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Is it the end of an era for librarian blogging?

22 May
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Flickr CC image by Thomas Hawk – click to view original.

 

Update: the day after posting this, I’m adding a little disclaimer: I am NOT saying blogging is finished! I’m saying a specific era is possibly coming to an end. And I still think blogging is, for information professionals, still extremely useful, very rewarding, and a great thing to do. Okay, glad that’s sorted.

Recently Andy Woodworth blogged about how he wasn’t blogging that much any more, and today @tinamreynolds sparked a debate on Twitter about whether the library bloggging community was slowing down, and if so, why?

I’ve definitely noticed this. There was a set of around 10 blogs that diverted into an ‘Essentials’ folder in my Google Reader which I read all the time, and there was at least 30 more that I regularly caught up with. But hardly any of the bloggers in question are producing regular articles in 2013. I don’t really use a Reader any more – I just pick stuff up via Twitter. I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to – and when I do it tends to be about things which happened ages ago (my last post, published late last week, was about an event which happened in February, 3 months back).

Lack of time is the biggest reason given for not blogging these days, and that makes a lot of sense. But I think it might be a changing of the guard, rather than an overall slow-down – a bunch of new professionals becoming older professionals, and newer ones attacking the biblioblogosphere with a fervor in their place. If we interact online in loosely defined sets (in my case, it’s largely ‘the people who were new professionals in 2009 when I went to the new professionals conference’) then it stands to reason that there would be a collective ebb and flow in our activity. As we get up the career ladder we become busier and have less time to blog, and we’re on similar cycles of activity, commitments, and enthusiasm…

I really, really enjoyed being part of a thriving, dynamic online community of info-pro bloggers. But I don’t miss it now it’s gone.

For me though it’s not just lack of time – it’s lack of energy for the profession itself. I think I’d make time if it was all as important to me as it used to be. Which isn’t to say it’s not important – I’m quite passionate about libraries, and still very passionate about librarians and our community. But I said a LOT of things on this blog in the first 3 years or so I wrote it, and that level of momentum – that fire – wasn’t really sustainable. There are librarians whose CPD is seemingly never subject to atrophy – I admire that, but don’t aspire towards it, weirdly.

I just don’t have that much to say anymore. I used to write posts like this one, about the state of play – I used to love it when lots of people commented and we had a big debate about stuff. But now when I write things on here it tends to be more focused and specific: the last four posts have been about an online tool, a marketing idea, an event, and a presentation. These kinds of posts don’t get as many views as the old debate type posts, but the blog gets more views overall because there’s now so much of it for Google to find!

So if you blog, do you blog less now than you used to? Is it the end of an era for librarian blogging? And if so, to what do you attribute this – is it just lack of time, or are there other reasons too?

p.s just as I was about to hit publish on this, I saw this tweet from @barlowjk which sums up one of the problems very nicely – we have finite mental real estate! And SO much stuff filling it up these days…

 

 

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Comments
  • Helen Blanchett May 22, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I’ve only just started blogging! My feeling is that blogs still have their place for CPD and reflection, but twitter has replaced them for keeping up to date and building community. I’m a lot more forgiving of blogs that only have a few posts these days as I understand why. And as long as you’re adding value to the event I don’t mind if you’re reporting on something from 3 months ago. I write my blog for me and I’ll keep on doing so and I hope others do too! It may well be the end of a particular type of librarian blogging, but the start of something new.

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    Helen, the Twitter thing is definitely a huge factor. It’s a much more significant source of conversation now than 3 or even 2 years ago. A perfect example is that lots of responses to this piece have been on twitter rather than in the comments section!

    I do think blogs still have a useful role, I’m certainly not disparaging the genre. As you say, it may just be a change in its role.

  • Jan Holmquist May 22, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    I agree with your theory Ned… Maybe also… When you are an established blogger – you can blog less than when you are starting out?

    I have never blogged very much. I think that there are some unwritten rules to how often you “need” to blog to really matter. I love to blog once in a while when I have something to say :) but it has never been a top priority because:
    I am a father of two wonderful kids and since blog time is spare time – They are first priority.
    I tend to work on spare time projects that take a lot of time – sometimes I promote them on my blog :)
    I need to fit in time to read the awesome blogs :)
    Having English as a second language – writing in English takes more time – and I like to connect world wide so writing in English is important.

    To sum up – blogging is a priority – but not on top of the list.

    I have actually had a plan to explain this in a blogpost on my blog – Guess I have to do that now right?

