Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to Library Blog

When you're a famous library blogger people are always asking for your advice. Sometimes people even ask library bloggers like me for advice. Fledgling bloggers will come up to me in the virtual street and say, "AL, how do you do it? What's your secret?" Because I want all of you fledgling library bloggers to be successful and desirable, I decided it would be sweet of me to let you in on a few secrets. Here are the secrets of successful library blogging, mostly based not upon my own humble effort but upon some of the popular library bloggers in our midst. Follow these rules and you can have a library blog every bit as exciting as some of those you see linked everywhere.

1) Don't have anything to say.

Walt Crawford wrote a book on writing for the library profession entitled First Have Something to Say. (I read the entire thing via the Google Books version, thanks to some creative booksearching.) Perhaps that's the case if you're writing scholarly articles or how-I-done-it-good books, but we're talking blogs here. You don't need anything to say. If you had anything to say, you'd probably write it up in an article and publish it. Instead, you just want to express yourself and let everybody know that you, too, exist, and so it doesn't matter if you have nothing to say. You might think I'm joking, but just take a look at most library blogs. There seem to be hundreds of them, and almost none of them have anything to say. That's the beauty of blogs. Take a look at the popular ones, even. When was the last time you saw anything of substance or any even remotely new idea on any of the really high profile blogs? I rest my case. So if you don't have anything to say, consider writing a library blog.

2) You might have only one thing to say. If so, just say it over and over in different ways.

Take a look at some of the high-profile library blogs. A lot of them have one thing to say, which they said at length on the first post, and they try to figure out how to say it differently twice a week after that. When they go really stale, that becomes once a week. It's natural. How often and in how many different ways can one say, "Hey, I like library blogging! It's neato!" The twopointopian blogs answer that question. Flogging the hell out of a horse that's not only dead but wasn't that interesting when alive has led to many a successful library blog. So if you have only one good post in you, start a library blog and see how many different ways you can rewrite that post.

3) If you have nothing to say, don't worry. You don't even need words.

Even though you don't have anything to say, you at least need words, right? Wrong. You can just post a picture or embed a Youtube video and bob's your uncle, you have a library blog and you haven't written anything. Your library blog can be a colorful spectacle completely devoid of substance and meaning. Posting pictures of library signs with witty sayings like "Turn Off Your Cell Phone" seems to be popular, I suppose because there's no one who doesn't want to see yet another picture of a library sign. That one's a natural, but you can probably think of others. Pictures of yourself at a conference. Pictures of other people at conferences. The list is really endless, and that's a good thing for you, you wordless library blogger.

4) Don't stay on topic if you don't want to.

Some people think library blogs should be about libraries, especially if the title has the word librarian or library in it. Poppycock. If you're writing a library blog, that doesn't mean you can't also give your readers delightful new recipes and tips on how to pack a suitcase and the latest brain-dead marketing jargon and anything else that suits your fancy. Remember, this is your blog. You write about what you want to write about. Don't worry about readers. Most library bloggers aren't interested in readers, obviously; they just want to express themselves. Well, express yourself, baby! Remember: if you build it, and it's boring, they won't come, but to hell with them!

To be completely honest, I can't guarantee that by following these rules you will develop a popular library blog. I'm only saying that glancing around at some of the library blogs with the most subscribers or the highest Technorati rankings, following these rules certainly won't hurt you, and that's more than we can say about most things these days.

37 comments:

kudzuhomecomingqueen said...

HA! Great post AL. But, what about those, like myself, that sometimes just wander around the blog world leaving comments on other's blogs? Does that make us bloggers by association? Or do our witty comments further drive bloggers to go underground, never to be heard from again? Either way, after reading your post, I realized I've had enough mundane events already this morning to start my own blog, "Kudzuhomecomingqueen's Guide to Nothing." Look for me at the next ALA conference, I'll be the one with the poster presentation, conference panel, AND pre-con workshop that addresses the topic of, you got it, Nothing. Much like many of the other library poster/conference/pre-cons I've attended.

Anonymous said...

You left out my favorite technique--repost press releases that 200 other bloggers have already posted. If you're lucky enough to be at the end of the line, most people will have forgotten the original post.

Anonymous said...

My all-time fave--write about your cats and the cute things they've done.

Dances With Books said...

A great post indeed. I am glad I am not the only one annoyed at the posting of library signs. It seems some librarian bloggers have a fetish with it, usually without thinking that often, the reason a library puts up a sign is because there has been a problem with whatever the sign addresses. Hey, if people were not so dumb, we could use less signage. But as usual, like a lot of twopointopian crap, it's the posting of the sign, not the thinking that gets done.

