Libworld – Brazil

Brazil ranks first in concentration of servers and using internet in Latin America [1]
Concerning quality and quantity the scientific offer is barely short of the European. Not only the National Library offers some online services on her homepage. For instance you can save queries (Minha estante, my shelf) and compile your own profile (Cadastro, personal entry) including an alerting service. Also unofficial contributions are interesting, for a thing the virtual library Bibvirt created by Brazilian students. It records a significant number of Brazilian and Portuguese literary works, some of them in full-text version.

Today our guest author Moreno Albuquerque de Barros will define the role of the Brazilian biblioblogosphere. He is a Brazilian librarian and editor of ExtraLibris and BSF (“Blog direcionado aos profissionais e estudantes de Biblioteconomia, Ciência e Gestão da Informação”) blog and has already written a few articles on the blogging subject.

A short history of the library and library related blogs in Brazil by Moreno Albuquerque de Barros

The year of 2003 marked the beginning of the blogging increase in Brazil, through the dissemination of simple-to-use online publication tools
as Blogger and Fotolog just like it occurred in many other countries, but with a considerable span of time.

It was possible then to number thematic academic blogs, amongst these some relating to librarianship community.

The first appearance of library related blogs isn´t reliable dated, but after a survey I did at the end of 2003, four blogs were identified as the most productive: BSF, Renaland, USPortunistas and Pergunte ao Ranganathan (the last two no longer exist; I’ll talk more about the first two later). These blogs were launched essentially by students, or made for them as a didactic tool. The student appealed to the construction of these communication systems based on emerging technologies, to be heard inside its sphere of education and acting.

A friend of mine, a blogger himself, called Roosewelt Lins, argues that the systems conceived by the students still face contribution problems today, where the students can’t recognize a structure that runs away from the academic publication standards. But on the other hand, he adds, only a system in these molds of information transmission would be capable to present insights that come from a fidget of the student’s objective reality in a way that he can trustworthy describe the educational situation his school is embedded, reflecting in the person’s formation, be it professional or academic. I would say that’s where blogs (as well as other tools) fit.

Browsing online, I was able to verify a large distinction between Brazilian biblioblogs and those from other countries, where – even considering the singular aspect of Librarianship formation in Brazil – the production of blogs is in the hand of liberal professionals (in contrast to public employees, liberal professionals do not work for the government [editor’s note]), who act in the field and create blogs, in bigger extent, to solve problems or to share ideas about the daily work.

Nowadays the use of blogs in the library sphere in Brazil is practically still inexistent. Passed almost five years since the pioneers, little is articulated in the direction to use blogs as an extra resource of information inside the productive processes of public and private libraries. I did a bit of mapping, talking, invitations, but it seems not to help.
However, I’m excited that it is already possible to speak in terms (effective and semantic) of a Brazilian biblioblogosphere that – defined by our own community – is composed by thematic blogs on Library and Information Science.

Some exemplary blogs
Throughout my researches I evidenced the existence of blogs within the three sets of functional bodies in the Brazilian Library and Information Science field. Blogs produced either by professionals, professors and students are easily found. Let´s check some of them:

Learning blogs, promoted and managed by the students (or those who were students at the moment of creation) and apprentices in the area:

  • BSF – Bibliotecários Sem Fronteiras, multi editor blog directed to the library and information science community, driven by Tiago Murakami, myself, Fernando Vilarinho and Maria Clara Assunção from Portugal, Dener Anjin, Viviane Silva “the mother”, Gilberto Américo and Iara Vidal. It’s one of the first and still on.
  • Blog ExtraLibris – multi editor blog covering theoretical issues and epistemology of Library and Information Science, hosted by myself, Fabiano Caruso, Gustavo Henn, Alex Lennine and Rodrigo Galvão.
  • Biblioteconomia de Babel – a quite new, but perfectly driven multi editor
  • InformarE – knowledge and information, by Rafael Slonik
  • Abrindo espaço – knowledge management, information architecture, library and information science, hosted by Katyusha Souza
  • O ser bibliotecário – edited by Jonathan Pereira, and aggregator of information related to the librarian profession
  • Infofagia – library stuff related, by Tudor Mendez
  • Biblioteconomia UFG – blog done by the students of the University of Goiás

Academic blogs, either focusing in specific topics or used as adtional tools in education:

  • Blog do Kuramoto – hosted by Helio Kuramoto, general coordinator of Special Projects at the Brazilian Institute for Information in Science and Technology – IBICT
  • Renaland – Information technologies applied to the Library and Information Science, edited by LIS teacher Renate Landshoff, of the FESP/FaBCI school
  • Encontros Bibli– communication channel of the electronic journal Encontros Bibli, edited by professor Francisco das Chagas de Souza
  • Educação e biblioteca – personal blog of professor Francisco Chagas de Souza, covering political issues of the information society and other topics

Professional biblioblogs:

  • *Biblio Design* – beautiful blog covering library design and daily random stuff, edited by Claudia Tarpani
  • ExtraLibris Concursos – job offerings by the government, detailed in the words of government employees Gustavo Henn and Rodrigo Galvão
  • Fabiano Caruso – innovation, marketing and creativity in information services

Again, it is important to notice that the essence of biblioblogs produced in Brazil differs from those of other countries, since, despite some blogs being edited by professionals acting in the work field, these blogs are not strictly related with their editors’ work environment, be it a library or another information unit. They are of personal scope, related to the expectations of the professionals facing the area and do not possess institutional value.