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    Jan that’s definitely true. A big part of blogging for me was plugging CPD gaps – I was writing about and investigating things my job(s) wouldn’t allow me to, in order to get a better job. Now I have the job I was aiming for all along, while I certainly don’t want to stand still in my development there’s less specific impetus now.

    And I can empathise and agree with all your points (the second language thing I can only imagine!) yes.

    But write your post!

  • Tina Reynolds May 22, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    I think it is a really difficult one. I would expect ebbs and flows in individual people and their blogging or even in cohorts, if we think about it in those terms but I find that the number of blogs that I find that are being started doesn’t match the number that are no longer or not often updated.

    Perhaps it is a sign of the times that people tweet more than they blog as it takes less time and energy but I do miss reading even the reasonably mundane posts!

    I am still very attatched to my RSS feeds but I find that, more and more, the 19 ‘library or similar’ folders including KM etc. are rarely filled whereas the five or six folders containing other interests such as education or linguistics are brimming with new posts so I read the RSS feeds which were set up in such a way as to create a primarily CPD-focused space with a little light relief and it ends up being mainly not library-related.

    I’m not sure that there is an answer…

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Tina, definitely more tweets than blogs, yes. Debates are had entirely on twitter where once they might have happened in comments sections like this one.

  • Ian May 22, 2013 at 11:26 AM

    Hmm. This is interesting as I drafted a post last night on why it was more important than ever for the information profession to be blogging! :)

    I think there are several things here worth noting. The number of librarians blogging has definitely dropped, I don’t know why but it’s certainly noticeable from my RSS feeds. Information professional blogging, however, is more vibrant and interesting than ever in my view. As time has gone by I have discovered more and more interesting blogs that touch on our professional areas and I have learnt a heck of a lot. When I say touch on our professional areas I mean in terms of data protection, freedom of information, the impact of social media, censorship etc etc – all professional issues that we often need to wrestle with (or at least *should* in my view).

    I gave up a little while back on restricting myself to pure library/librarian type posts, mainly because I was finding it restrictive and there was little extra to say. With so many others saying much the same thing, it seemed that there was little point in repeating what has already been well argued. I tend now to blog about broader issues because there are *always* issues to talk about, I never run out of things to discuss…so much so that I always have a list of about two or three posts I would like to write (I post roughly once a week, sometimes more).

    As an example, I recently invited someone to write about their experiences of Universal Jobmatch for my site. Why? Because it is very closely linked to issues around the digital divide and highlights a very serious concern about government policy. It also has a very real and serious impact upon public libraries and the service they provide (I know the post has been passed around a lot of public library staff and I have had a number of discussions with them about this issue and the impact it is having). I have had more hits on this post than any other I have *ever* written (rapidly heading towards the five figure mark). A month after posting it I still get around 200 hits a day just for that post (earlier this week I had around 1,500 on one day). And the comments (around 70 at last count) are almost entirely non-librarian, which is in itself interesting.

    Personally speaking, and I would say this (!), I think there is perhaps a greater need than ever for librarians to be blogging and talking about issues because right now there are a whole host of issues linked to our profession that are having a massive impact on people’s lives. I’m not naive enough to think it will change anything, but I do believe in the importance of engaging in The Big Issues.

    So is it an end of an era for librarian blogging? I hope not, but the state of play at the moment suggests it is. Why? Maybe everything has been said and new librarians are faced with repeating the same things that have been said many times before. Is there still a “dynamic online community of info-pro bloggers”? Absolutely. At present, I think there possibly more fascinating info-pro related blogs now than ever. The challenge I have now is keeping on top of all of them…even more so now I know Google Reader is being killed! :)

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    Ian good to have a positive spin on this. I also gave up restricting myself to the pure library stuff a while back – of the top 10 posts on my blog (jn terms of views), only 4 are library related. The other 6 (including all the ones with five-figure view counts) are related to things librarians might do or use, but also to other audiences as well, hence the larger amount of readers presumably.

    One of the big things I identify with in your comment is the fact that people have argued these points before, often multiple times. When I started I naively thought we were all revolutionising the world with our views, but of COURSE the ‘generation’ that came before us (and in many cases the one before that) had already written about, analysed, and sometimes quite rightly moved on from, the issues we were troubled with. That said, I don’t regret raising the stuff I did at the time – but with increased awareness now of what has already been said, I’m less likely to post about things.

    Incidentally, you know how whenever the subject of branding comes up people try to put us into opposing corners (like that conversation I could only see one half of on Twitter the other day)? I dunno if you’ve seen the presentation I did at a new profs thing that people are referring to (it’s here), but it’s not about personal branding as such – it’s just about not panicking about the idea of ‘brand’ and taking steps to positively influence things if you want to. I’m not sure we’re in polar opposite camps on this as people suggest. Above all I was just trying to help people who were intimated by the concept – and the feedback suggests that’s what happened, lots of people were reassured.