And then, going for more lack of substance, the bozos who link to their Twitter account. If I wanted to know what those twits were up to, I would get a Twitter account. And yes, they are bozos (with apologies to Bozo the Clown, who at least tried to do something nice for the children) because they are just pretty much self-stroking their egos (can I say that on this blog? Wait, I just did). Then again, that goes along with your advice AL: have nothing to say.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

Speaking of fetish...just make sure you get hits for "hot Irish bottoms" or whatever so that stray porn voyeurs up your page counts.

This is Al's secret--clever wordplay to attract dirty ol' men.

--Taupey

AL said...

I should have suggested posting your del.icio.us links as well.

j- said...

*And then, going for more lack of substance, the bozos who link to their Twitter account.*

I must be too old to understand the point of Twitter. I mean, if you were really that busy, you wouldn't have time to tell everyone what you were doing, right?

Anonymous said...

Brag about your library's innovation and how great it is to work at your ARL. Never mind the constant employee turnover--your place of employment is on the cutting edge. Ingore the carnage. Damage control blogging, perhaps?

Emote about your career concerns: I luv librarianship to the nth degree, but my mean ol' boss won't promote me. This battle cry will rally the troops to post hundreds of supportive comments.

Worse, blog about job interviews using the real name of the library and then muse why you have been unable to land a job. Genius.

ms.kite said...

Dear AL, don't you mind if I translate your advice into Russian and post it on my blog, so that my colleagues could enjoy them too. Of course with all the possible thank-yous :)

soren faust said...

Yeah, I mean...you're right. Blogging is just plain stupid. Who in their right mind would ever be so foolish to think it could be otherwise? I, myself, can't stand reading blogs or even commenting on them.

Btw, did you read what the AL wrote the other day??

AL said...

Fine by me, ms.kite.

Marianne said...

I'd comment, but I'll get more page hits if I just link to an old post on the same subject.

skeptical thomas said...

Geez, AL, now there's going to be hundreds of library blogs potentially at least or even more successful and desirable than yours. What got into your mind today, to divulge such well-kept secrets just like that. If only I had the time to start a library blog myself, just wait until I grow up and become a librarian myself.

AL said...

I'm not talking about the AL, of course. The secret of the AL's success is just to disagree with everything the majority of librarians think and to put forward the most eloquent counter-argument possible, but I'll never share that secret with anyone.

The.Effing.Librarian said...

I only blog so I can have a tee-shirt and coffee mug. Each day I need to make up crap to justify drinking out of my mug: damn you, coffee mug! Oh, I take it back. I can't help but love you.

brian said...

Walt's book is awesome... seriously.

Anonymous said...

Hello Annoyed Librarian. I want to send you something to read that might interest you. Or maybe it wont interest you. What is the best way to send it to you? Katy Watson (Australia) katepwatson@usc.edu.au

Anonymous said...

correct email address below

Hello Annoyed Librarian. I want to send you something to read that might interest you. Or maybe it wont interest you. What is the best way to send it to you? Katy Watson (Australia) katepwatson@hotmail.com

AL said...

annoyedlibrarian@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

"Emote about your career concerns: I luv librarianship to the nth degree, but my mean ol' boss won't promote me. This battle cry will rally the troops to post hundreds of supportive comments."

Yeah, and criticize y our colleagues on the blog and then wonder why people don't want you to be their boss.

kilroy was here said...

Blogs are the bathroom walls of the 21st century.

Linda Jones said...

My favorites are the ones who post once or twice and then never are seen again

Anonymous said...

Dang! I just went to the well dressed librarian's blog. He's hot! I picture AL with WDL together.

Anonymous said...

Dang! I just went to the well dressed librarian's blog. He's hot! I picture AL with WDL together.

Impossible.

That is like getting a picture or Clark Kent and Superman together.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and criticize your colleagues on the blog and then wonder why people don't want you to be their boss.

I've seen this done in a passive-aggressive way in library blogs. The best is when they describe them as "teachable moments", but the subtext is to show their co-worker's incompetence.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Sadly, some of us just do it as a form of psychological therapy because we're too mean to buy notepads and pencils.

BurpieBurps said...

Unions bad; martinis; Ella Fitzgerald; gay marriage is evil.

Oh, those halcion days of the 1950's!

Anonymous said...

I love the way you cheerfully criticize the efforts of your colleagues in a way that epitomizes the very things you're criticizing! That makes you safe from attack, because clearly you're deeply into satire and not really serious about anything. "It's all humor, don't you get it?" you can say, while making fun of everything they're trying to do to make a difference or improve their workplace. This could be another item in your "how to library blog" list.

