29 October 2005

on the uses of the biblioblogosphere

I started browsing around in the biblioblogosphere sometime during winter break last year. I had heard of librarian.net and Librarian Avengers and a few others from various sources, but when I dove in to the land of links, I really had no idea who any of these people were. And as I started reading, I had no idea who all the people they talked about were. Who was this Walt Crawford person, and why was everyone so excited when he got a blog? I had a hard time lining up real names and blog names for awhile--was Jenny the Shifted Librarian or the Librarian in Black, or maybe the Free Range Librarian? And what the hell was all this RSS stuff everyone kept talking about? Feeds? Subscriptions? Aggregators? It was code to me; code being spoken by a group of people in the know, all of whom seemed to know each other and refer to one another in endless loops. In many ways, then, it was like a clique--like one of those supercool groups of people I never quite belonged to. But in important ways it was different from a clique--it existed (mostly) in virtual space, and, perhaps by virtue of that, it was a club that anyone could join. I never felt excluded in my early months of reading; I just felt like I was getting the lay of the land.

Eventually I started to figure it out. Bloglines! What a nifty tool! RSS goodness, as so many of the people I read would say. I figured out who was who. I started using my incredible printing privileges at school (they let you print out unlimited amounts of stuff for free--it's crazy, but hard not to like) to print out Cites & Insights. And then, perhaps inevitably, I started a blog of my own.
Now, thanks to Michael Stephens ofTame the Web, there are a bunch of Dominican students blogging. (Hi, Natalie and Connie and probably some others of who whom I know but am forgetting!) I stopped thinking of this as a sort of unofficial Dominican forum and started thinking of it as my own little personal domain awhile back. I had the great privilege and pleasure of meeting a whole bunch of the people whom I had myself started to refer to casually at the bloggers' shindig at ALA (thanks again to It's all good for sponsoring the party, and thanks to Walt for sharing cab fare up to the Loop).

I've been thinking a lot about all of this while reading various people's reactions to the Nielsen weblog usability article over the past week or so. I won't reiterate the excellent critiques made by Mark and Angel, but I will say this: I never felt unwelcome by the first blogs I read (my blog parents, as Rochelle so charmingly put it). I didn't understand everything I read, but it wasn't because people were using too much jargon or acting too clique-ish. I didn't understand everything I read because I was new to the biblioblogosphere and new to librarianship. I liked what I read; I liked figuring it out; and, most of all, I liked the feeling that I was entering a community I was welcome to join.

There aren't many places in the world where you can get by--get ahead, if you want to think of it that way--simply on the strength of your ideas and your willingness to express them. The biblioblogosphere turns out to be one of those places. I'm immensely grateful for that. I haven't been blogging much lately--the whole life trumps blogging thing that many have experienced--but I still dip in and sometimes dive in to this wonderful set of waterways that all of you have built. One way or another, I plan to keep on tumbling through it, and I hope that next June, one way or another, many of you will all wash up in New Orleans.

"Who was this Walt Crawford person, and why was everyone so excited when he got a blog? "

I still haven't figured out that second part. (Maybe it has to do with being a suspected elder Luddite and having co-written a book with Michael Gorman?)

By now, with people recognizing that the blog isn't replacing C&I or doing anything special, there's probably no excitement left.

Anyway, good post...and I'm trying to remember to use both names more often, when I know them.
Nice job Laura!

Life does trump blogging, and many other things, on occasion. But I am glad you're still here!

With Bloglines I can patiently wait for a little bold (1) to show up next to lis.dom. Write when you can because I am certainly glad that you do.
Hear, hear, Laura! :)
Thanks to you all. I can't quite believe that Blogger is going to make me type in those irritating funky letters for my own goddam blog, but such is life. . . . They are a usability thing that actually bothers me, because I know they don't work for readers who are blind, but, like everyone else, I've started to be plagued by comment spam.

I'm glad that the general reaction to people getting blogs is a positive one--I think it's the combination of feeling like a frontiersperson (well, sort of) in a relatively new medium and seeing a familiar face (or voice) enter into it.
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