool for a library interested in reaching its users. An anonymous American author writes that although there is no guarantee that a blog will attract additional patrons, a blog with simple, correct, and informative posts will increase credibility and visibility which “should lead to more customers.”[1]

Across the globe, Hans Nielsen writes about the varied use of library blogs: at the Rander's Library in Copenhagen, blogs are used to promote the specialized skills and subject interests of each of the Randers librarian’s, and are also used to promote the library’s materials. In doing this, the Randers Library bloggers market themselves as both information professionals with strong research skills and as an institution that offers something for everyone – a material or resource for each patron.[2]

Similar to the Randers Library, the blog for Australia's Rockingham Library District (RLD) offers a variety of informative blog posts for potential and existing patrons. Rather than appealing to patrons via personal anecdotes, the RLD promotes library materials and services with each blog post. The RLD blog is updated once a week and posts are practical and informative. Most recently, the library blogged about its scanning service; readers who weren’t aware of the fact that they could scan documents at their library are now informed.[3]

Library blogs maintained by individuals

Some librarians start their own blogs about what's important to them, or about the profession. By maintaining a personal blog, librarians can speak their mind about where they'd like the profession to go and where improvements can be made, uncensored by employers. Aaron Tay, a librarian at the National University of Singapore, runs his own blog called Musings about librarianship. The blog has been up since 2009, and Aaron has worked as a librarian since 2007. He states that opinions expressed on his blog are his alone, and do not represent his employer (a university). Aaron lists Library 2.0, for which some disagreement exists in the library community about its actual meaning. His blog's purpose is to keep “track of interesting and cool ideas that might be used by librarians for benefit of users”[4]. A key theme of Aaron’s blog is how to use free social media tools to share news about libraries. This is explored in postings such as Scanning mentions of the library – Twitter, Google alerts & more and Why libraries should proactively scan Twitter and the web for feedback – some examples. Readers can sign up for blog updates through email or RSS feeds. Other social media features of this site include a blogroll, an RSS feed, Twitter, and a chat function which comes with the blog’s functions. This blog is set up through blogger, a publishing tool from Google which is free with a Google account.

Collectively-generated library blogs (or "meme" blogging)

Collective or "meme" blogging allows a sense of collaboration without abandoning individual efforts. Bobbi Newman, a librarian with a strong digital focus, began the "Library Day in the Life" project in 2008. She started the blog because: "If I post about this and get others to do it too, it will allow librarians to share amongst ourselves (our positions are changing so rapidly) and also to let the public know what we do."[5] As of 2010, the project (which Newman and others call a "meme" [6]) has grown to include entries from hundreds of librarians, information professionals and others. The blog consists of individual blog-posts which document typical days in the life of a library employee. Entries are not posted to one platform, but to the participant's pre-existing blogs, and links are collected in a PBWorks wiki. Each blogger is asked to edit the wiki to include an external link to his or her post, with a job description or other relevant information. This method of collective blogging creates a linked network that is more fluid and flexible than a single group blog. Individual bloggers can gain more attention and develop a sense of connectivity this way.

The blogging-as-meme project has received some criticism, notably from Sheck Spot librarian blogger Sarah Cohen, who feels that the project only focuses on documenting an individual's disconnected tasks without focusing on improving collaborative and intellectual exchanges between library professionals. [7] However, it has also been widely praised. According to Library Scenester blogger Erin Dorney, there are multiple benefits to this meme style of blogging. Dorney claims the meme is useful for:

  • Library school students looking for direction
  • Library school students who want to share their experiences
  • Administrators, students, patrons, friends, family, the media and board members who wonder what librarians do in the age of Google [8]

Anonymous library blogs

Some blogs are anonymous, and do not identify an author or authors. This kind of blog is generally used when disclosing the identity of the blogger would jeopardize him or her, personally or professionally. Some bloggers choose to create a blogging persona and write under a nom de blog.[9] Anonymous blogging is controversial and especially so in the milieu of academic, public and special libraries. It is argued that the blogger does not take responsibility for what is said in the blog. Facts and data are presented without anyone to guarantee what is presented. Assertions and claims can enter public discourse without anyone standing behind their validity.[10]

A well-known pseudonymous library blog is the Annoyed Librarian(AL) blog, written by an academic librarian who takes controversial stances on issues in the library profession. AL's supporters say the blog is not intended for self-promotion, frivolous criticism of libraries or co-workers. Some argue that the blog provides public space for arguments concerning public issues and, for this reason, the blogger’s identity is irrelevant. [11] Critics of anonymous blogging argue that without knowing the identity of the blogger, it is not possible to ascertain if they are sincere and have the relevant expertise and experience to support their claims.[12] Anonymous blogging by information professionals is contrary to the idea of openness and may come across as unprofessional. Discourse and professional ethics requires accountability from bloggers in the biblioblogosphere. Supporters of anonymous blogging think that an intelligent reader is able to distinguish sincere claims and arguments from those that intend to mislead and anonymity does not diminish the value of what is said.[13]

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