Anonymous said...

"Emote about your career concerns: I luv librarianship to the nth degree, but my mean ol' boss won't promote me. This battle cry will rally the troops to post hundreds of supportive comments."

Yeah, and criticize your colleagues on the blog and then wonder why people don't want you to be their boss.


I think you meant to post this comment on that blog about the self-liberating tendency of information.

Anonymous said...

while making fun of everything they're trying to do to make a difference or improve their workplace.

I don't think this is accurate. First of all, there is a tactful way to report about one's workplace that is devoid of passive-aggressive comments about co-workers. It is freakin' unethical to post about one looks better in light of one's colleagues. I am so sorry that some of you lack the emotional intelligence to see how this is clearly wrong. Just don't be surprised when your colleagues whisper about you behind your back. Look, I've worked at plenty of backwater places and could tell some hair-raising stories regarding gaps in knowledge that seriously screwed up the ILS, but I refrain from doing so because there is a more important issue from which this all stems from--it's called the digital divide.

Secondly, I've noticed some library bloggers straight up poke fun at another institution's policies, library design, etc. Grow the F up, okay?

The funny thing is that when I was on the job market last year, I did peruse librarian blogs who were employed at colleges and university libraries that caught my interest. Let me put it to you this way, the foolish transparency of these bloggers was a great help in weather or not I bothered applying.

Kristen said...

"It is freakin' unethical to post about one looks better in light of one's colleagues."

I'm interested in what this means but I can't tell. Maybe there's a typo. Maybe I need more coffee.

But librarians tend to be all over the map on what is an ethical issue, workplace-wise, so those discussions always interest me.

Ie, are you willing to please re-word?

Ed Crank -- Librarian said...

1) I was going to say something, then I realized that I am just a commenter, not a blogger. I am not worthy of note.

2) You can ignore me. I don't have anything really good to say. Really. I kind of go all over the place. I stuck to a point once, but got fired over it. Good thing I just comment and don't blog.

3) Too bad you can't post pictures in comments.

http://www.fotosearch.com/comp/corbis/dgt083/librarian-shushing-~-42-16193059.jpg

4) Did you ever hear the term guybraian? Do you think that catalogers can be guybrarians too?

Anonymous said...

"Let me put it to you this way, the foolish transparency of these bloggers was a great help in weather or not I bothered applying."

Yeah, I'm sure you chose a place where the whether is sunny and warm all year long.

j- said...

*It is freakin' unethical to post about one looks better in light of one's colleagues. I am so sorry that some of you lack the emotional intelligence to see how this is clearly wrong. Just don't be surprised when your colleagues whisper about you behind your back.*

So, it's wrong to post this stuff to your blog but it's okay when people whisper about you behind your back? I'm confused, because the latter is going to definitely happen everywhere you work--and the rumor mill won't redact your name, either. I would rather that a blogger have the guts to do so upfront and anonymously rather than spread gossip with an actual name attached, but hey, to each one's own.

*I've noticed some library bloggers straight up poke fun at another institution's policies, library design, etc. Grow the F up, okay?*

Besides shooting themselves in the foot regarding future employment with said targets [which they probably would not seek, anyway], who's being injured by such behavior?

Nobody, that's who. Is this yet another example of someone's "feelings" stifling someone else's legitimate criticism?

*The funny thing is that when I was on the job market last year, I did peruse librarian blogs who were employed at colleges and university libraries that caught my interest. Let me put it to you this way, the foolish transparency of these bloggers was a great help in weather or not I bothered applying.*

Let me get this straight: librarians who blog about their institutions and co-workers are all traitorous snakes who should be stopped due their "freakin'" unethical conduct--except for when it directly benefits you.

Seems as though someone who finds such things so ethically offensive wouldn't read them, ever.

sifl said...

People who blog about their coworkers are lame. People who whisper behind each other's backs are equally lame. Very few have the temerity to directly deal with personal conflict. It can be a bit worse in the library world than in other environments.

Anonymous said...

But everyone must blog. I’ve been hearing this message for a couple of years now. If I’m not blogging, I’m failing in my professional duty as a librarian.

And don’t forget, in addition to writing a blog, in which I might or might not have anything worthwhile to say, much less read, there is a top ten list of librarian blogs that I should watch. And a top ten list of non-librarian blogs that I should also watch, according to LISNews.

I just really want to know where all of these people work who have time to read twenty blogs and write a blog. If I can browse American Libraries, ITAL, C&RL, and C&RL News as they arrive I’m lucky.

Anonymous said...

Office Supplies are pretty boring, but what about organization, productivity, office humor and annoying your coworkers? http://blog.officenmore.com