I blog, therefore I am (doing 23 things)

30 September 2007

I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time commenting on the Swinburne Library staff’s wonderful 23 Things blogs. It’s both exciting and enlightening to read about everyone’s 23 Things journeys, which range from the most experienced of pseudonymous authors writing involved dissertations on ‘the social Web’, to the freshest of new bloggers coming to terms with the nuances of the new medium. Each blog is unique and equally interesting; some of the most intriguing are written by the least confident bloggers.

For those readers not coming to this blog through the Swinburne 23 Things website (do I dare to hope that I might have some?), 23 Things is a brilliant concept devised by the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County to help introduce library staff to the Web 2.0 world. Dana draws a parallel on her usability blog between 23 Things and the original 43 Things social experiment, which encouraged people to share their lifetime goals and monitor their progress publicly through the use of web technology.

Librarianship is considered by many to be an outdated profession. In a world where business, study and even life are increasingly conducted in a web-based environment, what place can the traditional custodian of books inhabit? Of course, the answer is simple – we need to inhabit a web space – but this can be a problem for librarians who learned their craft before the rise of Tim Berners-Lee. Like members of most 21st century workforces, staff in libraries vary widely in their education about and experience of technology.

As a new graduate (July 2007), I am probably somewhere between:

(‘Smash’, from practicalowl’s Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons License)



(‘Donut worry’, from the wonderful I Can Has Cheezburger blog … an explanation of my lolcat obsession will follow in future posts)

As a Curtin University of Technology distance education student, most of my contact with lecturers and other students happened via email and online forums. In the course of my study, I learned how to hard code HTML (probably very poorly, in my case) to create simple webpages; I built a basic catalogue database in Inmagic DB/TextWorks; and I learned how to apply traditional metadata principles to online resources. This means that for me, library knowledge is inextricably linked with technology. But I’m well aware that for many, this is not the case.

That’s why the 23 Things Program is such a good idea. It allows the less technologically able to work through the tasks at their own pace. For some of us, these ‘new’ technologies are no longer particularly new, but the program allows us to revisit some of our prior learning and think about ways to apply social technologies to the library context. The extremely erudite author of the 23 Things in One Day blog showed us how the tasks can easily be completed in two hours. He is to be congratulated on his speed, but I’m choosing to take another approach. I’m going to play the tortoise and align my pace with those bloggers lagging behind the pack. I’d like to think this is a good chance to get to know my colleagues better (including the ones who have chosen to use an alias), and show that it is possible to be a real librarian (that is, someone who helps guide others towards the acquisition of knowledge), whatever the medium in which we work.

Welcome to the future of the library … it’s bold and daring (and hopefully not full of cliches like this post).


Locked in a war of WordPress

11 September 2007

This is not the first time I’ve published. It’s not even my first experience with a blog. I’ve written a collaborative blog with friends, I’m a ‘regular correspondent’ on Derek’s ALIA Blog, I’m about to start writing for the Swinburne Library Blog, and I even want to add to the huge number of library professional blogs everyone wants to read but no-one has time for … least of all me.

This is probably testament to my obsession with seeing my own words in print. You might ask, what did every ego maniac do for a sense of fulfillment before it became so easy to publish online? The answer: we wrote to the Green Guide, which is entirely soulless and unromantic in online form, hence the need for some other kind of online forum.

This is my first experience with WordPress. In the past, I’ve always used Blogger, but I thought I’d use Swinburne 23 Things as an opportunity to present a more sophisticated-looking WordPress blog. Many people are sceptical of Blogger because it is now owned by Google, and any monopoly that so successfully manages to push everyone else out of the market must be worthy of scorn … Librarians in particular have a love/hate relationship with Google; yes, it has simplified the search mindset (why look it up in a reputable source when you can just Google it?), but a single search engine, however wealthy and powerful it might be, cannot put librarians out of a job. Instead of fighting Google, we should take advantage of the simplicity it has brought to the Web. And my advice to you is that this extends to Blogger. Use it.

WordPress may look pretty, but it allows next to no customisation. Users can’t edit the stylesheet underneath their blogs unless they pay for a CSS upgrade. Blogger, on the other hand, is extremely customisable. Users can have as little or as much involvement in the design layout of their blogs as they choose. This blog post even suggests that Blogger is just as good for professional blogs as personal ones. And what’s the point of a free blog if you can’t make it your own? Tim Berners-Lee never intended us to pay for the Web, especially for a tool that allows users both to read and edit the Web at the same time (part of his original design specifications for a Web browser).

I’m a bit of a Tim Berners-Lee fan. The only money he ever makes out of the Web is from the sale of his books. That means he makes a lot less from realising his utopian knowledge-sharing dream (the Web), which some conservatives consider the ultimate vehicle for committing crime, than this man makes from his consecutive jail terms.