communities, suburban and virtual, then and now

Rick, my blogosphere friend and neighboring librarian (I live one suburb over from the Thomas Ford Memorial Library) has a wonderful post about reading through old local newspapers on microfilm.

I sometimes hear that people today feel a little threatened by the amount of personal information on the Internet. In 1956 there was a tremendous amount of such information in the weekly newspaper. Of course, there were announcements of births, engagements, marriages, and deaths, as you might find in today’s paper, but to a greater degree. One wedding story listed everyone who came. . . .

How did the Citizen get so much news? Did it have a large team of reporters? I think the answer to the last question is “no” and “yes.” No, the newspaper did not have many reporters on its payroll. Yes, many people in the community called the newspaper with every bit of news they had. They participated in the making of the newspaper. It really belonged spiritually to the community.

It sounds kind of like the blogosphere, does it not? Or like a suburban Wikipedia–if you can imagine subversive gardening in the suburbs.

privacy: a preface

I have a long, thoughtful post that’s still mostly in my head about online presence and privacy, and someday I’ll get it all down in print (or pixels, or what have you)–probably about the same time I catch up on reading Cites & Insights (Walt, it’s not even 2006 yet! Slow down! :-)). In the meantime, though, I offer these prefatory remarks.

I just added some old pictures to Flickr. The quality is not that great–many of them were originally Polaroids, and then I scanned them–but they have a certain sentimental value, and it’s kind of neat to be able to see them out on the web. When I was uploading them, though, it occurred to me that being around and available online is not for everyone. Not everyone wants to put themselves out there, and I feel some responsibility for not forcing them on to a stage they didn’t want to be on.

It’s true that almost no one can avoid being online somewhere–if not through Google, then through ZabaSearch or one of the other online white pages. But there’s a difference between that and having snapshots of yourself with bad hair out in the world. Maybe that will change–but for some of my friends and family, it hasn’t changed yet.

So while I have no problem letting you see one of my poor ’80s fashion choices or letting you know who I voted for in 2000, or explaining how I got arrested, or even telling you about the time they couldn’t find my cervix, I know that’s not for everyone.

All this, really, is by way of explaining why, if you’re one of my Flickr contacts, you’ve been upgraded from “contact” to “friend.” Everyone can see pictures of me; I’ve made the ones with other people in them friend only, which lets my online community see them but keeps them at least a little bit private. If you’re not listed as a friend or contact, it’s not because I don’t like you; it’s just because I haven’t gotten around to it (or I don’t know who you are). But feel free to add me, and I’ll reciprocate–and then you too can see poor-quality photos of my friends and family in front of my tree. Oh, the excitement!

on the uses of the biblioblogosphere

I started browsing around in the biblioblogosphere sometime during winter break last year. I had heard of 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 of Tame 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.

metablogging 2: the why I blog post

So Travis Ennis wants to know why we–we here being ML(I)S students–blog.

The snarkier part of my nature is of course tempted to say “Because I can” and/or “Because I’m good at it”–two responses often given by Famous Authors who have been asked Why They Write. I am not a Famous Author (I mean, really, I’m not even dead yet!), and such a response would seem pretty obnoxious even if I were.

I have always known that I am pretty good at writing–it’s one of those things that makes up for other things, like being unable to run or throw or catch, being unpopular, being awkward and unsure of your place in the world. Going through an MFA program is a pretty good way to shake your confidence in your writing abilities, in some cases because everyone seems so much better than you do and in some because everything they’re doing seems like such crap that you figure you can’t be much better, but I got through more or less intact.

I used to write a newspaper column, which is still my idea of a totally ideal job. I keep hoping someone will say, “Here, let us pay you a living wage to give us 800 words several times a week on whatever you’re thinking about,” but it’s never happened. I loved writing a newspaper column even when I only got $15 0r $20 for it, though, and I’d do it again for that little, or less. In the interim, though, blogging is a nice substitute. (Among other things, there are no deadlines and no required word counts. I sometimes miss the discipline of 800 words every seven days, but not too often.)

There’s a very long explanation over at my other blog about how that got started, and there’s a little explanation of my original reason for starting this blog in its very first post. Oh, and then a few weeks later, I hopped on the metablogging bandwagon again with a little more explanation. lis.dom’s purpose has changed over time–as I’ve noted before, starting a blog in order to tell people about the existence of blogs is probably a little illogical–but some of what I’ve said before remains the same.

At the moment, though, the real reason that I blog is that I want to be part of a community (or, as I sometimes put it, I want to be one of the cool kids). Can you imagine a library run by the members of the biblioblogosphere? I think it would be the most amazing library in the world. It would have all the hottest new technology, but the technology would work for us, not the other way around, and nobody would get burned. It would have provocative, timely, and enriching programming. It would be the place everyone wanted to hang out and where everyone was welcome. It would be staffed by people relentlessly, zealously working to make the library a better place–working to make library vendors give us what we want, working for, and often with, patrons to make sure they had the information they wanted. It would be a thing of beauty, if not a joy forever. Some people work in libraries that are closer to that ideal than others, but here–wherever here is, wherever you imagine cyberspace to be–we all get to be a part of it. I think that’s pretty neat.

on and off the bandwagon

  • update 9/5/05 9:55 pm CST: Flickr link at the bottom is now fixed and will actually take you to pictures and not to Wired article

I am late to jump on many bandwagons, and, quite often, just simply late. Last weekend, which now seems impossibly long ago, I took a trip home (though I spend most of my time in Chicagoland these days, I’m still an Iowa resident, and Iowa City is still home) to do a few things and see some friends. It was in the course of hanging out with my friends that I realized that in the last six months or so, I have started to speak another language.

