Last year, NewsBreaks highlighted some librarian bloggers you may not have heard of in the hopes you’d find it worthwhile to read their perspectives on the library field. Now it’s time to get to know another batch of librarians. Read on for some insight into why they started their blogs and what advice they’d give to those who are thinking about blogging. If these names are new to you, check out what you’ve been missing.
Krafty Librarian is full of “[t]hings of interest to a medical librarian.”
Bio: Michelle Kraft became a medical librarian in 1998 after graduating from the University of Missouri–Columbia. “She is an active member of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and works for a hospital system,” according to her About page.
Why She Blogs: “When I started my blog about 10 years ago, blogs were just becoming a way to communicate with larger groups of people,” Kraft says. “While there were several blogs on librarianship, there were very few dedicated to medical or health science librarianship. As a medical librarian I wanted a way to [communicate] with medical librarians and others outside of the traditional medical library email listservs. I wanted to reach other librarians who were dealing with similar technology issues but who weren’t necessarily medical or health science librarians. I felt that while we had different libraries and clientele, we were similar in many ways too.”
Typical Topics: “Any technology or use of technology that helps librarians or users to find the information they need is my favorite thing to write about,” Kraft says. “This could be anything from the latest app, a novel way to use a tried and true ‘technology’ like email, a new version of a database, or products like Google Cardboard.”
Sample Post: In “Designing Resources for Optimal Usage,” she writes, “Last week Clinical Key changed their interface and there was a big discussion about Clinical Key and how it works (or doesn’t) with Internet Explorer 8 & 9 on the Medlib-l listserv. … They are just the most recent example, but others have failed to understand the market they sell to. Before a vendor decides to upgrade, they would do well to have beta testers from both hospitals and academic institutions (large and small) and make sure the company or programmers they are using to upgrade their product know design to the lowest common browser. That won’t make things perfect, but it will help.”
Expert Advice: “Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need a blog?’ There are so many other ways to connect with users and get the message out that a blog might not be the best tool,” she says. “Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are all sites that others librarians are using to connect with people. What may work for one librarian may not work for you but it is worth investigating. Once you determine your medium (blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) you need to determine your theme or message.” Without a focus, it’s easy to get burnt out with writing, she says. It also doesn’t contribute to building a following. “The theme should be something you enjoy and should be broad enough that [it] can lend itself to have an established publishing pattern. You don’t have to publish every day, but it should be fairly consistent. If you decide to do a blog format then find a design that is less blog looking and looks more like a site featuring several different items of interest so that people would consider your site to be a destination site. Even if it is designed as a destination site, do not forget to cross post it on Facebook, Twitter, and other relevant social media platforms.” Cross-posting provides more opportunities for discovery.
The Last Word: “In addition to technology, I am a big fan of pop culture,” Kraft says. “If I can wrap a pop culture reference or two into one of my posts, then you can tell I am really enjoying writing the piece. My blog is strictly about issues within librarianship, medicine or medical librarianship. Twitter (@Krafty) is where I let more of my personality come through where I tweet about all sorts of things in addition to libraries and medical librarianship.”
Letters to a Young Librarian
Letters to a Young Librarian is composed of “[a]dvice to those who are new (or even not so new) to librarianship from someone who has been doing this work for a while now.”
Bio: Jessica Olin is the director of a small liberal arts college library in Delaware. She earned her M.L.I.S. in 2003. In addition to Letters, she runs the blog Lojong Ruminations, the “[m]usings of a nascent Buddhist with equal parts naiveté and skepticism.”
Why She Blogs: “I started this blog as a way to communicate directly with library science graduate students and new professional librarians,” Olin writes on Letters’ About page. “I am disheartened at times when I hear about things that MLIS programs are (or are not) teaching and envisioned this blog as a kind of end run around that nonsense.” In June 2011, her first post noted that there is “a gap between what library programs are teaching and what new professionals will need to know in order to be successful.” Letters aims to bridge that gap by offering Olin’s own expertise along with that of guest authors such as Catherine Oliver (a cataloging and metadata services librarian) and Kimberly Sweetman (a library consultant).
Typical Topics: The blog is a mixture of Olin’s thoughts, interviews (e.g., with communication librarian Derrick Jefferson), posts by guest authors, and monthly “just for fun” posts that discuss, for example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars. Common recurring topics are community building and professional development. In general, Olin aims to make her day-to-day activities “more transparent for other librarians as well as aspiring librarians,” she says. “It’s a way for me (and my guest authors) to let other people learn from mistakes as well as triumphs. It’s very important to me to help foster the next generation of librarians.”
