You could make a case that the personal blog has impacted academic librarianship in several noticeable ways. First, changing the dynamic of how new ideas are proposed, and how new resources are shared. Second, shifting how academic librarians communicate ideas and engage in discourse. And third, and perhaps most significantly, influencing thought and establishing new trends in academic librarianship. Arguably, blogs appear to have eclipsed what was once the domain of the published journal article. While I still believe in the viability of the published article as a communication vehicle and as a demonstration of one’s ability to succeed in the venue of traditional disciplinary publishing, for many academic librarians – particularly those new to the profession – that may no longer be the case. And if blogs were ever to replace scholarly journal articles as the gold standard for those on the tenure track, published journal articles would likely languish even more.
But this post isn’t a discussion of the blog’s impact on publishing. It raises the question of the blog’s impact on another professional communication mode that seems to be on the decline – the personal web site. In the pre-blog days if an academic librarian wanted to achieve some of those things for which a blog now serves, a personal web site was the best available option. It could provide a personal profile, access to a CV, a listing of articles and presentations, resources that the site owner wanted to share with colleagues, and specialized resource pages designed to enlighten colleagues, promote new ideas, and create a name for oneself. Perhaps the blog’s ability to accomplish the latter is the primary reason why the personal web site is no longer the first choice – or a choice at all – for many academic librarians who want to establish themselves as thought leaders in the profession and influence their colleagues.
Why am I thinking about personal web sites? One of my summer projects, not yet fully completed, was to move my personal web site to a new domain and to give it a redesign. I’ve been gradually moving the content from my previous employer’s server to a new location – my own domain. As the task nears completion it got me wondering whether the site and its content would still hold the same professional value as when I began a personal web site in 1998 or whether it would just be perceived as an anachronism. In the earlier days of the Internet having one’s own site was all the rage. I don’t believe the current choice is web site versus blog. I think it makes sense to have both. A blog is a superior way to share news and ideas with immediacy. Although it may be in decline, a personal web site can still offer some advantages. It provides a place for more in depth information. A librarian with a web site can establish his or her expertise in a subject discipline with a resource list or provide more detailed information about his or herself.
Given these potential advantages to maintaining a personal web site, I wondered how many academic librarians, both bloggers and non-bloggers, also maintain a personal web site. My methods were wholly unscientific. I merely searched the web by name or looked for a link to a personal web site from a blogger’s site. I examined three categories of of academic librarians:
* my fellow acrlog bloggers
* prominent academic librarians
* academic librarian bloggers
What I would call a “staff page” – a page in your library web site that identifies you but really isn’t a developed site, doesn’t really count as having a personal web site. To my way of thinking a personal web site is more robust – it at least has more than one page and a diverse range of information and resources. Staff pages are pretty common, and most are pretty thin on content.
Prominent Academic Librarians:
Jim Neal – yes (doesn’t blog)
Julie Todero – yes (doesn’t blog)
Pam Snelson – staff page only (doesn’t blog)
Susan Nutter – staff page only (doesn’t blog)
Betsy Wilson – enhanced staff page (doesn’t blog)
Stanley Wilder – unable to locate page (doesn’t blog)
Larry Hardesty – staff page only (doesn’t blog)
Jim Rettig – does an election site count? (does blog)
Selected Academic Librarian Bloggers:
Library 2.0– An Academic Librarian’s Perspective (Laura Cohen) – no personal web site found
Academic Librarian (Wayne Bivens-Tatum) – staff page only
Ubiquitous Librarian (Brian Matthews) – yes (under construction)
Information Literacy Land of Confusion (Michael Lorenzen) – yes
Information Wants To Be Free (Meredith Farkas) – combination blog/web site
Medium is the Message (Eric Schnell) – yes, somewhat limited
Pattern Recognition (Jason Griffey) – no personal web site found
Wandering Eyre (Michelle Boule) – an expanded blog, not quite a web site
Library Marketing (Jill Stover) – staff page found; no web site
See Also (Steven Lawson) – no personal web site found
Baby Boomer Librarian (Bill Drew) – replaced his personal web site with a wiki
Note to my fellow academic bloggers: the results are based on quick internet searches and blog visits; if the information is not correct or you don’t agree with my assessment – chime in.
I also checked out a number of A-List bloggers to see how many of them maintain a web site in addition to their blog. Turns out that not too many of them do. Seems the trend is to blend some traditional web site content (CV, articles, presentations) into the blog site, usually in the “about” section.
So what can we learn from this? The sample of prominent (legacy) academic librarians I chose suggests that traditional web site content may be a bit more commonplace among that crowd, but certainly blogs are quite limited. While I found more of the blogging academic librarians less likely to have well-developed web sites, I found more web site-like content than I expected. But I think it’s safe to say that for most newcomers to the profession a personal blog will win out over a personal web site. LIS students, especially those about to graduate, should give serious consideration to a personal web site that can function as a portfolio of academic accomplishments and demonstrate web design skills. For the new grad, a web site may be of greater value than a blog.
A web site, in my experience, is more time consuming initially to design and implement, but once established it requires just occasional updating. I think there are some good skills to be learned from this process – FTP, file structures, web site architecture and design, absolute vs. relative linking, bookmark linking, etc. Re-designing my personal web site gave me an opportunity to get more Dreamweaver experience, to figure out how to get a flash file to load on a web page, and to experiment with new design features. Is the personal web site passe? For academic librarians that appears to be the trend. But I don’t doubt that its decline has something to do with the recognition factor and where a librarian gets more bang for the buck. In that department, these days, a blog has the web site beat by a mile.