Yesterday, I posted over on Libraries Interact about the state of the biblioblogosphere, which is the hipster term for the complex of blogs written by library and information professionals about professional issues. In the post, I reflected on the noticeable decrease in robust critical commentary and discourse on professional issues.
As I wrote that post, I thought a lot about my own blogging and blogging more generally. I wrote the post in response to a few stimuli, one of which was a conversation on an elist for admins on a collaborative blog. In that conversation, someone asked whether blogging is dead, and someone else asked if maybe the giddy pace of change has slowed and the impetus for blogging has consequently died off. We also mused about the fact that many of us have broader, more diverse interests these days. This conversation prompted me to think about my own use of blogs and my own blogging practices, so I’m sharing these thoughts here in this post.
Blogging is dead
Except it isn’t.
We’re not talking about blogs as a container so much any more (which is really an indicator of how mainstream they are), but blogging as a tool to push out serialised content is still huge. Look at the big magazine-style platforms, like The Conversation, Mamamia, and BubHub (yes, I just put The Conversation in the same category as Mamamia. I know. Scandalous!). These sites all run on blog posts. We just don’t necessarily talk about them being blogs. This semester I asked my undergrad IT students whether they use RSS. Two of 60+ do. Many of the others didn’t know what it was. I asked them if they read blogs, and they said no. Then I started talking to them about how they engage with content on the web, and I realised they *are* reading blogs, or engaging with syndicated, serialised content. They just don’t necessarily know that’s what they’re doing, or care about the container the content comes in, or the technology that delivers it to them.
I am a huge reader of blogs. I read blogs daily. I have a well organised subscription list in Feedly and I have a morning routine where I sit down with my coffee and I go through the latest posts. I cherry pick, reading the most interesting ones first, and invariably coming back to some of the others later when I’m procrastinating. I read everyday fashion blogs, sewing blogs, educational technology blogs, technology blogs, news blogs, education blogs, interior design blogs, and craft blogs. I read blogs written by friends, a couple of whom happen to be librarians, but I don’t read them for their library content. They are categorised in Feedly as ‘Library lovelies’, which probably tells you a lot about why I read them – they’re lovely blogs, written by lovely people whose lives I like to keep up to date with, rather than blogs about librarianship.
I’m just not reading blogs about librarianship at all, and not for lack of interest. Rather, it’s because there just aren’t that many great or active ones any more.
Closed for business
I shut up shop on my blog Virtually a Librarian about the same time I established this one. I started that blog as a very green new graduate and blogged sporadically there for five or six years. I shut up shop for a number of reasons: because my thinking had moved on and I didn’t really identify with who I was in that space anymore; because I found it challenging to blog and produce research articles at the same time; because I started my PhD and my brain filled up with that; because the twins came along and my life dramatically changed.
But not for lack of things to say…
I didn’t stop blogging because I had nothing to blog about. On the contrary, I’ve got a long list of topics for blog posts that I never get around to writing. My interests have diversified but I’ve still got plenty to say about professional issues, and plenty to say about related topics like educational technology, learning innovation, creativity and creative practice, leadership, social technologies, and my research. I’ve also got stuff to say about my personal life – things I want to share about what I get up to away from work.
I just rarely get round to saying any of it.
And I don’t think it’s true that the biblioblogosphere has died off because there’s nothing to talk about. Libraries are operating in a time of enormous change. In the good old days, there was a lot of blogging about social technologies, and yes, there was an invigorating, exciting and urgent vibe around technology and innovation, and that fuelled blogging. But there is *so much* happening in the library and information professions right now that we should be pulling apart, inspecting, interrogating, critiquing.
There is stuff to blog about. It’s just not happening.
And not because I’ve moved on…
Obviously I’m no longer working in libraries, but I am teaching librarians-in-the-making, and I am invested in the profession. I used to blog about front line service issues and about technology in libraries, because those were the things I was dealing with on a daily basis. My interests are more diverse, but they are still relevant to libraries and with a bit more professional maturity under my belt, I’ve probably got more useful things to say than I did back when I was blogging about Library 2.0 (including about how much I hate that term). I have a broader perspective on the industry, having seen it from a different angle for the last five years.
I’m still thinking about and working on things that have relevance to the profession. I’m just not blogging about it.
Now I was never a great blogger, but I think I can still call some of the great bloggers from the giddy naughties my ‘contemporaries’. It’s true that some of those people have moved on somewhat too, but they haven’t strayed that far either. They’ve moved up, moved into academia, and moved around, but they’re still hanging around libraries and they still have useful insights we could all benefit from.
… But because I’m poor
Time poor and thinking-space poor.
