Friday, October 01, 2010

Article Note: Are blogs written by academic librarians scholarly?

Citation for the article:

Hendricks, Arthur, "Bloggership, or is Publishing a Blog Scholarship? A Survey of Academic Librarians." Library Hi Tech 28.3 (2010): 470-477.

Read via Emerald.

This short article reports on a survey that tries to answer the following question: should blogs written by academic librarians count as scholarly or creative activity at tenure time? The author sent a survey to various librarian e-mail lists to get some responses. He received 67 responses, which while he admits is a low number due to aiming the survey at tenure-line folks, it still seems awfully low to me. I wonder how the sample could have been enlarged.

The author points out in the literature review that the question has not really been discussed. He cites an article by William Savage, Jr. where that author likens academic blogging to talk radio for intellectuals (qtd. in 470). Overall, the conclusion as we come out of the literature review is that blogs may have a place in academia in terms of making a contribution, but they are not academic sources in and of themselves.

The rest of the article goes over the results of the survey; the survey questions are included in the article. From the survey, we get the impression folks see academic librarian blogs or rather library-related blogs as good for things like staying informed, but not necessarily as good as peer reviewed articles, which require longer research; the terms seem somewhat interchangeable. For instance, the Librarian in Black, Sarah Houghton-Jan works for a public library system. That blog is listed among the top "must-reads" for survey respondents. The only thing I am saying by pointing this detail out is that the designation of what is an academic librarian blog does not seem consistent, or at least it seems fluid.On an interesting note, well to me, of the folks who write blogs themselves, "57.1 percent indicated they find other's blogs to be scholarly" (475). So it seems bloggers may be a bit more open to a blog as a scholarly platform or text. At least in one case, a respondent said that "at our library, blogging is considered professional service, or, if it's a blog for one's library or subject area, librarianship" (476).

In addition, at this point in time, it does not seem blogs would be considered as publishing for our academic librarians in terms of their dossiers. When the respondents were asked if a blog had the same weight as publishing an article in a peer-reviewed journal, "about 53.7 percent indicated no, while only 1.5 percent stated yes" (475). However, we do have to keep in mind that the concept of publication has come into question over the years as electronic publications gain prominence, so the question will likely be raised again and again.

The article's conclusion: "it is clear from the survey responses that this point in time, most academic library promotion and tenure committees do not weigh publishing a blog the same as publishing a peer-reviewed article. Some recognize it as service toward the profession, especially if it is related to the scholar's library" (477). My two cents? I think there are a few, a very select few, academic librarian blogs that could qualify as scholarly. They are probably as good as some of the opinion or essay pieces you do see in some of the peer reviewed journals.

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