  • Alyson Tyler May 22, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I’m still blogging, two years on, and average about 1 a week. My RSS feeds in my Netvibes account is full of blogs (many of which I don’t check often, lack of time!) but it seems to me that there are still lots of library bloggers out there.
    I don’t think Twitter can replace a longer blog for a proper indepth discussion of something, and there are an awful lot of people (librarians) not on Twitter (for various reasons) but are happy and able to follow and comment on blogs. I see blogging as an essential part of my job – maybe it depends on the job you have and so as people change careers their need/requirement/interest in blogging may change, as you note refering to the following of a cohort of people from a particular era.
    The perceived decrease may therefore be partly based on the current blogs (people) you were/are following, and the other points people have raised of lack of time etc. I’m not stopping yet though!

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM

    Alyson you’re right, plenty of librarians aren’t on Twitter (though I do really feel for them :) ) and possibly more follow blogs.

    I still blog as part of my job – but that involves writing blogs for work as opposed to my own blog. Between the work blogs, the book blog, and this blog, I just run out of blogging energy in the end! It’s not actually the writing of the posts – I just churn them out as you can probably tell… – it’s going back afterwards and adding categories, hyperlinks, relevant examples, tags etc – it takes ages!

    Anyhow, I’m very glad you’re still blogging and that your RSS feeds are still heavily populated.

  • Annie Johnson May 22, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    In my first 2 years in the profession I blogged regularly and loved being part of a library blogging community. While I was doing my MA last year I was doing a *lot* of CPD and blogging about many of the events I went to, and I think that in conjunction with writing my dissertation and job hunting I burnt myself out a bit. Since graduating and getting my current job I’ve written a total of 4 posts, and 3 of those were monthly reading list roundup ones. On the other hand I’ve been settling into my new job, catching up with neglected friends, moved house, decorated, and am planning a wedding, so I guess I’m making up for the lack of ‘life’ in my work-life balance! Probably by next year I’ll have had enough of a breather that I settle into a comfy semi-regular blogging pattern, but for now I’m happy just reading what other people have to say.

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Annie yours is one of the blogs I actually miss, as it happens! :)

    But yours seems to be a pattern lots of us have experienced, deffo. Is the wedding you’re planning yours? (I hope so, as it would be hard to see a side-line in wedding planning as relevant CPD :) ) If so, mega-congrats!

  • Annie Johnson May 22, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    That’s awfully nice to hear, thank you Ned! It is indeed my wedding, October this year! :D

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    Woohoo! :)

  • Mieneke May 22, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    I never was a librarian blogger, mostly because I don’t think I’d add that much to the conversation that I couldn’t add through Twitter or comments, but also because I’m a really active book blogger, and keeping one blog active and up to date on top of work and family life is hard enough. In addition, I think it was never as important to my professional development and in many ways still isn’t. Perhaps that will change once my girls are a bit bigger and going to school, perhaps not.

    I have noticed more blogs in my Feedly are posting less often, however, when they do it means they really have something they want to say which often generates some really high quality content!

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Mieneke perhaps that’s the best way of looking at it – when people blog these days, you can be sure it’s important!

    But yes, having a book blog like yours is bound to use up a lot of the ‘finite mental real estate’ and as you say there’s plenty of other ways to contribute to the conversation.

  • Ian May 22, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Yep, I’ve always been keen to encourage people to consider writing from an angle that attracts not just library people, but people outside the profession too. It helps in terms of one’s blog, but also helps in terms of getting stuff published elsewhere…in areas that perhaps librarians do not normally have a foothold.

    And yes, I would say 90% of the stuff people talk about has been talked about a thousand times before. Nothing wrong with expressing your take, but obviously there comes a point when you start to realise (or become worried that) what you’re saying isn’t ‘new’ or ‘valuable’. When I started it was about blogging about my experiences on the course, with a few outside interests in terms of how I viewed things creeping into the equation. However, at my core I am very much a political blogger. I blogged (on Blogger incidentally, before Google took it over and made it bad) for three years on political issues before my first library blog. So for me, having completed my course, switching back to my natural mode of blogging was, well, natural. The emphasis has shifted somewhat due to the profession I am now in, but I have, perhaps, returned to my ‘natural state’. And I guess maybe there is an element of blogging whilst you are learning and once you have reached that marker (whether it be chartering if that’s your goal, or getting the MSc) you no longer feel that the blog serves quite the same purpose it once did when you set out. And then, of course, life happens… :)

    In terms of the branding thing, I wasn’t aware of that. To be honest, I’m not sure why we were linked on that as it emerged in my brainbox as a result of a discussion with a number of others about privatisation and the rhetoric employed by corporations (eg calling library users ‘customers’) – which is particularly an issue in public libraries at the moment (and increasingly so in universities thanks to Browne and, I suppose, Brown :) ). Either way, I’m all for telling people not to worry about it.

