Monday, April 29, 2013

And the blog rolls on

When I started this blog, I had a couple of main goals. I wanted to see how blogging has impacted society in general and libraries in particular, and I wanted to better understand how blogs can foster accessibility in libraries. In my research, I found the answers to these queries and many more.

I found out that blogs have a long, proud history of being voices for the voiceless and helping people cope with situations far away physically but close to home emotionally. I found out that blogs definitely have a place in information centers today, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out where that place is. And I found out that blogs are only helpful if people know about them and are able to use them, that blogs sometimes add to the problem of information inaccessibility.

When doing research, I find it important to identify the biggest advocates for my topic, and I eventually came across Andrew Sullivan, whose blog, The Dish, is one of the leading political blogs today. From his seminal work, Why I Blog (Sullivan, 2008), I learned the best blogging lesson of all. I hope you enjoy his message, as I hope you've enjoyed Ars Blogetica.

In fact, for all the intense gloom surrounding the news-paper and magazine business, this is actually a golden era for journalism. The blogosphere has added a whole new idiom to the act of writing and has introduced an entirely new generation to nonfiction. It has enabled writers to write out loud in ways never seen or understood before. And yet it has exposed a hunger and need for traditional writing that, in the age of television’s dominance, had seemed on the wane.

Words, of all sorts, have never seemed so now.(Sullivan, 2008)


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lesson 10: Blogging Complications

In the past nine lessons, we've discussed the many merits of blogs, from offering remote access to important information to providing an outlet for strong emotion. But now it’s time we got real. Are blogs really all they’re cracked up to be?

As was mentioned earlier, basic computer literacy is a must in order for blogs and other Web 2.0 applications to be truly effective. So are Internet connectivity and access, computer access, and basic reading skills. It all boils down to skill and availability. Can you get to it and can you use it. If the answer is no to either question, the idea that blogs can reach out to everyone around the world falls flat. 

How can we move headfirst into Web 2.0 when some patrons have yet to grasp Web 1.0? How can people peruse the pages of a blog when they can’t even point and click? Are blogs only for the educated, the hip, the young? Or can they truly reach marginalized communities? Can there be a balance?

And say you do overcome the odds and begin to blog. How do you decide how much of yourself to share on this highly public forum? The number of bloggers who have been fired from their jobs due to information found on their personal blogs is staggering, and many of those dismissals are based on routine gripes with the company or co-workers, not in-depth exposés of company policy (Valentine, Fleischman, Sprague, and Goodkin, 2010, p. 106). It’s the permanence of the words, not the attitude behind them, that makes blogs dangerous, and companies can’t afford to have their images sullied by disparaging remarks, however spontaneous or trifling those remarks may be.

Blogs can do good. But they can also do bad. And they can also do nothing. And those last two, bad and nothing, those can have dangerous effects. So when we think of the future of blogging, it’s important to remember to remain objective, to think critically, and to take a step back and evaluate the blog. When you're blogging, don't (always) believe the hype.


Valentine, S., Fleischman, G.M., Sprague, R., & Godkin, L. (2010). Exploring the ethicality of firing employees who blog. Human Resource Management, 49(1), 87-108. doi: 10.1002/hrm.2033

Lesson 9: Intra-Library Blogging

Up to now, we've talked about blogs used for communicating with patrons and blogs used for communicating with librarians in other libraries, but there is one final category of library blog to discuss. Some library blogs serve as a means for staff members in one library to communicate with each other, which I've termed intra-library blogging.

This topic was covered briefly in Lesson 8, with the mention of blogs as cataloging tools, but there is more to intra-library blogging than this. Coleman, Thiess-White, and Fritch (2011, p. 42) report that for Kansas State University Library, intra-library blogs play an important part in allowing employees to schedule work hours, list useful websites for answering reference questions, and keep a record of the types of reference questions library workers are often asked. In essence, these blogs are online reference libraries for librarians, and just like physical libraries, they are ever-changing.

Julia Rodriguez (2010) says it well:

Web 2.0 technologies allow for that information to be placed into a forum on which others can build and contribute, with the added benefit of bringing together the combined intelligence of all participants and organizing this knowledge in a way that can be shared, searched, and passed on to new workers. (p. 108)

That’s a tall order, and a library blog can take care of it all. Intra-library blogs may be the most effective of all: they target a specific community and provide information about the organization that cannot be found elsewhere. They see a need and meet that need. Who could ask for more?


Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lesson 8: Types & Uses

Like bloggers, blogs come in all shapes and sizes. From the much-beloved video blog, or vlog, such as this gem, to the e'er-revered subject blog like the one you’re currently reading, blogs can take on many different forms (Mandal, 2011).

And in the case of library blogs, one blog can often take on many faces. For example, blogs can provide

  • Reference services such as Ask-a-Librarian or instant messaging (Mandal, 2011, p. 157)
  • Reader services such as librarian and patron suggestions and links to GoodReads or LibraryThing (Mandal, 2011, p. 157)
  • Help with collection development by alerting librarians as to which materials are trending among library users (Mandal, 2011, p. 157)
  • New cataloguing methods such as tags as authority records and a chronological, password-protected method of monitoring acquisitions (Chen,  2009, p. 254-255)

Only time will tell whether these practices will catch on, but they do make for interesting considerations in LIS practices. After all, fifty years ago, how many librarians imagined that books could be read from a phone or that thousands of pages of information could be stored on a device the size of a thumb?


Lesson 7: Blogs as Instructional Tools

Lately in LIS periodicals, there has been a new focus on the DIY patron, or the patron who won't ask for help (or is too far away to ask for help) but needs help nonetheless. Blogs are a great way to reach out to libraries' more timid patrons and offer them the help they need.

Creating online instructional content is one such way librarians can do this (Farkas, 2012). Examples of this content include instructional videos, instant messaging with librarians, and e-pamphlets published by the library and posted on the library website or blog.

The difficulty with these types of resources, though, lies in the fact that basic computer literacy is a requirement in order to access this information. But if a patron knows how to navigate the Internet, type, and perform basic mouse functions, a world of possibilities opens up in the DIY realm.

I recently tried my hand at creating my own online instructional content, and I was met with many challenges. Not only did the content have to be thorough and accurate, but also, it had to be easy to read and easy to navigate. I decided to use StoryJumper, a free online tool, to write a children's book explaining how to use e-mail. Here it is--take a look, and tell me what you think.


Lesson 6: Blogs in Libraries

When we think of library blogs, we often think of librarian blogs, i.e., clever observations made by librarians about the library world. But there are blogs that are distinctly about the goings-on in specific libraries, blogs that “supplement traditional means of communicating with patrons” (Steele and Greenlee, 2011, p. 114).

One such example of a library blog is the University of Pennsylvania Law Library’s Biddleblog. Not only an academic library but also a special library, this law library faced significant challenges, especially in juxtaposing the casual tone associated with blogs with the academic nature of the blog’s subject matter. Eventually, the Biddleblog staff decided that all law library staff would blog, posting book reviews, research guides, and library announcements, all while highlighting library resources such as databases and exhibits (Steele and Greenlee, 2011, p. 117).

In one critical way, Biddleblog is more successful than most such blogs: at the time the Steele and Greenlee (2011) article was published, Biddleblog had been frequently updated for the past three years, and the updates continue, with the most recent dating April 18, 2013. But Biddleblog is not without its difficulties. While the library can use a tool like Google Analytics to determine how many people are reading the blog each day, the library has yet to quantify how many of those readers are actually  library patrons, not law librarians looking for a few new ideas (Steele and Greenlee, 2011, p. 118).

While Biddleblog aims to connect with a small, specific community, some library blogs aim to connect with an entire city or metropolitan area, a challenge just as difficult as that of connecting with a smaller readership. Blogs targeting a small community struggle to attract and maintain the interest of a limited number of readers, but blogs targeting larger communities must create content diverse enough to appeal to a wider range of readers.

In a 2007 article published in First Monday, a must-see online journal covering all topics Internet, Lyons expresses that “community-focused blogs (sometimes called geo-blogs or place-blogs) are becoming increasingly viable and reliable sources for local information,” and libraries aren't missing out on their chance to get in on the action. According to Lyons (2007), there are several community-based library blogs that focus on transmitting library news as well as community news. There are even blogs that match readers to blogs focusing on their geographic areas, with some of the more popular being Placeblogger and BlogDigger Local. With the increased interest in libraries as places and promoting libraries as community hubs, locally-focused, library-supported blogs are important players in changing the face of libraries.

Though library blogs focus on different types of libraries and communities, they all share one common purpose: providing information for library users. Let’s face it—we librarians are shameless information peddlers, and blogs make it possible for the whole world to learn what we have to teach. But if the whole world isn't interested, we can at least hope that our small communities are.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

History of LIS Technology: A Prezi

This is a Prezi I created showing the history of library and information science technologies. Take a look at all the events that led libraries to where they are today. Enjoy!