I know I’m not alone in having a busy work life. But I’m often surprised by people’s perceptions about academic workloads. I think there’s a real misconception about what we do, the volume of work we are lumped with, and the pressure there is to perform (particularly for people like me who go from contract to contract). I’m also constantly met with incredulity when I say I work from home because I get more done. People who don’t work from home imagine it’s either a lovely life of pottering around the house or an enormous challenge to fight off distractions. The reality is I don’t go to the office because I’ve got too much to do. Working from homes saves me hours of commute time and forces me to rationalise the time I spend in meetings. Anyway, I digress. The point is this: You know that image of academics squirrelled away in their cozy offices, reading and writing and just thinking? It’s a ginormous myth. To be a successful academic – to establish a solid academic career in the current climate – you have to do a lot more than have a strong research output and churn out good publications. You’ve got to have your fingers in multiple research pies, because while the applied, industry based research is fun and necessary, you still need to create an intellectual footprint that has value beyond the profession. You’ve also got to be an excellent teacher, which is a *lot* of work, and when you love teaching, you tend to spend even more time on it. It’s also a time sink because it’s so incredibly satisfying, and you can see immediate payoffs through student success. Then there’s the service component of the job: providing service to the university through committee memberships, advisory groups and leadership activities, and to industry through similar external activities. To do what I do – teach in and coordinate a program for an applied discipline – you’ve also got to be entrepreneurial, plugged into industry, and visible both in the profession and in academia. On top of the run-of-the-mill teaching, research and service, I run a program of continuing professional education events, I take on consultancy work, I do heaps of marketing by stealth, I spend a significant amount of time on pastoral care, I get involved in external engagement programs… And the list goes on.
I used to carve out time outside of work hours to blog, but the reality these days is that I’m working significantly more than I used to – more than twice as much as I was when I kicked off my first blog, and approaching twice as much as I did when I started this blog. If I was to actively blog again, I’d have to trade off somewhere, and right now I’d be trading blogging for sleep, and I gotta tell you, I am absolutely useless unless as I get a solid seven hours sleep. I can do all-nighters and consecutive nights (even weeks) on minimal sleep, but only when I’m under pressure, and it has consequences in terms of the quality of my work and my well being.
I’m suffering from another type of poverty, too: I’m thinking-space poor. My brain has a limited capacity and it is maxed out. It’s a tricky balance to pump out good content for a blog and good research publications simultaneously. I used to think blogging would eat up all my words and I wouldn’t have any left for academic publications. The reality is that the words are plentiful, but the room in my head is not, so I find it tricky to carve out the time to think and write anything that’s not explicitly work related. I am fortunate to be a really fast writer. (Please universe, I need to live that out today to finish this thesis chapter!) But sense-making takes time. Getting my thoughts together, thinking them through, takes time and writing and drafting and editing and more writing. Take this post for example, and the one I made yesterday on Libraries Interact. I’ve been thinking about these posts and working on them on and off for about eight days. (It was supposed to be one post, but it ended up ridiculously long. There’s another reason I struggle to find time to blog: I sense-make by writing, which means I write *heaps* and then I find it really hard to edit it down, so I never hit publish.) And then there’s the (internal) pressure to get it just right, to craft beautiful posts that I won’t regret making (you really have no idea how long I’ve spent on this post, and I know I need to cut it back even though I’ve split into two, but I’m going to have to embrace the Cult of Done here or it’s never gonna make it out of draft).
Time poor + think poor + inner perfectionist = terrible blogger.
Which leads me to…
In my world, blogs aren’t dead, and in fact I don’t think they’re dead at all, anywhere. I read them, and I think you probably do too, even if you don’t necessarily think of them as blogs.
The biblioblogosphere isn’t dead either, but it is a little bit sick and I’d really like to see that change. I think we need ongoing professional conversations and I think we need blogs to support this. I also think that as an academic, I have a responsibility to contribute to professional discourse, and I think I’ve got stuff to contribute related to teaching and learning that’s relevant for the profession, too. I also think senior members of the profession have a responsibility to contribute to professional discourse, and I would like to see more of these people blogging. And *you* have stuff to say, even if you don’t think you do.
A return to collaborative blogging?
I’m up for getting back into blogging about libraries, but I don’t want to do it here, because this is my personal space. I also know I can’t sustain a solo blog related to the LIS profession because I have other foci for my blogging, too (namely, my teaching and learning blog). But I’m totally up for collaborative blogging; I’m up for helping to coordinate a collaborative blog; and I’m up for actively calling on academics and senior members of the profession to contribute, too.
Is anybody with me?