what’s wrong with a little enthusiasm?

Rory Litwin thinks blogs are over-rated.

Rory Litwin has some pretty harsh words about librarians who are still excited about the web and new web-related technologies in the latest issue of Library Juice. I’m beginning to suspect that he likes picking virtual fights.

“As an example I would like to cite the blogging craze – and it is a craze in its current form – because so many people, librarians included, have started their own blogs for no discernible reason and through blogs have renewed their irrational excitement about the Web in general.”

This statement might very well apply to my blog, since I don’t have any particular focus other than my own interests. Possibly, my comments would be better served in the form of a private off-line journal, or as email messages sent to certain friends. However, in the past year I have approached my blog with the mentality of being a part of a wider community of my peers, much like the way other scholarly communication has been done for centuries. I don’t think I’ve gotten to the point where my little essays and opinions will be quoted and passed around, but I’m working my way there. I see this as a tool to contribute to the wider conversation in the profession.

There are other blogs that are more focused and in many ways are the best supplements to officially recognized professional literature that I have found. Jessamyn West and the LISNews collaborative blog are my two main sources of recent news about library-related issues. I’m finding out about things well before they show up in any of the traditionally recognized mediums. Jenny Levine and Sarah Houghton keep me up to speed on the latest technology that may impact my work. Half the stuff they write about will likely never show up in the professional literature, even if it should.

There are other blogs out there that are less insightful or informative than those I mentioned above. In fact, as was the case when personal web pages were the new fad, there are quite a few blogs out there that are little more than public diaries. However, I think that Litwin is throwing the baby out with the bath water when he chastises librarians for their excitement about the blog medium.

“Many people are now using the blog format where a chronological organization is not appropriate to the content they are putting up, for no other reason than that blogs are hot and there are services supporting them. This is irrational. I feel that librarians should be a little more mature and less inclined to fall for Internet crazes like this. That is not to say that a blog is never a useful thing, only that blogs – as everything on the web – should be seen for what they are and not in terms of a pre-existing enthusiasm.”

As with any new toy, eventually the shine will wear off and those folks will realize that the blog medium, regardless of its simplicity or fashion, does not fit their needs. Since Litwin does not provide specific examples of these inappropriate uses of blogs, I cannot address them. My experience with librarian blogs has been such that the chronological format works well. There is only one instance that I know of in which the blog format may not fit. The reference team at my library has replaced their frequently asked questions notebook and miscellaneous announcements notes with a Blogger weblog. The advantage of this format is that the contents are easily searchable. The disadvantage is that several workarounds have been used to organize the entries. I suspect that what they really need is a blog for the announcement bits and a separate wiki for the “this is a good resource for (fill in the blank)” type entries. I am confident that eventually they will move on to some other format that better serves their needs, and in the meantime, they will have become familiar with yet another piece of modern technology.

Quite a few of the new blogs that are created daily by librarians never make it out of their infancy. For the most part, they’re too busy or uninterested or have nothing to write about. Still, I think it’s important for librarians to try new things, and if blogs are the latest internet fad, then at least librarians should play with them long enough to evaluate them. My first blog was called “because everyone else is doing it” and was basically a public forum for occasional rants, links, commentary, and some library-related information. It was a good experiment, and as I became more familiar with the tools, I began to see other uses for blogs. The chronological format works well for my radio playlists.

Blogs introduced me to RSS feeds, and from there I have been thinking of several different ways librarians could use RSS. It even instilled a desire to learn Perl and PHP so that I could know enough coding to hack a feed of our new acquisitions as they are added to the collection. If we’re going to put up new book lists, then why not also make a feed for them? The University of Louisville Library not only provides RSS feeds for their new books, they also have subject-specific feeds. Soon it may be possible to create feeds from saved searches in the catalog, much like what some online news sources provide. Those feeds would be even more specific and would alert faculty, graduate students, or anyone else interested, when new items are cataloged that fit the search terms. I digress.

All this is to say that weblogs are useful, and that librarians should be savvy enough to know when and where to make use of them. We all aren’t permanently dazzled by new shiny toys.

I look forward to reading responses to Litwin’s essay in the librarian blogosphere.

blogshares

BlogShares – virtual trading on the value of blogs.

Steven posted about Blogshares yesterday. I had no idea that this thing existed. I was quite surprised to see that my blog is already listed, and that a few people have purchased shares. Pretty nifty.