Sample Post: In “Lifting One Another Up,” she writes, “Let’s talk about ways to support coworkers:
- Offering help as often as we ask for it.
- Being open and friendly about things when we disagree.
- Concentrate on behaviors and not personality traits when things go wrong.
- Sharing the spotlight.
- Phrasing things kindly and honestly when giving feedback.
Am I always a paragon of these kinds of behaviors? No. I’ll admit to that time I basically told a coworker to shut up. I’ll also admit that communicating with different kinds of people within the realm of libraries was a learning curve for me. But my instincts are to be kind and supportive.
What are some ways you’ve built people up?”
Expert Advice: “Don’t blog for anyone but yourself,” says Olin. “It’s a commitment, and though writing gets easier the more you do it, it is work. If you have something about which you’re really passionate, though, it’s a fabulous way to get your voice out there. One last thing: proofreading is good, but don’t worry about typos so much that you never publish a post. Better done than perfect.”
The Last Word: “Even though my goal for this blog is to help other librarians, I’d keep writing it regardless of whether I ever got another pageview again,” she says. “The schedule I keep with the (almost always) weekly posts pushes me to examine what I’m doing at work on a regular basis, and I think I’m a better librarian and director for it.”
Photo courtesy of Substantia Jones
Pattern Recognition’s tagline is “reflections of the present, dreams of the future.”
Bio: Jason Griffey “is the founder and principal at Evenly Distributed, a technology consulting and creation firm for libraries, museums, education, and other non-profits,” his website states. He is also a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker in 2009. A writer and presenter on topics related to the future of technology and libraries, Griffey created the Measure the Future project, which uses open hardware and open source software to provide libraries with open tutorials for analyzing their physical space. He is also the creator and director of LibraryBox, “an open source portable digital file distribution system.”
Why He Blogs: “I started blogging seriously when I was in library school. It looks like the oldest posts I have are from February of 2003, although I know I was playing around with software and such in 2002 just after I started library school at UNC–Chapel Hill,” he says. “I had been writing webpages since 1995 or so, and the idea that you could publish on the web without having to touch HTML was revelatory.” He started blogging as a way to “understand this new thing on the web” and to “workshop my thoughts, to force myself to examine them and try and make them clearer. Combine that with my bent towards journalism and it was a great match.”
Typical Topics: “In general, my topics range from my current projects (mostly LibraryBox and Measure the Future at the moment), things I see in LibraryLand that interest me (issues of access, intellectual property, rural libraries), and technology/gadgets that I think libraries should be paying attention to,” he says.
Sample Post: In “Estonian E-Residency,” he writes, “On August 26th, 2015, I applied to be a digital citizen of the country of Estonia. … What does that even mean, and why would I do it? Estonia is one of the very first countries to implement a robust electronic identity card system for their citizens. The ID card is a smart card that has a chip embedded in it that enables a robust public-key encryption implementation that allows the owner of said card to legally sign documents electronically. … Estonian citizens can do a vast amount of interaction with their government through this system, including things like the DMV, registering for governmental programs, and even voting in elections. … In its current state, the card allows me to open and run a business in Estonia if I would like (completely remotely), to set up a bank account (not completely remotely, but the banks are promising that soon), and to interact with a handful of companies that recognize the card as a legal identity document. While I don’t currently need to do any of these things, I am intrigued by the potential for robust digital identities to conduct business and interact with agencies in the real world, and right now Estonian E-Residency is the only way to do that as an American citizen.”
Expert Advice: “Have a voice! Don’t try to be neutral or formal, just write about the things that you find interesting, and the rest will take care of itself. Don’t underestimate the need in the current web climate for secondary social drivers for your writing. At one time you could write and link to other blogs and find readers, but now you’ve got to share via Twitter and Facebook at a minimum, and maybe think about cross-posting to Medium while you’re at it. The world of blogging has gotten fragmented over the last decade, but I still think there’s supreme value in the individual voice,” Griffey says.
The Last Word: “I’m passionate about science as a method for understanding. I spent most of my undergraduate as a science student, worked in a pathogenic microbiology lab all 4 years of undergrad, and worked [at] a state park as a cave guide and assistant naturalist during the summers. My academic background goes roughly biology > philosophy > library science, with technology sprinkled throughout,” he says. “I can also cook some mean fried chicken with biscuits and gravy.”