Weblogs & Libraries – a Talk by Michael Stephens

Yesterday I attended a talk by fellow librarian blogger Michael Stephens at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information Studies (FIS). The talk was called “Weblogs & Libraries: Communication, Conversation and the Blog People” which outlined the results from a survey he did of blogging librarians back in November for his PhD thesis at the University of North Texas. (I remember taking that survey!) He was in town as speaker at the OLA Superconference, and dropped by FIS to talk to MISt and PhD students, as well as the general librarian community. Thanks to Ted Tjaden for pointing this out on Slaw earlier this week. I didn’t see anyone else I recognized in the room–were there any other Slawyers there?

A lot of his discussion surrounded who is blogging and why they are blogging, found through the survey results. The answers are varied. Almost 63% are, surprisingly, women. Age is primarily 25-34 (44%) with the 35-44 age range coming in next (almost 27%). His survey did not include people under 18. Most started blogging in 2004 or later (only 30% blogger before this; only 18 were blogging 2001 or earlier). This was interesting to me–where people are employed:

Academic libraries – 41.53%
Public libraries – 24.58%
School libraries – 5.08%
Special libraries – 8.05%
(there were a number of other categories including vendor, consultant, and LIS student).

This was surprising in that he expected public libraries to outweigh academic libraries. Apparently blogging hasn’t yet proliferated in the special libraries arena! Special libraries = specialized libraries for you non-librarians. All the private law libraries would be considered special libraries. I know, I know, I am very “special”.

Overall, blogging librarians tend to reveal a lot of personal details. Someone from the audience asked what librarians did to express themselves before they had blogs. It was speculated that chatboards and conferencing communities such as The Well filled the gap. I didn’t mention listservs but that would have been my answer for sure…

Overall, blogging should be as easy as you want to make it. It is about being part of a conversation, part of a community. It is a very inclusive thing, and should not depend upon one’s level of technical knowledge. You can delve into the fancy things like podcasting and video blogging, but that is not necessary to be heard or to get your message out.

Related: poster by Michael Stephens, “Who Are the Blog People?”

New terms I learned:

biblioblogosphere – blogs related to libraries – about/for/by libraries, library staff and/or library clientele.

ref grunting – blogging done by a library staff member while on the reference desk. Example.

Technology Evangelist – job title given by someone in answer to a survey question.

wiki whacking – random changing of facts on a wiki (notably our favourite, Wikipedia) to see if anyone notices and how quickly they get corrected. Done to expose the shortcomings or gaps in a wiki; akin to hackers/crackers trying to break into security systems to expose their weaknesses. (Coined by someone in the audience–you heard it here first!) Do you think the person doing it would be called a “whacker”? Note: not directly related to Googlewhacking or Whack-a-Mole.


  1. That’s not *quite* what refgrunting means. It’s really blogging a list of ref desk interactions from a shift or day. The term originated here: http://refgrunt.blogspot.com/

  2. Yes, that is more accurate! It is what I meant but didn’t express very well.

    I was going to point to that blog originally, but Blogger and Blog*spot were acting up, and I was unfortunately unable to access it when I tried on Friday. Thank you for pointing it out.


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