Libworld – USA

United States Library and Librarian Blogs

In recent years the blogosphere of the USA emerged as the most advanced worldwide.
In september 2007 the Online Education Database wanted to find out “which librarian bloggers have the biggest reach”. 1)http://oedb.org/library/features/top-25-librarian-bloggers-by-the-numbers
The result was clear: Twenty of the 25 biblioblogs with the biggest response came from the United States, four were Canadians and one from the Philippines.

We are pleased that Sarah Houghton-Jan accepted the challenge to make an overview of the wide biblioblogosphere of her country for our LibWorld series. Not an easy task to undertake!

Author

Sarah Houghton has blogged at LibrarianInBlack.net since 2003. She spotlights library technology trends and resources, with a focus on public libraries.

A Short History

The library blogosphere of the United States is hugely diverse and more multifaceted than in most of the rest of the world. Reasons for this could be traced to the rise in popularity of blogging in general in the United States, or U.S. librarians’ quickness to jump on board this elegant method for communicating ideas. However, like all librarians across the world, librarians in the country I live in like to share information – it’s why we got into the field in the first place, in many cases, and drives the purpose of our professional lives.

So… which came first, the librarian blog or the library blog? I would have to say that it was the librarian blog – we began sharing information with each other and as more of us saw the power of the blogging medium, we began adopting the same techniques at work. Dates are uncertain, but in general, U.S. librarian blogs began to spring up in 2001 and library blogs began to appear in 2003. 2004 truly was the year of the blog with hundreds of libraries and librarians starting new sites. The U.S. biblioblogosphere is going strong with thousands of blogs in existence today, and as the authorship grew so did the creativity of applications.

Librarian Blogs

Pioneers in librarian blogging are hard to pin down – so much happened so quickly. Examples that are exceptionally noteworthy include Blake Carver’s LIS News, the first “for librarians” blog that I ever knew about, and which started as a website in 1999. Sabrina Pacifici’s beSpacific began in 2002 and focuses on legal and technology news. We mustn’t forget Jessamyn West’s librarian.net, the first publicly well-known and well-received librarian-authored blog. Other pioneers included Michael Stephens’ Tame the Web, which has focused on innovative uses of technology in public libraries, and Jenny Levine’s The Shifted Librarian has centered on “making librarians more portable.”

At this point in time it is so difficult to recommend particular librarian blogs unless you have a specialty in mind. The list is seemingly endless. If you are interested in library grant information, check out the Library Grant Blog from Stephanie Gerding and Pam MacKellar. Professional development information is in great supply at Rachel Singer Gordon’s Beyond the Job. Legal issues in libraries? Try Mary Minow’s LibraryLaw Blog. And library technology resources? Choose from Aaron Schmidt’s Walking Paper, Gary Price and Shirl Kennedy’s ResourceShelf, Amanda Etches-Johnson’s blogwithoutalibrary, the self-titled David Lee King, or Meredith Farkas’s Information Wants to Be Free.

Library Blogs

Early United States library blogs included many from both public and academic libraries. I would guess that half of those that were begun have ceased to exist, or have ceased to be updated in any case. What makes a blog powerful is its frequent updates, constant flow of new information, and unfortunately some libraries and librarians were unable to commit the time or resources to keeping their sites going.
A blog I started for the Marin County Free Library (California) in 2003 is still going strong. Directors started blogging, as at the Ann Arbor District Library (Michigan). Academic libraries, too, have utilized blogs, often as a way to get subject-specific research tools and information out to students and faculty. The Georgia State University Library’s blogs are a stellar example of this. School libraries, generally for middle and high schools, are prevalent as well, such as the Newton North High School Library’s Book Talks Blog (Massachusetts). Librarians talk to each other through internal library staff blogs as well, such as with the University of Pennsylvania Libraries staff blog. Even our national library, the Library of Congress, maintains a news blog.

Multimedia content found its way in to blogs too: like podcasting at the Grand Rapids Public Library (Michigan), including story times, book reviews, and guest speaker presentations. Blogging also supports videocasting, such as at the Arlington Heights Memorial Library Vlog (Illinois).

Some libraries saw blogging software as a revolutionary way to present ideas and content other than brief news and “recommendations” entries. Two notable examples are the Western Springs History Blog (created by Aaron Schmidt for the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Illinois) which uses WordPress as a way to catalog and present historical photographs of local homes, and the Scriblio OPAC, an online library catalog that also uses WordPress blogging software at its core and is the brainchild of Casey Bisson.

There continue to be entries into the library blogging fray as institutions pick up on this medium as a way to get staff knowledge out to the public in as easy a way as possible. As with most technology trends, smaller and rural libraries tended to adopt blogs later, but larger institutions also found themselves stumbling to get blogs going, generally reported as due to bureaucracy and slow institutional change. However, examples like the New York Public Library Blog which started in late 2007 should hearten all libraries that are still looking toward this medium.

Looking Toward the Future

I strongly believe that blogs will continue to be used as a tool for many libraries, as a way to empower the staff with the knowledge (generally not the techies) to get their information out to their customers in as fast a way as possible. RSS and email subscriptions to blogs will continue to make this tool one of the easiest ways to reach out to our users on their own turf, in their own way. As the use of mobile devices increases I think that other related methods for sharing information (such as micro-blogging, i.e. Twitter) will be adopted in tandem with blogging, which someday will be thought of as “an old standby” and eventually become obsolete. But blogging has taught us all something about our profession – we like to share information so much that we will use just about any tool, any time, to do so.

The Blogging Libraries Wiki and the International LibDex Index of Library Blogs are wonderful places to find more library and librarian blogs from around the world. The list of blogging libraries is entirely impossible to pin down, but these two sites make a solid attempt to do so.

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