Monday, December 05, 2005

On Why I Blog, a Response

Chad, of Library Voice, recently had a graduate student ask him some questions about blogging. He shared the answers to the student's questions in his post. Since he wrote that he was interested in how other bloggers might answer the question, and since I can't resist a writing prompt, here are my responses to the questions that were posted. Some of the readers may have seen my recent post on what I have learned about blogging, a brief piece that may shed a bit more light about why I do this. So, here goes.
  • When did you begin to blog, and why?
    • The Gypsy Librarian began his journey on March 17, 2005 (St. Patrick's Day, but it was just coincidence). His unruly cousin, The Itinerant Librarian, jumped in a month later on April 29, 2005. My first reason to start was because it seemed a cool thing to do. I wanted to have an extension of my personal writing, a workshop space if you will. Now I do it because it is a form of professional development. I can reflect on my craft, keep track of articles and books I read, and wonder about how things work. I can also have a record of how I think and how the thinking has evolved over time. I need to write to make meaning, and this helps me out. Now, why two blogs? Well, my "unruly" blog is basically the "everything else" blog. The Gypsy Librarian is my mostly LIS blog. It's for professional issues and librarian concerns as well as related topics like literacy, instruction, education, and academic areas, particularly within my subject areas. It's the blog I would take to ALA or some librarian gathering. The Itinerant Librarian is the blog I would take to paint the town as they say. That is where I rant now and then, write about other topics of interest not quite academic, have fun and humor, and now and then let loose. It is also the place where I would put posts about topics not discussed in polite company. Both blogs reflect me, just different moments or moods.
  • Does your job require a blog, or is it your own personal choice?
    • No, it is not a job requirement. Heck, I am not even sure how aware my coworkers are that I blog. It's no secret; both blogs have my name, but I don't actively advertise them. I think my boss has read a post here and there since she once sent me an e-mail with a comment. A couple other colleagues have mentioned reading a blog of mine. I know they use Bloglines, so my guess is I am probably on their feed reader. Overall, I do this out of personal choice, and first of all, I do it for my personal growth and learning, plus there is the fun element, especially at The Itinerant Librarian.
  • Do you write your blogs at work or elsewhere?
    • A little of both. I do some professional reading at work, so I usually make notes as I read, then write a draft. The draft may get put on the blog right away, or I may save it and do the actual post at home. Or I write something at home, but post from work the next morning. Other things, short and quick, I post as inspiration hits. I feel free to blog at work because the "staying current" and learning elements of my job are very important. The blog is an essential tool in the Instruction Librarian's toolbox. to be honest, if for some reason the bosses told me not to do it, I would be very disappointed (not to mention I might think I need a better workplace). However, other duties do trump blogging.
    • One thing I don't do, at least not yet, is live blog if I travel to conferences, and I definitely unplug when I am out on personal travel or vacation. I spend more than enough time online at work and a good amount at home (when not spending quality time with the missus and the little one). So, when I travel, I take my journal and pen with me in case I want to make a note of something interesting. For professional travel, I leave the live blogging at conferences and such to the "experts." I prefer to put the computer down and look around. This does not mean I am luddite. On the contrary, if it is a conference with an online component or that requires use of a computer there, sure, I will participate and jump on the computer. Otherwise, I am unplugging for I believe there have to be moments one should be unplugged. Now people who blog conferences do provide a great service, but I usually just take notes, which I then reflect on, then post after making some meaning of the notes and the learning experience. Will this change? Not likely. There are plenty of big bloggers out there who are connected 24-7, so I can afford my moments of peace offline when I travel.
  • What is the purpose or aim of the blog?
    • For The Gypsy Librarian, professional development and education, a librarian tool. For The Itinerant Librarian, some education, but mostly a more personal space.
  • Does your company have any policies or guidelines about blogging?
    • Not at the moment, and I don't foresee it happening soon (though who knows, with all the litigiousness out there, it may happen sooner than one thinks). Even though our library now has its own library blog, it is still considered to be experimental, so there are no firm rules. When the decision was made to implement it, it was left up to the Web librarian and the Director as the main content writers, and others could jump in if they felt that they wanted to take a chance. I requested access to post on it, but to be honest, have not given it much thought other than for news items, and they mostly do those. Maybe, then again, part of the reason I was a bit shy to post on the library blog is because it is the library's blog, namely an official organ. I can get away with things in my blogs I may not in an official publication. Having said that, my hopes are going up as the Web Librarian suggested the possibility to make a second blog for books and media. It is to be a way to highlight new items, but I suggested we can also add other content, so we'll see. If we can get others to post the occasional note on what they read or look over, we may have something. I know I read a lot, so I can likely put a note now and then in addition to some other ideas. I think I am more ready now to post in there as well. Another idea I was toying with was posts for instruction or reference, more like little things here and there that would be useful for students, like tips on research, a new tool or database, ideas for assignments, etc. This would draw on my experiences with classes I teach as well as from my work at the desk. At the moment, just an idea I am toying with. Not sure if it will take off or not yet. Maybe if I run it by someone? We'll see.