One thing I’m surprised he didn’t mention is that there are a variety of RSS feeds, including feeds for your own portfolio, if you join up. This can be handy for keeping tabs on the “value” of your blog, since you get 1000 shares in it automatically as soon as you claim the blog.

watch what you write

Who is reading your blog?

An employee a Harvard has been fired due to comments she posted on her personal blog about her supervisors and co-workers.

Burch said that the weblog did not affect her job performance in any negative way.

“Most of it is total heat of the moment stuff,” said Burch. “I’m not dangerous and I don’t wish anyone harm or malice and I don’t even dislike anybody. I just had momentary frustration and the blog was a good way to get it out so I can get on with things.”

The moral of the story is that you don’t post anything in a public space that you wouldn’t want someone else to read, particularly if it involves physical threats and your workplace.

I’m amazed whenever I get a comment or a response to something I have posted here, more so when it’s from someone I don’t know. Besides being generally laid back about my workplace, I wouldn’t even think to publish something negative. While this is my personal space to write, I look at it as a constantly shifting environment that includes both personal and professional elements.

militant feminist cicada

What kind of cicada are you?

I cannot stand to be in contact with insects. I won’t go barefoot outside and in the summer I wear Deep Woods OFF the way some women wear Channel No. 5. I’ve been living with anxiety over the impending arrival of cicadas in Kentucky, and have been somewhat relieved that the population here has not been overwhelming. Yet. I don’t know why I decided to take this cicada personality test, or why I’m bothering to share the results in this forum:

Take the Cicada Test!

I suspect that my selection of “A woman needs a man like a cicada needs a loudspeaker” and “Anything by Ani DiFranco” influenced this result.

new computer

At last, I have moved out of 1998 and into 2004!

Last Saturday, before my Monday from hell, I went shopping to see what my retail options might be for a new laptop. One goal was to stop by the Gateway store and check out the laptop I was thinking of getting. Turns out, they’ve closed the store. I ended up at CompUSA instead, and after talking with a very helpful salesman, I was introduced to the Compaq Presario r3120us. My impression of Compaq computers thus far has been so-so. They’re sort of like a Ford Taurus – nice sedans, but not terribly exciting. However, I was impressed by what is in this laptop, and the price was comparable to the Gateway I was looking at. This one has a few more advantages, such as a 15.4″ WXGA screen. I ended up coming back the next day and buying the last one they had in stock.

I really wanted to write this entry while connected on a Wi-Fi network. Unfortunately, I’ve tried it in two places so far without any luck. I think that I need to change a setting to connect with the wireless LAN in the library, and it’s possible that the server was acting funky at Common Grounds. A bit of a let-down, but I’ll get it figured out.

I am pleased at the speed of my dialup connection on this computer. It’s almost as fast as the network at the university! Well, for browsing, anyway. Downloading takes a bit longer. I’m probably going to try out the CD-RW this weekend by making a mix CD for a friend. If I have time, I may even watch a DVD.

yup, it’s monday

A long story about my Monday from hell.

I figured it was just a typical Monday when I woke up two hours late. Little did I know that this was only the beginning. I was house sitting out at the farm this past weekend, so by the time I got everyone fed and the car loaded, it was around 8:30, 1.5 hours after I should have been at work. I hit the gas station at Georgetown at 9am, put about 5 gal in and called my boss to give her the ETA. At that point, I figured I could get home, drop off the cat and my stuff, and be to the office by 10:30-ish. Late, but with enough time left in the day to get something done.

At around 9:30, I’m cruising around Lexington on I-75, listening to WRFL and thinking about what I was going to work on today. I noticed a SUV pull up on my left side, and the woman in the passenger seat is trying to get my attention. I look over, and she mouths something like “flat tire” and points to my rear wheel. I don’t think much of it at the time, since I have a full load in the car and sometimes that makes my tires look a little low. I decide to wait until I get to Richmond (25 mi away) and check the tires then. That was a mistake.

About 10 mi down the road, I’m getting close to the bridge over the Kentucky River. I thought that my engine seemed to be louder than normal, but I wrote it off to being hyper-sensitive. Generally, I don’t notice anything mechanical about my car unless I’m worried that something may be broken. Suddenly I hear a pop and the road noise gets really loud. I make my way over to the side of the interstate and discovered that my driver-side rear wheel is flat.

