"You Must Read This": Library Weblogs

By Crawford, Walt | American Libraries, October 2001 | Go to article overview

"You Must Read This": Library Weblogs


Crawford, Walt, American Libraries


READING LIBRARY-RELATED NEWS ON THE WEB CAN BE MIND-BLOGGINGLY EASY

Have you ever clipped something from the daily paper and tacked it to the staff bulletin board or routed it to colleagues? With the rise of the Internet, do you find yourself sending and receiving e-mail consisting of little more than a URL and a comment such as "Take a look at this!"?

The urge to share interesting and relevant tidbits is natural and healthy; add jargon like "collaborative filtering," and it becomes a noble cause. Over the last two years or so, thousands of people have taken this urge to a new, broader level. With tools to make Web-page building easy and encourage instant updating of pages, these enthusiasts maintain sites that can range anywhere from public diaries to focused citations in narrow fields. These sites are called Weblogs or "blogs," and the act of maintaining a Weblog is called "blogging." Some participants see blogging as a movement, others as a new medium, still others as a neat new tool.

Weblogs show wild variation in looks, methodology, and underlying software, but they have one thing in common: Weblogs always appear in reverse chronological order. Today's (or this week's) links and comments are at the beginning, followed by as many earlier days' entries as the blogger chooses to show.

When a new medium or way to communicate appears, innovative librarians will use it. Jessamyn West, the Rarin' Librarian, began Librarian.net in April 1999. She noted, "I have always been that person who was talking to people saying, 'You have to read this,' and this is my way of sharing." She "was working at a small community college library and noticed while surfing that no one owned librarian.net. This was before the blog explosion, so I grabbed the domain name and it was a few months until I found the perfect thing to do with it."

Blogs for 'brarians

West's description shows one effective form of blogging and its benefits: "I use it as a scratch pad for putting links I like about libraries. (It started as a place to collect all those 'Sex in the Stacks' and tattooed librarian links.) It seemed to fill a niche for some sort of online alt.library.culture scene. It's pretty small--three or four links a day, updated three or four times a week--but it makes it easy for people to browse at work." Most links at this site appear within a one-sentence comment, so you can check a day's postings in a few seconds--and there's a search engine to gather earlier links.

LISNews may represent the other extreme of library-related Weblogs in terms of form and complexity. Begun by Blake Carver in November 1999, LISNews features full-paragraph descriptions of linked stories with decorative icons, off-the-wall categories, and internal links leading to expanded commentary and e-mail forms for readers to provide their own comments. Librarians involved with Linux and open-source software will immediately recognize the inspiration for LISNews. As Carver says, "I started it because I love Slashdot.org, and I thought there should be something like that for librarians." I won't even attempt to explain Slashdot.org--that's the site name, one of the most active and argumentative discussion areas on the Web; you enter at your own risk.

When you sample a few library-related Weblogs, you'll find remarkable variety and ingenuity. While young and new-breed librarians may be most evident, they're not alone. Peter Scott, who has maintained vital lists and directories for library Internet activities for years, began the crisp Library News Daily Weblog in October 2000, "to keep librarians informed of interesting news items, databases, services, etc.--and to continue testing blogging." Anna Belle Leiserson of Vanderbilt Law Library, long active in the profession within acquisitions and collection development, translated an acquisitions news service to AcqWebLog in late May 1999. She notes: "Blogging is not just for the 20-somethings. …

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