    • Personally, my policy is not to blog about anything that may reflect poorly, namely the "don't post anything you may not want a future employer to see" rule. It's not out of restraint, but it is more out of the belief that if you don't have anything nice to say, you should not say anything at all. Also, I stand by what I write, which is why I am not anonymous. Like Chad says, it "keeps me honest."
  • Are your blogs monitored by your organization?
    • Other than the occasional readers I mentioned above, the answer is no as far as I know. If they started monitoring, it would not bother me since I made it clear my blogs are mine; they represent my personal views. You know, the whole "these blogs represent the views of the author, and in no way represent or pretend to represent the views, policies, and positions of the author's library or university" thing.
  • What inspires you to blog?
    • A lot of things inspire me to blog. What I read. Things I may see going on around me. The blogosphere if I see a good idea or prompt. Current events. My students. My occasional road trips, and so on. Now that I have been at it for a while, albeit a short time, many good writers in the biblioblogosphere (the part of the blogosphere the LIS people seem to hang out in) inspire me to continue blogging. And the hope, infinitesimal as it may be, that on some distant planet and some far future, that someone somewhere might read some of my posts and find them interesting.
  • Do other members of your organization blog?
    • The Web Librarian and the Director maintain the library's blog. As I noted above, I may start collaborating on that soon. The Director also maintains a Business News blog (you can find it through the link above to the library's blog too), which is designed to feature library related news in accounting, finance, business and related areas for the campus community. In terms of individual blogs, one of my colleagues mentioned she once had a blog, but she is not maintaining it. Thus, as far as I know, no one else here blogs (or they keep it a secret). It could change, but given the hectic schedules and constrained schedules, I don't see a rush of other librarians embracing blogs. While I would like to challenge them or dare them to try it, I know they are busy people. So am I. There is one of my colleagues I think I might be able to work on to get blogging. If any of them read this, I will just let them guess who I am referring to.
  • Is blogging for you an act of self-empowerment?
    • Getting a bit philosophical now, aren't we? I suppose it is. Learning and making meaning are very powerful experiences. In my case, there is a bit of subversiveness and risk-taking as well in the acts of blogging. That can be empowering and exciting. I don't have a huge voice or influence, so I am empowered in the sense that blogging works for me and for the readers who find my musings interesting or amusing. Yet it is more than self-empowerment. On a good day, I find wonder, and I experience an epiphany now and then. On a great day, it's fight the power, man.
  • Do you feel you can write about anything and not be judged? Have you ever "vented" or wrote about about negative feelings about your organization?
    • Oh yea, I can write about anything because what does not end up online can always end up in my personal journal. As for being judged, I have no control over how others may see my writing. I am sure I get judged, but it honestly does not bother me. After all, people have tons of blogs to choose from. If they dislike mine, or the blogs are just not their thing, there are many blogs for any specific topic under the sun. With me, what you see or read is what you get. As for venting, I do that mostly in my personal journal. My mom used to say one does not air out dirty laundry. I see no sense in doing such in my blogs, tempting as it may be at times. Chad says that some may think this policy is cowardly, not to write about the negatives. I say on the contrary. The way of restraint is the brave way. After all, anyone can get an anonymous blog and vent aggressively, and with good precautions the odds of being found out are slim. But to resist the urge and remain calm and dignified even when those around you don't, now that is brave. It does not mean one does not confront when necessary. It's more like knowing when to be restrained and when to confront. Like Chad, I also prefer to deal with issues at the source. If I have a beef with someone, I tell them; I don't put it on my blog behind their back. Besides, that's what the anonymous blog is for (haha). No, I don't have an anonymous blog at the moment. Like Chad, I think the day I blog a problem, it would have to be huge.
  • Do you feel like you are writing for yourself, or your audience?
    • It's mainly for myself. It's my space to work things out, to reflect, and to see what I have learned and discovered. It can also be a place to have fun, to be quirky and playful at times. Blogging can be very liberating. As for audience, at the beginning I did not think about audience. I figured it would be a straggler here and there (you know, did a search on Google for some porn term and for some reason get my blog, haha? Actually, I have heard from people in the biblioblogosphere who have had just such a thing happen). However, I have heard from some nice and smart people in the biblioblogosphere, so I now also write for that audience in the hopes of adding to conversations here and there. But there's also another, more important reason. A librarian inspired me to become a librarian. For some reason she said, "you know? You'd make a good librarian." What do you know? I actually bought it, and I went to library school. My hope is that some day I will be able to inspire someone, and so I will have repaid her faith in me. What started out as a personal quest is now also a way to give something back to the profession and the community.


Ben Crowder said...

Just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your blog -- keep it up! I'm a future librarian -- one more year as an undergrad and then on to library school -- and I find it extremely interesting to read yours and others' posts so I can see what I'm getting myself into. :) Your blog does indeed inspire me and that's why I'm subscribed. Thanks!

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Ben: Thank you for stopping by. I just hope I am not scaring you off too much. If it helps (or not), I did come in with an English degree as well (BA in Secondary Ed. English and an MA in English). I think the more folks in the biblioblogosphere you read, the broader picture you can get. I have discovered over time librarians can be a very diverse bunch in terms of skills, talents and experiences. This includes library school students too, and many of them write excellent blogs. Best on your studies, and keep on blogging.