  • Laura Newman May 22, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    I started a blog last year, after attending the NPD 2012 and hearing your presentation. Since then I’ve started my MA full-time and have, I admit, shamefully neglected it. I did participate in HLSDITL this year, as I think it’s important to engage with the profession and I am a big fan of sharing my experiences to try and encourage others. I’m just too busy with my MA though to regularly update my blog. Hopefully once the craziness is over and I graduate I will have more time to dedicate to it, as well as being able to further reflect on my MA. I think blogging is important for sharing ideas and experiences, but I can fully understand the drop in posts due to being busy.

  • thewikiman May 22, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Laura, that’s terrific – as I say, I really do think blogging is a great thing, still, and I’m pleased you started one after seeing that presentation… It’s completely understandble that the MA takes up most of your energy – the only thing I’d say is keep in mind which assignments could be turned into blogposts. If you’re writing about something for the MA that you have a real passion for, blog about it too! Or if you think the course is really good, or wonder about the Masters generally, or whatever – there’s scope there.

  • Sarah Wolfenden May 22, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    I still blog but not as often as I used to. I tend to blog mainly about cpd activities though and since it is now more difficult for me to get to as many events I am blogging less – about 1 a month avg. I am also trying to address some of the life issues rather than just the work ones (tricky when also trying to get a permanent contract) so have had a little less inclination as priorities shift. I miss reading other blogs as much though and now get ridiculously excited when one pops up.

  • @anicecupoftea May 22, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    I’ve had a library-related blog since 2007, and a non-work-related one in various places since 2003. As far as the library-related blog goes, I blog the same way I’ve always done – i.e. when I think I have something to say. A lot of my posts are for my own use as a record of what I’ve done as much as anything else. I don’t post particularly regularly, but then I never have done (unless doing a project like 23 Things). And, yes, I think people usually blog a lot more at the beginning than they do later on. Like others, I often find myself enjoying reading other peoples’ blogs more than writing my own.

  • Mace Ojala May 22, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    I certainly blog less than i used to, my blog is nowadays more of a tool i write to when i want to have things archived (for myself, and for others too). The reason is quite simple: Facebook. Facebook already stole all my comments, and i know my audience is there… well everyone except Google search. Twitter too, to some extend. I’ve always used to write rather long-form posts, and FB/Twitter is just faster. But i’m starting fulltime studies soon, and expect my blogging-activities to increase to some extend.

  • Dianne McKenzie May 22, 2013 at 3:15 PM

    I am not sure the practice of blogging is dying, maybe there are less practitioners with all the library closures. I love reading blogs and I find a new one each week, and yes mental space is an priority, but always I am inspired to do better by someones ideas they have blogged about.

    I post about once a week and have a constant stream of visitors from around the world and I am constantly amazed at the pages they visit on my blog – some up to 4 years old, but they stay there and explore for a while. Blogging helps me to reflect, remember and to store my ideas as well as making connections. I enjoy it when I meet someone and they mention they read my blog and tell me their favourite post. it is a stepping stone into a longer conversation.

    Blogging and reading blogs has replaced the professional journals I used to devour as the bloggers are real people in real jobs dealing with the issues I am also dealing with right now. I also think to an extent it has also reduced the need for face to face professional learning, and helps those who are isolated connect and learn from others without too much effort.

  • david lee king May 22, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    I think it’s a changing of the guard. Some prominent librarian bloggers have moved on, gotten burned out, gotten busy. Found that they don’t like writing blog posts, but would rather talk in real-time via Twitter/Facebook/etc. And others are starting to slowly appear/emerge, as they develop a consistent voice.

    Twitter is great for tiny things or for discussions. Actual published articles and books are great for putting a LOT of thought and time into something. What’s in between that? Right now, I think it’s still the blog format. It’s still a great way to push a half-formed thought out and still get some feedback (though now, that feedback is spread amongst comments/tweets/facebook comments/etc).

    Me? My goal right now is two blog posts a week. You can tell when i’m burned out or busy, because I don’t hit that goal. And every once in awhile, after I post something, I think “well, that’s it – my last good idea. No more blog posts are in my head!”

