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Month: December 2004

Blogging Librarians

Blogging Librarians

Okay, I’m starting to feel that I’m in such an old school of blogging that I missed some massive turnabout. Reading about bloggers these days has made me want to dig my heels in and express, over and over, that people are adding elements to the definition of “blog” that really should not be there. I’m standing firm on this one.

From Free Range Librarian:

For some time I’ve grumbled and groused about the practices of librarian bloggers. Too many of us want to be considered serious citizen-journalists, when it suits us, but fall back on “hey, it’s only a blog” when we’d rather post first and fact-check later, present commentary as “news,” or otherwise fall short of the guidelines of the real profession of journalism. (This is doubly ironic, considering how librarians squeal when people without library degrees claim to practice “librarianship.”)

We’re on the eve of having the first serious blog coverage for an ALA conference. (I’m going to be one of the Citizen Bloggers for PLA, thanks to Steven Cohen’s advocacy in this area.) I really would like this to be a credible event that reflects well on blogging in librarianship. But I worry that if we start off without agreeing, however informally, to a code of ethics, we may prove to our colleagues why blogging has its bad reputation.

I also feel that as librarians our “code” has to go even farther than in the examples I cite at the beginning of this entry. We are the standard-bearers for accurate, unbiased information. Blogs filled with typos, half-baked “facts,” misrepresentations, copyright violations, and other egregious and unprofessional problems do not represent us well to the world.

Keeping a blog does not by definition cross into journalism. I understand why people feel that it does; many blogs have a newsy feel to them, and since blogs are serial, I can see the connection. Vaguely. But a blogger is not journalist. A blog is a format. It’s just a personal webpage that’s easy to update, and is generally updated often. It’s really important that we not get so wrapped up in linking blogs with journalism that we start imagining that we have some kind of higher calling to “report” with accuracy. As if we’re some kind of playback device. As if this is the point of the profession.

I can’t work out which part bothers me more; reducing a blog to serial fact-spewing, or reducing librarians to “unbiased” cyphers of information.

Do with your blog as you see fit, of course, but generally speaking, historically speaking, a blog is one person’s perspective on what’s going on in the world. Whatever that world happens to be for that person. While I agree that anyone should be careful not to spout random bits of gossip and break copyright laws, no one should pretend they have the capacity to be unbiased. That’s not a benefit to anyone. Presuming objectivity is the first step in providing misinformation.

So, those librarians who are going to blog the ALA conference; do it with your personal lenses snapped into place. Blog about what it means to you. Blog about what you hear and what inpires you, what you disagree with, what makes you think. There are ways to get transcripts of what happened. Why would you strip out all that good, personal, thoughtful information? I’m not looking to blogs to report facts. I’m looking to them to provide a personal memoir of something, one person’s view. I’m looking for the subjective.

Technology is a tool that seems to make people feel hip and modern. While blogging may be the hot item of 2004, our ideas about librarianship need to crawl on out of the 19th century.