Monday, November 14, 2005

What have I learned from blogging?

This is a post prompt that has been sitting on my cue for quite a while. Every time I find a new post or note to link to, I added to the draft. Seeing as I have survived my first year as a professional librarian, this seemed like a good reflection point.

I started to ponder this when I read through The Blog Herald, a link to a list of things learned from blogging by D. Keith Robinson. Mr. Robinson created his list in the context of celebrating the three year anniversary of his blog. Some of the comments people made to his post are interesting as well. In addition, Brian (Leiter of the Leiter Reports) reflects after two years. Posts from people in the blogosphere like Laura (Crossett, of LIS Dom) on the uses of the biblioblogosphere, Joy (Moll of Wanderings of a Student Librarian) on why she blogs, and Meredith (Farkas, of Information Wants to be Free) discussing new communities added to my inspiration to finally put this in writing. Overall, this prompt has been around, so it seems a good time for me to take a little spin on it.

Robinson lists 42 things he has learned from blogging. Initially, I thought I would reply to some of the items on his list as they fit to my situation. Some of the items on his list I knew before I came to blogging. For example, I have known for a long time that there is power in words. In facts, words can be used to make the world a better place, but they can also be used to promote hate, intolerance, and other terrible ills. What I have learned from this is that words do have great power, a reaffirmation, but they also have to be used responsibly. Sure, there are moments to play with words and have fun. I do that quite a bit. Maybe I am idealist, a fool even, but if I can use my small ability to write and make things just a little bit better, I believe I have accomplished something. For me, this happens rarely, since most of what I write is for myself: reflections on my profession and practice, notes on articles I read, some book reviews, and the occasional piece just to think. Then there is that other stuff I write or put in my other blog. Yet even with the writing as a selfish venture, I have witnessed the power of words in making meaning, in exploring ideas, in discovering new concepts. Robinson has another way to say this, or part of it: "blogging is a great way to manage knowledge and lessons learned." He also said something I would not mind telling my supervisors: "blogging can very easily be considered work. Lots of it." I am sure they know it to an extent. And no, I don't expect to spend most of my days blogging. There's other work to be done, work that I look forward to doing. Ok, so there are some moments too, but what job does not have them? The point is a lot of what I do is a way of professional development. A little support, or rather fait would be nice. Then again, something like what they do in this workplace would be nice. True, it is in Australia, but the idea of recognizing activities like this as part of what a professional can do for further development, along with other options, is a good one maybe more people in this part of the world may want to at least consider. Yet here in the States we hear more of academics worried that if they blog it may affect their job prospects or tenure chances. Then again, the Ivan Tribbles of the world just exemplify close-mindedness and how much work in educating others is yet to be done. And don't even mention people like Michael Gorman or Blaise Cronin.

Robinson also writes that through blogging "you can really meet cool people online." This is very true, even if I did not believe it at first. He also writes that "the world is full of passionate people." One has only to look at the biblioblogosphere to see this is true. Regardless of their position, beliefs, or politics, those folks are very passionate about what they do. The blogosphere, however, is like any other neighborhood. It has cool people, but it also has its share of dark alleys, unsavory places, and people who are better avoided. There are some places were civility is the first casualty, and a place or two where you wonder how so-and-so even manages to muster enough brain power to run a blog. On this, Brian (see link above) writes that "the blogosphere mostly exacerbates the worst tendencies of the 'mainstream media' that some bloggers love to criticize: factual inaccuracy, analytical confusions, moral parochialism, deference to power and so on." What I have learned is that blogging can bring forth the best in some people and the worst in others. I know; this is not breaking news, but it is a lesson I have learned.

Over time, I am discovering that I continue to learn. As I write and reflect, I hope to grow a bit more, to learn something new. I learn from what I read, from my practice, from my colleagues and students, and from others in the biblioblogosphere and even the blogosphere at large. So, as I close this post, the question becomes what will I learn from blogging? I have learned a thing or two, but there's still more to discover.

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