    And then I read something, that sparks a thought, that makes me wanna write something … and I have this blog … and I get going again.

  • Bobbi May 23, 2013 at 12:49 PM

    My situation is probably a little different as I no longer work in a library and the last couple of years have been full of personal upheaval. I know I blog less than I used to. There was a point when my goal was to blog everyday. But before that I only blogged when I felt like it, so I see it more as ebb and flow. But I think for me too, I’m a blogger, or at least a write of sorts. Before I wrote my library blog I wrote a personal blog for years. As I ponder what my future will look like with my new masters I often think about writing a new blog focusing on whatever I’ll be doing then.

    As for the blogosphere as a whole, I started my library blog before we had Twitter or Facebook so blogging was a way to connect with the community at large. I am sure that many others did too. It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to connect online with other librarians that you had limited options. These days you have Facebook, Twitter, Google + etc so unless you want to *blog* you don’t need to.

  • thewikiman May 23, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Mace, Sarah, @anicecupoftea, yes it makes complete sense that people are going to reduce their quantity of blogging over time – I just really hope that lots of new library bloggers are emerging to take their / our place!

  • thewikiman May 23, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Dianne, I completely agree with, especially this part: “Blogging and reading blogs has replaced the professional journals I used to devour as the bloggers are real people in real jobs dealing with the issues I am also dealing with right now. I also think to an extent it has also reduced the need for face to face professional learning, and helps those who are isolated connect and learn from others without too much effort.”

    I feel exactly the same way about journals versus blogging. I also think more people will read a blog post than a journal article.

  • thewikiman May 23, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Bobbi, that’s interesting, I started blogging when those other tools were available, but I didn’t use them, so I felt the same way – that it was the way for me to contribute to a larger conversation. But Twitter does that so well now, the need to blog is gone. Clearly it still has usefulness – I’d pretty much always advise librarians to blog, especially the newer professionals…

  • thewikiman May 23, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    David I’m glad, I’d like to think it’s the changing of the guard too… Blogs are still great. And I feel the same way about the cycle you describe. Did writing your book affect your blogging? It certainly did mine – this blog has never quite recovered from the Toolkit effect. :)

  • Mace Ojala May 23, 2013 at 4:52 PM

    I also agree with what Dianne said about blogs replacing journals… well, i never really read journals (well some), but for me, online is *the* place where all the interesting information and discussions about libraryissues take place; not at my workplace which is worried about such things do we have pens/pencils/staplers/books and pencils are on this side of the desk or on that.

    The library blogosphere has been key in my interests, in my professional development and in my vocation also, and all the friends and colleagues pushing librarianship online… i owe you so much! All this wonderfulness will continue on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Twitter, IRC, even emaillists and whatnot, and also on blogosphere. It’s a great time to in/with the libraryfield at this time and age, now that the Internet can bring us all together.

    PLUR!

  • Bobbi May 23, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    Ned I think that puts you in the want to blog category :-) clearly I go there too.

  • Elizabeth May 23, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    I have been blogging for about 6 months. I do it for work, which is around libraries. I enjoy the fact that I can put my thoughts about something down but in a more chatty way than writing a report. I do like the idea that I could use it to talk about courses I’ve been on. I hadn’t even thought about that. I still don’t feel that anything I write is particularly useful to anyone else and this worries me when sending it out into the world. I think that may just be a lack of confidence. I’m hoping that by blogging I may get more confident.

    As yet, I have not had any comments on my blog so I can only assume that it’s not inspiring enough or I’m so inspiring that I’m frightening everyone into silence :) whatever the reason I am enjoying writing. I hope that everyone keeps doing it!

  • david lee king May 23, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    “Did writing your book affect your blogging?” oh yeah! Then I had two other largish writing gigs after that. Mostly all done now, so I’m not as burned out feeling as I was.

  • Edina May 25, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Funny, but I am thinking about starting a blog, I just have to figure out where and how. :)

  • Afroditi Fragkou May 26, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    I used to blog much more in the past when I started my blog. Nowadays, I rarely use it to write or comment. I find other social media easier and faster to use (lack of time is always a factor). I’ve said too much in the past, just like thewikiman said. Now, I find it more useful to share with the community as many more different views of point as I can, that’s why I curate others’ posts or articles. Also, in my country (Greece) most of libraries’ blogs mostly copy other people’s writings in stead of writing something new and when they don’t it’s mostly to promote library projects and nothing more (that’s the case for public libraries mostly – and every rule has it’s exceptions). I don’t think that if we stop blogging we’ll also stop sharing, we’ll just use different ways…

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