UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Blogging Librarian: Pragmatic, Connected and Visible

Posted by ukwebfocusguest on 1 October 2007

In a guest blog post for November Michael Stephens gives his thoughts on the Blogging Librarian. Michael is well-known to many in the library 2.0 world through his Tame The Web blog and his participation at the Internet Librarian International (ILI) conferences.


As the fall conference season gets into high gear, groups of librarians and information professionals will gather in conference centres and hotels all over the world to discuss issues and trends that offer challenges and opportunities for library services. Sadly, this year I can’t attend one of my favorite conferences: Internet Librarian International in London, England. Librarians from all over the world journey to London to exchange ideas, insights and, simply, talk.

I’ve attended ILI the past few years, serving on the advisory committee as well as presenting and teaching workshops, including on dedicated to blogging in 2005. I was happy to see Brian Kelly and Kara Jones are carrying that discussion forward with two sessions:

I look forward to reading blog coverage of their presentations.

Thinking about these presentations causes me to reflect on the history of the tool. In 2004, Merriam Webster online announced the most-searched word of the year was blog and noted that one of the most talked about online innovations of Web 2.0 was the use of blog software to create easily updated, content-rich Web sites.

The early definition the site provided offers insight into blogs’ genesis as a personal journaling tool:

Blog noun [short for Weblog] (1999) : a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

From personal journaling onward, we can trace the evolution of blogging from “what I had for lunch” blogs to the adoption of the tool for businesses, organizations, and of course, librarians and libraries. In 2007, the thriving biblioblogosphere includes multiple library blogs as well as hundreds of individuals sharing their voices via personal, professionally focused blogs.

This summer, I completed my doctoral dissertation looking at those personal, professionally focused blogs. The research question centered around the motivations for librarians to write blogs. Based on the works of some library philosophers, I created and sought to prove my “Pragmatic Biblioblogger Model.” The model describes librarians who author a professionally focused blog beyond the scope of their job to find, share, and offer advice to others in the LIS profession. Constantly scanning via the tools of continuous computing, the pragmatic biblioblogger seeks to redesign library services in an era of enhanced technology. These librarians open comments and engage with other librarian bloggers to discuss and examine events, new technologies, and the LIS profession within a community they have created with a common goal: improving libraries.

I was pleased that my study yielded support for the model. As a participant, observer and examiner of the bibliobogosphere, I’ve seen a lot of changes, discourse and dissension – all of which add to the evolving nature of the medium within our profession.

When librarians blog for their institutions, it may seem that the mission is different, but it many ways it is most similar. Library weblogs, in all shapes and sizes from Ann Arbor District Library’s multiple blog presence to the smallest of the small “one person library” blog hosted at Blogger.com, sharing news and information is usually the number one goal. Pair this with what blogs do so well – enable conversation via commenting, librarians can now connect with their users online the way we have done across the desk for years.

These connections are playing out in some interesting ways in 2007: I’ve noticed the advent of administrator’s blogs, the extension of the blogging platform in some new and innovative ways, and the use of the tool as an educational vehicle for library staff to experience social software.

What was once the realm of the techie librarian in the basement of the library has moved to cadres of blogging librarians for individual libraries (such as my former library, the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, Indiana, USA) on up to the actual involvement of administrators and directors. Look no further than Darien Library in Darien, Connecticut, USA for an example of a director’s blog.

There are definitely benefits to administrative blogging. It might be the library is about to launch a new initiative or fund raising campaign. The use of a blog as a communication mechanism to deliver transparent news and plans seems like a good fit. Properly marketed and utilized – key for an such project – the blog can be a visible means to connect users to library policy-makers. It would also set a good example for others in the library who may not want to participate. Top-down buy-in is so important for technology projects and organizational shifts to occur – and the voice of the director, shared openly and honestly, is a step in a good direction. Human discourse from the top might be very welcome in many libraries, internally and externally. Open comments would allow discussion. This also makes the library and staff visible on the Web.

Other library use blogs and more blog-like social tools as a clearinghouse of all manner of online content and links to multimedia offerings as well. Check out Allen County Public Library’s 2.0 clearinghouse to see this in action or take a look at Pierce County’s round up of their 2.0 tools with this post at Flickr.

Finally, no project has added more blogs to the Biblioblogosphere than Helene Blower’s Learning 2.0 course, used by libraries all over the world. As a means to acclimate staff to what blogs and other tools can do, there’s nothing better than actually doing it. Librarians and staff explore, play and report on their experiences via their blogs. Who knows how many may continue after the course is done – and how many may become vibrant voices within the Biblioblogosphere.

Are you curious? If you’re attending ILI be sure to check out the blog presentations – there’s still so much to discuss about this transformative tool. And please have a cup of tea for me as you enjoy the sessions, networking breaks and evening meals. ! If you’re reading from afar, explore on your own what’s happening online with blogs and other social tools. we truly are in the middle of an ongoing shift in libraries, where anyone can participate.

I am also very interested to hear what UK and other countries are doing with administrative blogs, 2.0 portals and Learning 2.0. Please share your comments here or email me.

Michael Stephens

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3 Responses to “The Blogging Librarian: Pragmatic, Connected and Visible”

  1. […] You can read the rest of this blog post by going to the original source, here […]

  2. Kara said

    Michael,
    Thanks for a very thoughtful guest blog. One thing strikes me regarding your comments on Library Administrator Blogs – when researching for the ‘Using Blogs Effectively In Your Library’ masterclass, I had a difficult time finding good blogs from library administrators (especially in the UK!). I used Google and Technorati searches just to cast out the net, and then trawled through the wikis and lists of library blogs collated around the world. There ARE administrator blogs, but I was somewhat dismayed by the number which were abandoned, leaving just an example of a library director who *used* to blog.
    Blogs are maturing into a serious platform for innovating communication, I really wish more library management would do it and Keep At It! Brian and I will be looking a little at sustaining a blogging service at the masterclass, and I think this is an area that could do with a little more attention perhaps…

  3. […] others to see as your contribution, your piece of the puzzle. Communicating your identity takes place in the connections you develop and the contribution you make to your professional network of peers. You might have a […]

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