I’ve never had to change my tires before, so I’m a little freaked out, but I know what I need to do. I pull out the jack and the spare from the trunk, and get to work. A few minutes later, I have the car jacked up on that corner and the hub cap is off, but I can’t get the bolts to loosen. I’m starting to get really freaked out and very frustrated. I know that my cell phone battery is very low, so I pray that I have enough juice to call Progressive roadside assistance and get someone down there to help me change the tire. I do, and the automatic confirmation a few minutes later relates the unwelcome news that it will be an hour and a half before someone can get there.

Thankfully, while I was waiting for the confirmation call, a Kentucky State Trooper pulled up and got out to assist me. He was able to get the bolts loosened (put the emergency brake on, lower the car so the wheel is on the ground) and replaced the tire with the spare for me. Turns out that I had run over a screw at some point this morning which caused a leak and then the blow-out. I’m thankful it didn’t happen while I was on the bridge.

Limping along at my 50 mph limit, I get into Richmond and stop by my tire place. They have a replacement in stock and they can get to me today. I head on to my house from there to drop off the cat and my stuff, then I return to the tire place. At this point it is 11:30 am, so I call my boss to let her know that I don’t know when I will be at work today. Then I settle in a comfortable chair in the waiting room and watch an episode of the Brady Bunch followed by The Love Boat. I was going to read, but I really needed the bad TV just to get my mind off of worrying about my car and how I was going to pay for the repairs.

Around 1 pm, the service guy comes over and tells me that my rear brakes are very thin and probably should be replaced. He also shows me my wheel bearings, and it looks like those may need replacing soon, also. I’m not thrilled with this surprise, much less the estimate price tag that came with it. However, it can wait a little while longer, so I decide to have this work done some other day soon.

About 25 minutes later, all the work is finished and I’m back in my car. At this point, I have a half an hour before I need to leave for Lexington for my regular Monday afternoon on the radio. So I swing by the library, relate my story of the day so far, and show of my new laptop (more on that later), and then head on up to Lex. Not much else eventful or disastrous happened after then, but as my boss said, I’ve had enough of a Monday to last me for a while.

more on gas prices

Gas prices in Richmond have caught up with the rest of the country by going over $2/gal.

They did it again. Richmond area gas prices have stayed at a constant $1.89 ever since the jump from $1.84 to $1.99 and then fall back to $1.89 last week. When I was in Lexington on Monday, I noticed their gas prices had gone down to as low as $1.81, which I saw as a sure sign that ours would be inching down again soon. So, I wasn’t surprised when the usual cheaper places began lowering their prices by a cent every other day. This morning on my drive in, I was pleased to see that my favorite station had gone down to $1.87. Not much of a difference, but I figured it was just the beginning of a trend. Sadly, this was not the case. On my way home this evening, I nearly hit the roof when I saw station after station brazenly displaying $2.05 for regular unleaded — only $0.04 less than what the premium had cost at 7:30 this morning. Tell me again why this is good business practice?

women in technology

Are you a women in the tech industry? If so, the Librarian In Black wants to hear from you.

The Librarian In Black commented on a series of articles in Business Week on women in technology. She’s looking for some feedback:

Maybe all the women are getting LIS or IS degrees instead…do those count as technology degrees? *wink* In all seriousness though, I would be interested in hearing (in the handy comments section of this post) what other women in technology out there think of this article. Do you think the technology world is gendered? Hell, do you think the technology aspect of librarianship is gendered? Is it egalitarian, or more so than the other industries that the article mentions?

library: an unquiet history

I’ve just started reading Matthew Battles’ book “Library: an Unquiet History.” I’ll be leading a lunch discussion of the book and the vision session interview with the author at the NASIG 2004.

I’ve just started reading Matthew Battles’ book Library: an Unquiet History. I’ll be leading a lunch discussion of the book and the vision session interview with the author at NASIG 2004. Jessamyn recommended this book in January, and it’s been on my wish-list ever since. However, I haven’t been buying new books until I read the ones I already own. I made an exception for this one, since I was kindly asked by my friend and NASIG Program Planning Committee co-chair to volunteer to lead the lunch connection discussion. I’m curious to read what he has to say about serials and electronic resources. At least, I assume he has something to say about them. Otherwise, it would seem rather odd that one of the main conference sessions is devoted to a conversation with him.