More Thoughts on Blogging

In one of the first posts that I wrote for this blog, I voiced some of my thoughts about blogs – especially library blogs. I can honestly say that I am still addicted to reading blogs – and it is one of the first things that I do every day. Blogs have become the primary means by which I keep up with developments in the land of libraries. I have become even more fascinated with the development of certain blog issues. It is remarkable to watch the way that certain topics make the rounds of library blogs – and often develop lives of their own. The whole debate/arguments surrounding Web 2.0/Library 2.0 is a prime example.

To read some of the posts (my favorites) on this topic look at the following sites:
Michael Stephens’ Do Libraries Matter: On Libary & Librarian 2.0
A 2006 article from Walt Crawford’s Cites & Insights entitled Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″
Library 2.0 – Questions and Commentary from Library Stuff
Working Toward a Definition of Library 2.0 from LibaryCrunch
11 reasons why Library 2.0 exists and matters from blyberg.net
Label 2.0 from Information wants to be free
Library 2.0 Discussion: Michael Squared from LibrarianinBlack

Add to all of this the recent debates over technical difficulties with ALA’s Library 2.0 boot camp and I can’t stop checking to see if there are any new posts. I get as caught up in these debates as people do in their favorite tv shows. Recently, I sadly realized that sometimes I’m caught up more in the personal aspect of these debates (who says what about whom, who responds to whose post, who is apologizing to whom, etc) than I do in the actual content. Many of the debates that take place in the library blog world are incredibly important and necessary. However, some of the commentaries get quite personal and every once in a while they are a bit offensive in tone. When this happens, it is hard for me to filter out personal biases to get at the message the blogger is trying to convey.

Ultimately, this makes me question the nature of blogs as a source for professional information. Blogs are inherently personal venues for people to post their thoughts and opinions. When people start posting comments about topics relating to their profession, I think lines start to blur between professional and personal behaviors. Sometimes this may not be a good thing. I don’t this this is specifically a problem inherent to blogs. This is a trend that has been growing for several years. Listserv email debates become remarkly unprofessional in a short amount of time. Heaven forbid that someone send an unsubscribe message to the listserv address. Despite the fact that this annoys me as much as anyone else, rudeness should be inexcusable in a professional environment.

This has been a topic that has troubled me since I started this blog back in September 2005. During the summer of 2005, a colleague at work asked me about RSS feeds, XML and blogs. She had noticed more and more RSS feeds and wondered what they were. As the primary technical support person in the library where I work, it falls to me to provide answers about new technologies. In trying to come up with a cogent answer for my colleague, I started reading library blogs, researching wikis and social software and gatherning information that could be useful in the library. As always with new technologies, I find doing the best way of learning. As such, I thought that actually creating a blog would be the best way to discover what one can do with them and how one can use them. Since I had decided to apply to graduate school for a masters in library science, it struck me that blog dedicated to that endeavor would be appropriate.

Personally, I didn’t feel comfortable with creating a blog for work because the college where I work did not (and still doesn’t) have a blogging policy nor do they have blogging software. Additionally, I am very aware of the fact that what I write on this blog is public. To me, it made sense to stay as far away from specific work issues as possible. To this end, I try to be deliberately vague about where I work. On the other hand, I think it best to be upfront about what I do because that certainly affects my perspective on technology, libraries and my mls program (to reiterate, I am a systems librarian sans mls). I guess this is why I have trouble wrapping my head around what I should be able to write about versus what I shouldn’t write about. This is why I haven’t commented about things like Library 2.0, etc. Of course, that doesn’t mean that these issues are not important for mls students. It just means that I haven’t resolved my conflicting thoughts about what is or isn’t appropriate upon which to comment – in light of my professional life versus my personal one.

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3 Responses to More Thoughts on Blogging

  1. Ross Day says:

    Jennifer, I just read your post from last May this month. I’m wondering if your opinions have changed much since you wrote it. It got me to thinking about the assumptions and evolution of blogs and their points of view.

    What struck me most is your assertion that blogs are inherently personal and that using them at (or for) work seemed inappropriate. I have to agree that they have evolved initially as very personal spaces shared with everyone, with a premium placed on their singular (and sometimes idiosyncratic) point of view. But I don’t think that they are exclusively so or need to be. I am working on a blog with my work colleagues which we anticipate will be hosted by our home institution. The blog is meant as a reference and outreach tool. Unfortunately, and as we’re discovering quite characteristically, our institution also doesn’t have a policy on blogs emanating from the institution. This makes it difficult but it shouldn’t scuttle the project. We just have to ‘catch them up’ to new means of information provision. And the blog as we’ve conceived it isn’t meant for opinionating, so it may not attract the same sort of flash audience that more personal blogs might.

    Your thoughts?

  2. Jennifer says:

    Ross, thanks for the comment and your question. I’m going to ponder this for a bit and write a followup post. I still think that as a whole blog are a more informal and personal mode of communication. However, I don’t think that blogs can’t be official – I just wonder if they would be as popular. I also worry about institutions with lack of blog policies and infrastructure. I’ve already got some thoughts.

  3. [...] Today, a reader asked me if the thoughts that I had expressed in a post from this past May, More Thoughts on Blogging, had changed any. In the post, I expressed some doubts and confusion about what is appropriate upon which to comment given that blogs seem to me to be inherently personal and informal in nature. Blogs have become powerful tools that people can use to get their opinions, thoughts and ideas out to the public at large. There is little to stop people from complaining about various things in life they don’t like. They can make up stories, lie about themselves or others and/or try to publicly malign people they do not like. While I do not think that the majority of the population will do this, there are several instances where people started blogs in order to tell the world about perceived injustices perpetuated by companies. Despite the fact that companies have felt that the bloggers posts were blatant truths or misrepresentations, they paid money or offered incentives to the blogger in order to have the blogs or posts deleted. In addition, there have been recent cases where companies have asked bloggers to remove posts in which bloggers expressed an opinion that companies have found threatening to their businesses. What is offensive? What types of comments can harm a companies business? Where is the line between free speech and libel? [...]

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