As participant editor of the BSF blog practically from its beginning, I was capable to make a historical rescue and visualize its initial intentions.

BSF was born in 2002, as a tool for information sharing, with the intention of being a vehicle that promotes topics in an extension beyond the academic community. Back then, librarianship student Viviane Silva had the intention to make of the interest of more people the aesthetic of her course, deliberately using her personal blog as an introduction in the explanation of the essence of librarianship to laymen and students – potential librarians – and leave them to follow the development of their own interpretation of the field. This practice eliminated the tension related to the unfamiliarity of the profession and the interest in knowing it, on the part of the laymen. At the same time, blogging allowed Viviane to establish a permanent presence online that proved that she was real, creating affiliations with its readers.

Through their online presence the posts published by Viviane received diverse commentaries from visitors who did not belong to the area, attending the initial intentions of the blog. However, with the spreading in public lists in the area and an efficient retrieval in search engines, students and professionals of Library and Information Science had started to know and to visit BSF, creating bonds. Diego Abadan, my co-editor and one of the blog’s initial editors, explains that with the growth of visits of people interested in LIS (and those who already knew it), the blog was modifying itself, promoting subjects and news related to the area.

Viviane managed to gather a group of people interested in collaborating in the production of blog, what actually meant new positions and points of view, technical arrangements and less dependence of a single author for content update. Since then, the blog has been in constant development, reaching the structure that it has today.

BSF became a community of people that wanted to be in front of a new modality of expression and communication. And this modality could not exist without a structure and a focus. The spirit of BSF – after the initial phase and entrance of the new editors, with new perspectives, and the visitation on the part of people who in some sort participate and act in the LIS area – started to be one that spread information inside the thematic area, for the biggest possible number of people and to stimulate the participation of these people among the information provided.

Degree of utilisation
The aspect of virtuality must be taken in consideration. Although the majority of LIS professionals and students possess access to the web in its personal computers or work environments, much of them are reluctant in actively participate in a sphere of production and sharing. The existence of a digital barrier was diminishing with time, as people are making use more intensely of social software (as Orkut and IM) and solidify the amount of time permanence online. Bibliobloggers’ great challenge was to make people capable to find their blogs, and to keep them coming back. A good spreading would help to minimize the problem, however the students, that are the great visitors of blogs, insist on making their presence online marked only for
bonds in social softwares.

The BSF can serve as a factor of verification of use of the biblioblogosphere, acting in two fronts: for being one of the pioneering blogs in the area and visible at the top of the results in searches related to library blogs or especially new subjects on LIS, it started to be a reference in the distribution of brand new (emergent topics) and constantly updated information (recent topics) for the visitors. For long time, being the only one around, the readers visited the blog as a way to get information in the web, without having to cover innumerable websites for such task. That is, in a front, BSF acts as filter and in another, acts as a reference blog, considering that for long time it was the only one.

We receive about 1000 single visits each day, but it does not have to serve as base in Brazil, since great part of the others blogs do not have this margin of popularity.

One blog that has grown sufficiently in the last months is the ExtraLibris Concursos, directed toward information about public competitions and job opportunities in the area. For dealing with a subject of such appeal in Brazil, and being produced with quality, it’s gaining notoriety and guaranteeing trustworthiness. It already has around 500 visitors each day.

There aren’t any major studies on the levels of use of blogs and in which extension the flow of information in biblioblogs produces knowledge within its thematic area. I recently entered the masters program in Information Science with research subject that intends to analyze the dynamics of information in Brazilian biblioblogosphere.

Future expectations
There is a comparative advantage of blogs against the specialized publishing market, which is its publication power in real time and low cost. This is a great bonus that we can expect for the next years in the Brazilian biblioblogosphere, since the production of knowledge in LIS is still strongly tied with the universities and research institutions.

With blogs being object of study inside the graduation schools, the current students, professionals to be, will recognize the importance and will know how to take blogs to their libraries and institutions, not more as an object of personal yearning, but as informational tools capable to add value to the institutional work.

The number of biblioblogs tends to grow and this generates a competitiveness that benefits technical improvements and the participation of readers.

Blogs are affected by an existing vast gap between academy and the learning body and the great culprit, as friend Fabiano Caruso explains, seems to be a profile of formation based on the authority, not in the innovation, the difference. Therefore, the students, who are the major blog producers in Brazil, can’t work collaboratively. This creates a culture of attention on the superior, where professional and academic ascension is tied in fulfilling with procedures and associating with the “right club”. That is, the profile is not based on the intellectual ability or the meritocracy (of the student), but on the hierarchic and historical authority of the compromising. We are already capable to recognize the victims.

It is important to point out that the viability of blogs’ initiatives, either in the personal or institutional sphere, depends only on good intentions and little technological knowledge for the system management. Diego Abadan believes that the initiative of the BSF and other blogs serve as examples for other people, showing that it is possible to make something with quality and relevant for the field, without having great structures, nor famous names. BSF was a project initiated by students, and it worked.