A few examples:

  • “I’m sorry I never read your site, but OpenDiary doesn’t have an RSS feed.”
  • “Oh, you’ve got a blog for your radio show? Send me the url and I’ll add it to my aggregator.”
  • “The camera’s just on loan, but I’ll just upload the pictures to Flickr and then I’ll be able to post them wherever.”

I got a lot of blank looks from my friends, who, as you may surmise, are not technologically oriented. They are very smart people. Most of them graduate students at the University of Iowa; the rest are the over-educated, under-employed types one finds around a college town. I don’t consider any of them hopelessly uninformed. But I now inhabit, at least part of the time, this whole world that most of them are only barely aware of.

Now that I’ve found this world, I’d never want to leave it behind, but my visit home was a little reminder that it is, in many ways, still a small and insular community. I love RSS and think it is one of the greatest things since the resurgence of decent bread, but I’ve been reminded that it’s not part of the picture for a lot of people and that, for the most part, they are getting by just fine without it.

You’ve probably heard about different kinds of learners (visual, oral, etc.) and different kinds of intelligence (emotional, intellectual, practical). There are also different ways of gathering information. I get most of my news from the radio, though when I lived in Iowa City, I also read the Daily Iowan in its hard copy version. I got an iPod for Christmas, and while it’s a nifty little device, at least a third of my music collection is still on LP and cassette. In my car at the moment all I have is radio, and thus when I’m driving around on my dogwalking route, I mostly (shudder) listen to commercial rock stations, since “Fresh Air” loses something when heard in 5 minute chunks with 20 minute gaps in between.. I did listen to a bunch of Greg’s podcasts on my drive home (I don’t have one of those handy gadgets that will play your iPod through your radio, so I did this by listening through one ear bud), and they were pretty great, but I don’t know that I’m going to get hooked on podcasting. My friends are mostly not tapped into the world of feeds and aggregators and social bookmarking, and that’s okay.

I started this blog with the idea that it would be a way to show fellow grad students about the wonderfulness of library-land blogs, which I now realize was kind of a nutty idea. I continued it, though, because I was getting so much out of it, which seems like a fine reason. And now just as I’ve learned that lots of people are considering jumping off the Flickr bandwagon, I’m jumping on. I don’t actually own a digital camera, so posts will be few and far between, but I did borrow my mother’s while I was home for the weekend and put together a little tour of Iowa City (only the parts I like, and only some of them). Take a look if you like (and remember I’ve never used a digital camera before). Enjoy!

survey madness

Meredith has put up her survey of the biblioblogosphere, which I just took. A number of people have commented on it already; while I would have probably asked some slightly different questions and asked some questions slightly differently, since I did not go to the work of putting the survey together, I am not going to complain. Anyway, if you are in any way a library person and you have a blog, head on over and fill it out. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and the more respondents it gets the more interesting the results will be.

After that, I was on a roll, so I tried taking the Blogger survey that they’ve been advertising on the page you get when you log in to post to your blog, but sadly, it was closed. Ah well.

Now that I’m all in a surveying mood, I’m thinking about following through on my idea of a survey of blogger linking habits, which would consider questions such as

Do you link chiefly to other LIS blogs, to other non-LIS blogs, to outside news sources, to studies? And (this is the hard part) why do you link? To back up your argument? To position your argument? Because you admire the post you’re linking to? Because you’re trying to get your blog noticed? Do you link more to short, “hey look at this neat thing!” type posts or more to longer, more reflective ones?

I have never designed a survey at all (except for this very short survey that I did many years ago), so I’ll have to give it some thought, but stay tuned. . . .

do you Dewey?

My new favorite blog (aside, of course, from the wonderfulness that is Overheard in New York [thanks to for pointing that one out–and note to enterprising Chicago area folk–I think there’d be a market for an Overheard in Chicago]) is the Dewey Blog.

Where else could you read about the proper cataloging of muggles (and the lack of a suitable catagory for quidditch?) or where to book books on flirting? Of course, you can also weigh in on more serious matters, such as the cataloging of graphic novels or cultural objects. But it’s things like learning that catalogers have favorite Dewey numbers that makes me a happy reader. (I myself must admit that I don’t have a favorite Dewey number, but my favorite section of the DDC is the Table of Last Resort. It’s almost as good as the Greek verb construction know as the optative of unfulfilled desire.)

The Dewey Blog does what all good blogs should: it gives a human face to something that used to seem like a monolithic block. And if, like me, you’re still trying to get a good handle on your Dewey, reading the blog is one nice way to do so.


One way I’ve changed, after a year of library school and a few months of working in a library, is that I am much more demanding of my sources of information. I’m not quite sure how this happened, but now when I’m looking for something on a web site or in a library and I can’t find it, I ask. If I have an idea about how information could be made more accessible or more helpful, I suggest it. Sometimes that suggestion goes nowhere, but sometimes the results are faster and better than I could have imagined.

For instance, the other day I was reading the PLA Blog. They have these great round-ups of public library news from all over the country, but it was often hard to tell where exactly the different articles were from (there are, after all, a great many Springfields in this nation). So I wrote in to ask if maybe they could include the city and state of the library in question. They wrote back saying, hey, good idea, and the next day, lo and behold:

We had a request to add the city and state of the library being discussed in each article. I will also add links to the library’s web site as well. I hope this enhances your PLA Blog reading pleasure.

Thanks, Steve, and thanks PLA Blog!