I finally got my copy of the March 2007 American Libraries that has the article "Mattering in the Blogosphere: Observations from the Well-Connected."
"AL asked 16 much-visited librarian bloggers why the medium continues to appeal to them and what keeps them posting. The 10 who replied are, in alphabetical order:"
- Blake Carver, LISNews
- Nicole Engard, What I Learned Today
- Rochelle Hartman, Tinfoil+Raccoon
- Sarah Houghton-Jan, Librarian in Black
- Jenny Levine, The Shifted Librarian
- Kathleen de la Pena McCook, Librarian at the Kitchen Table
- Mary Minow, Library Law
- Joshua Neff, Goblin in the Library
- Jack Stephens, Conservator
- Jessamyn West, Librarian.net
The article is just a compilation of our edited responses, with just some introductory editorial comment. My only gripe is that in an article about why blogs and blogging matter to librarianship, the URLs of the featured blogs were not offered. That's just goofy. I tried looking at the ebrary version of the article (free to ALA members), but you have to install ebrary's DRM reader. Which I'm not going to do. But here at Tinfoil+Raccoon you can get not only URLs but the full Raccoon deal, with all the questions and my complete answers. I hope the other featured bloggers offer their full responses, too! (Kathleen already has.)
What does it take for a blog to have an impact on the biblioblogosphere?
There really isn’t one singular element that gives library blogs traction. Some take off because of entertainment value—Brian Smith at Laughing Librarian and Well-dressed Librarian are two blogs that use humor to talk about library issues. Others, such as LISNews, are built on community and conversation.
Even when I think of the biggies—the ones with monster readership—there are at least a couple factors at work. Folks like Karen Schneider and Walt Crawford made the transition from traditional print to blogging, and had a ready-made audience. Of course, both are terrific writers and have unique voices that keep folks coming back.
Trendwatching blogs are a big corner of the biblioblogosphere—Jenny Levine at Shifted Librarian, Michael Stephens, David Lee King, Michelle Boule, Steven Cohen and Stephen Abram—they are constantly sifting through and reporting on what’s new.
While I subscribe to around 90 blogs, the ones I most value are those that offer observations and arguments in a conversational tone and that invite and foster community participation. Many of the above fall into this category, but I particularly enjoy Meredith Farkas’ voice.
What do the readers of your blog value about your posts (i.e., “voice” as an online columnist, value-added news coverage)?
I have heard from enough readers that I am pretty certain my strength as a blogger lies in my strength as a writer. I’ve been a writer since I was in 6th grade, and a blog is just another way for me to practice and share my craft. People find my blog very readable, whether I am writing about library or personal issues. I’ve heard from folks that they appreciate my more narrative-essayish type posts above quick posts that point to other online content. Whenever I’ve written about splitting the personal and professional content into two blogs, I’ve heard that readers come for both types.
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. As a person who does a lot of out-loud thinking, who sees stories in all aspects of my life, I don’t have too many dry spells. I do also feel an obligation to provide readers with a reason to come back and feel a bit guilty when I don’t post for more than a week (which seldom happens).
How do you
determine what the right length is for a given post?
I write until I’m done. I used to worry about posting longer pieces, but found that people read even my monster posts. While I don’t usually check word counts, my guess is that I have posts that are as long as 1500-2000 words. But, there is a lot of variety in the length of my posts.
What has surprised you most about the process of blogging?
I am surprised that I am still writing as a blogger more than two years after starting my personal blog, and four years after I began contributing to LISNews.com. I have Attention Deficit Disorder and figured I’d post a few weeks or months, get bored and move on to something else. Blogging is like librarianship—there’s something new every day and it’s difficult to get bored.
more surprised and humbled that I have a growing audience. It’s relatively silly and insignificant in
the larger scheme of things, globally and within the library community, but I
get a kick out of knowing that over 225 people subscribe to the blog, and that
anywhere from 150-300 people surf by on any given day.
lessons can libraries learn from your experiences as an individual blogger?
Libraries could definitely benefit from being more transparent about the work they do and the services provide. One of the absolute best things about my blog is that it is very conversational—I appreciate hearing from readers via comments, whether they be in agreement or take issue with something I’ve written. Libraries would greatly benefit from being more conversational with stakeholders—and that includes everyone, not just users! Allowing conversations with others demonstrates trust and respect.
What’s missing from the LIS blogosphere that you’d like to see someone take on?
point, I think that the biblioblogosphere is a little insular and echo-y, and
is heavily weighted toward promoting technology in libraries. I would love to see more blogs that deal with
old school library practices, such as reader’s advisory. I’d also like to see more critical writing—if
something is great, tell me why! If you
disagree with something, give me your well-crafted arguments. If someone disagrees with you, don’t take it
personally, be gracious and start a discussion.
How will the blogs of today be regarded a decade from now? Should digital libraries collect them?
I think it’s too broad a question to ask about the “blogs of today.” Substitute “books of today.” There’s incredible variety among both sets. I think it will fun to look back at the incredible enthusiasm and hopefulness that has come from the library blogging community these past few years. I don’t know that everything needs to be collected and preserved, but I do believe that there is incredible stuff coming from library bloggers. I guess you could compare blogs to ‘zines. There are those who believe that ‘zines represent a sliver of our culture that’s worth recording and preserving. Why not blogs? It would certainly save me from having to worry about backing up my content!