Friday, 4 April 2008

Blogging is nutritious and delicious...

Notes from Web workshop (February 15, 2008, at McGill University, Montreal) session called “Blogging for Professional Development” 1.5 hour presentation by John Dupuis, Head, Steacie Science & Engineering Library, York University & blogger from “Confessions of a Science Librarian” [] , February 15, 2008.

[Presentation given here can be found at or here]

The new “digital world” is all about attention and reputation (from Richard Akerman, CISTI). This, among other reasons, is why blogging is so important, valuable and popular. We blog for social (or selfish) reasons: to become popular, to be known, to improve our standing in a certain field or group, but we also use blogs to explore ideas, to act as an external memory, to make a profit, to communication, and to create opportunities.

(Note: The presentation slides include several comics from the series XKCD []. And a blog of note is "Walt at Random" [].)

The term "biblioblogosphere" among others is used to describe the world of librarian and library related weblogs. And there are many different types of "biblioblogs": from the personal to the institutional, from containing commentary on events big or small to sharing news items and new resources, and from the very broad to the very narrowly defined in terms of subject area. To find blogs of interest you can try:
  • blogrolls (lists of related blogs) available on a blog you already know;
  • search using
    • Technorati []; or
    • Google Blog Search [];
  • check out the list of blogs on:
    • LISWiki []; or
    • OEDb []; or
  • check out a compilation of individual blog posts via
    • “The Library Shelf” []; or
    • the “Carnival of the Infosciences” [].
Although there are plenty of library related blogs, it’s also a good idea to read blogs (or any material for that matter) outside of librarianship. For example, as a health science librarian, I could regularly read blogs from health care professionals like “The Physician Executive” [] or “Stories from the hospice nurse” [] to connect with my users and stay on top of their personal issues to help me serve them better.

Issues to consider when blogging:
  • Library 2.0 – as a subject, as a mindset, and in the functionality of your site.
  • Privacy – yours and others
  • Intellectual property – yours and others
  • Politeness – to what degree should you be or can you be
  • Anonymity – whether to be so or not
Why should someone blog as opposed to publish in the more academic literature?
  • Blogs are more immediately available and easily accessible.
  • Blogs tend to be much more interactive, allowing readers to contribute with comments and the author to respond to such comments.
  • It is much cheaper both for the author and the system as a whole.
  • There is no “gatekeeper” when writing a blog post: anyone can create a blog and start posting right away, whereas to get published, you must get past the publishers, editors, and often your own peers.
(Note: Check out the book “Balanced Libraries” by Walt Crawford all about Library 2.0 – read more in a brief review from the blog “Slow Reading”.)

Blogs are also an excellent source of information on a variety of very new, controversial, or little known topics. In a comparison of search results on certain current issues, LISZEN (an LIS search engine that includes blogs) [] outperformed tools like Web of Science, Inspec, or even LISA, simply because the latter do not include blog literature which is where some of these ideas are being discussed in much more volume. In some subjects, blogs are the only real outlet to get your ideas out. We’re always talking about information overload nowadays but there will always be something new and unique to say and it’s important to make sure your make your voice heard using whatever method you can find.

Audience comment to the presenter remarking how great it would be to have senior university administrators blogging about their work: Check out the French blog from University of Montreal library school director Jean-Michel Salaün “Bloc-notes de Jean-Michel Salaün” []

York University has developed a site called Planet York [] that compiles blogs posts from blogs written by York U staff and faculty. This not only provides a rich overview of what some of the university’s minds are thinking for the benefit of those outside of the institution, but is a source of pride, inspiration and networking for those within York U as well.

Tips on blogging yourself:
  • Find a niche to fill but don’t be afraid to evolve as well.
  • Blog your passion. Blog about what you love, otherwise you won’t be able to keep it up.
  • Post when you want. We don’t all have to post several times a day or even once every day. The presenter blogs about 3 or 4 times a week. Some blogs are weekly.
  • Pause before writing, but don’t obsess about it.
Oh and check out the blog “Academic Librarian” []

After-session comments from the audience:
  • Consider your impact and reach: If you are job searching you may not want blog posts about how much you hate your boss or about how you steal pens from work regularly.
  • Is it possible to delete your entire blog? Many blogging tools allow you to delete your content and account and therefore remove it from the “live” web but search engines by design roam around the internet saving text wherever they can. If you have a relatively new blog, then deleting will probably really delete it. If you’ve been blogging for years, chances are that all your text has been scooped up and archived somewhere.

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